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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Odd Year Elections: They Cost More Money, But...

Emeryville's Odd Year Elections: They Cost More Money But They Drive Down Voter Participation

Emeryville just finished another election and once again, the taxpayers paid a lot more for the election than they could have, at least $10,000 more according to the City Clerk.  But hey, it's all for the good because only 26% of registered voters cast a ballot and that's less than half the Bay Area average.

That talk sounds kind of kooky, doesn't it?  But it's not kooky; it's calculated, in fact the low turnout worked out exactly as intended.

Elections cost cities money and here in Emeryville, we routinely pay a lot more money for a much lower voter turnout than our neighbors in Oakland, Berkeley and elsewhere around the Bay Area.  Why is this and who's responsible you might ask?  It's cynical public policy, foisted upon the people of Emeryville by council member Nora Davis and the Chamber of Commerce; policy designed to benefit their pro-business agenda at our expense.

Many newcomers to Emeryville express surprise at the strange off year elections here.  They often ask, why not hold the city council and school board elections on even years, at the same time as presidential, senate and congressional elections?
It's a good question, especially since doing so could save so much money.  On top of that, holding elections when everyone else does would have the added benefit of driving up voter participation, most likely doubling it.
The problem is Ms Davis and the Chamber of Commerce and conservatives in general benefit from a low voter turn out.  It has to do with the fact that conservative voters have greater resources and can be counted on to show up at the polls even if disincentives to voting are thrown up.
Odd year elections around the nation have been shown to be much more likely to elect conservatives and conservative causes than even year elections.  It's one of the well documented tools in the Republican Party's vote suppression toolbox.

Here in Emeryville, Ms Davis has jealously guarded the odd year vote, acknowledging the value of the low turnouts to her political agenda and resisting all efforts to change, regardless of the cost savings.  It's not for lack of trying it should be pointed out, councilwoman Davis has fought off numerous citizen lead attempts at election reform over the decades.

As House Majority leader John Boehner says however, elections have consequences and so with the November 8th election of Jac Asher and her new brand of resident friendly politics, we may now finally have enough non-ideological votes on the Emeryville city council to override Nora Davis and the Chamber of Commerce.

We say it's time to say NO to Republican style vote suppression tactics.  It's time to move now to increase the franchise in Emeryville and cast aside the cynical Machiavellian election maneuvering by Emeryville's right wing.  We should move our elections to even years just like the rest of the Bay Area.


  1. So when you say, "We should move our elections to even years just like the rest of the Bay Area," you mean except for Livermore, Palo Alto, Vallejo, Newark, Sunnyvale, Novato, San Ramon, Belmont, Half Moon Bay, Burlingame, Cupertino, Corte Madera, Foster City, Benicia, Larkspur, Fairfax, San Anselmo, Brisbane, and San Rafael, right?

  2. To Mr Anonymous @ 9:35-

    When I said "like the rest of the Bay Area", I meant to say "like the rest of the Bay Area".
    The cities you list total 836,000 population, an outlier in the 7,115,000 Bay Area. The vast overwhelming majority of Bay Area residents vote in municipal elections on the even year.

    Interesting that you've taken the side that suppresses the vote and costs the taxpayers more money. Not an Emeryville citizen, are you?

  3. The only side I'm taking is the accurate publishing of information. People can't make accurate decisions if they don't have all the relevant information. I'd think you'd be interested in providing that. BTW, that list was by no means exhaustive.

    Also, you haven't explained how odd year elections cost the City more than even year elections. Shouldn't all elections cost roughly the same?

  4. The story is an editorial and the readers have all the relevant information, not the outlier trivia.

    The claim that even year elections save municipalities taxpayer money comes from both the City Clerk of Emeryville and the Alameda County Registrar of Voters. The savings come from a larger economy of scale and other reasons. Look for another Tattler story on this topic in the near future.

    OBTW- Non-Emeryville residents including the business community are welcome to read and comment on stories at the Tattler.

  5. From the Contra Costa Times 11/7/11:

    "It's Election Day in a handful of East Bay communities.
    Voters in San Ramon and Livermore will choose new mayors and council members, while those in Lafayette and Pittsburg will weigh in on ballot measures.
    In addition, Emeryville and Newark have city council and mayoral elections. Emeryville also has ballot measures that would increase the business tax and raise cash for public safety, streets and other city programs.
    Solano County voters in Benicia, Fairfield, Vallejo and Vacaville also will go the polls.
    Odd-year elections are increasingly rare. Most communities have shifted their elections into even years, largely to spread the costs among more participants and to reach more voters."

    . . . . . . . . .
    'Most communities' doesn't include Emeryville.

  6. Us Oaklanders just paid $800k for 3 failed ballot measures and 24% turnout