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November Elections - 01/29/14

Some Broward cities hold their city elections in November, when presidents, governors, and a host of other important offices are elected. Deerfield Beach holds its city elections every other year in March. In the first set, voters in Dist. 1 and Dist. 2 elect their commissioners; then two years later, the mayor and commissioners from Dist. 3 and Dist. 4 are elected. Each of these officials holds office for four years and is limited to two terms.

It is a historical fact that the number of voters who vote in city elections in March is significantly less than the number who vote in the general elections the previous November. And, moreover, both the number of people who vote in the elections and the percentage of registered voters who vote have been declining over the last 20 years of city elections. In 1993, 12,086 voted (41 percent.) In 2013, the most recent city-wide election, 5,521 voted (12.2 percent). And in 2013, the city had 15,000 more registered voters than in 1993.

Looking at this another way, nearly 40,000 registered voters of Deerfield Beach, in 2013, did not vote in the city-wide election for mayor. Given the closeness of the election, a few hundred more voters could have changed the result. But we don't know that as a fact.

Does this justify changing the election dates from March to November? Mayor Robb seems to think so, and I know at least one other commissioner who is sympathetic to the idea.

I respectfully disagree. November elections sound like a good idea, but I would ask the following questions: Why do we care how many people vote? Would higher voter turnout ensure that the better or best people would be elected to office? No logic I can think of supports this conclusion.

Mayor Robb's plan would also eliminate staggered terms. This is a bad idea, in my opinion. We might as well, if we go this course, eliminate term limits, single-member districts, electricity, and metal axes also. This is not reform; it's regression that serves absolutely no useful purpose.

If anything, the separate March elections should encourage voter participation. None of the excuses we hear for not voting in the general elections (long lines, long ballots, myriad offices to vote on) apply. When I voted in Mar. 2013, I arrived at the polling place at 3:45 in the afternoon and by 4 o'clock, I was safely home drinking a martini to celebrate my good citizenship.

Under the current system, Dist. 1 and 2 voters vote only every two years and for only one office, either commissioner or mayor. The districts out west vote only once every four years and for two offices, commissioner and mayor.

It couldn't get much easier.

Why more people don't vote in city elections, I don't know. People who are interested in who their commissioners are and in the occasional ballot issue and are well-informed vote. People who don't care don't vote.

I don't see any real good resulting from burying our city elections in the general elections just because more people will vote by circumstance. Nothing and nobody keeps anyone who wants to vote from voting in the March election. It's up to citizens who have the right to vote to be involved in local government or not.