Weak Democracy in the City of Coral Gables?

DEMOCRACY refers to a political system in which legislative and chief executive decision-makers are elected by majority or plurality rule by eligible voters, with a presumption that the franchise approaches universal adult suffrage among legal citizens and that mechanisms are in place to protect ideological, religious, ethnic, and other demographic minorities.

Source: American Academy of Arts and Sciences. OUR COMMON PURPOSE: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century. Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship. 2020. p. 1.

The big question is that if only 20 to 25 percent of the eligible registered voters actually vote in municipal elections, whether the city is a weak democracy. I would say that the answer is weak democracy. However, the City of Coral Gables is not that unusual in having such a low participation in municipal elections.

I would add that strong democratic systems should be conceived as encouraging voter participation. The City of Coral Gables discourages voter participation by having voting outside of routine national and state elections in November.

The impacts of low voter participation can be thought of as voter suppression via the charter of the city, which fixes the election dates at an inconvenient date to the electorate. There is good evidence that if elections are moved to November coinciding with national and state elections, then voter participation expands to twice the current participation.

The Commission considered charter revisions that did not include a change of election date to November to coincide with national elections. This disrespects citizens who are conceived as incapable to select the right candidates for the City Commission.

The City of South Miami should be respected as it submitted the election date change and the change in date was approved overwhelming by the voters.

About Stephen E. McGaughey
Resident of the City of Coral Gables

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