The North Miami City Council is considering moving its May, 2015 election to coincide with the Miami-Dade County’s general election to be held on November 8, 2016. Since state law trumps local law, as Miami Herald reporter Lance Dixon pointed out in an article posted on January 15, 2015, “Florida Statute 101.75 states that a municipal election date can be changed by just a majority vote of the City Council if it coincides with a county or statewide election and nothing in the local charter prevents the change.”
Personally, I think this is a great idea.
When the City of North Miami Beach had its last charter review in 2009, one of the items on the agenda for discussion was moving that city’s election from May to November. Unfortunately, the charter review committee decided not to present it to the city council as one of the proposed charter amendments. I don’t know if the council at the time would have considered adding it to the referendum, but I was disappointed that the recommendation didn’t even get past the committee.
I do know, however, that there were many NMB residents in favor of moving the elections from May to November. For one thing, such a proposal would have saved the city over $100,000.00 each election cycle, which is every two years. In addition, when there are multiple elections held too frequently, especially when they’re not voting for a county, state or national candidate, voters tend to become apathetic and turnout suffers.
According to the Miami Herald article, North Miami Councilman Scott Galvin indicated his desire to maintain North Miami’s “stand-alone” election touting the benefit of a shorter ballot. He told the Herald, “I don’t want the North Miami leadership to be an afterthought. I want it be the forethought in people’s minds when they go to the polls.”
When I once asked a former North Miami Beach Mayor what he thought of moving the elections, he told me that he’d rather have a smaller turnout of informed voters than a larger group of voters who weren’t as involved in local politics. In his particular case, the odds of a successful re-election would have been greater if the same small handful of regular voters decided the race on behalf of the remaining 90% of the residents who weren’t even aware there was an election taking place. This is typically what happens when small municipalities hold their own elections during “off” months rather than August and November.
On the other hand, an astounding 40% of Miami-Dade County’s electorate voted in last November’s election. This huge turnout was especially beneficial to North Miami, which held a runoff Special Election for Mayor on the same ballot for the gubernatorial and congressional mid-term races. Of the city’s 29,937 registered voters, a whopping 43.37% of the electorate decided that race. Dr. Smith Joseph won with 54.36% of the vote. This was a tremendous vote of confidence by the electorate in Dr. Joseph’s ability to lead the city.
The City of North Miami has approximately 60,000 residents, about half of whom are registered voters. Last November less than half the city’s voters, or 12,984 people (about one fifth of the entire population), chose the city’s leaders on behalf of the remaining 47,000 people who didn’t or weren’t eligible to vote.
And, yet, a 43.37% voter turnout (which was higher than the county’s average) is a huge success.
Compare those figures to the previous runoff election held on June 4, 2013. Out of 28,514 registered voters at the time, only 7,340 ballots – or 25.74% – were cast for the mayoral and two council seats.
While the total number of registered voters was slightly less than the most recent election, only a quarter of those voters bothered to cast a ballot. As such, less than 13% of the population spoke on behalf of the remaining 87% of the population
Although a 25% voter turnout is respectable for a stand-alone election, if nearly twice the number of voters will cast ballots during a November election, why would any elected official argue against a higher voter turnout?
Politicians are constantly urging us to Get Out The Vote. They disingenuously claim that it doesn’t matter who you vote for, as long as you exercise your right to vote. (Even though we all know they want you to vote for them.)
If North Miami wants to encourage more voters to exercise their Constitutional right to elect their leadership, moving the election to November is a perfect solution.
In addition to a potential savings of about $180,000.00 in taxpayer money, moving this May’s election to coincide with the county’s next general election would certainly help to Get Out The Vote. The entire City Council should jump on this win-win situation.
Unless a larger turnout would hurt one of their chances to get re-elected.
When I was a resident of North Miami Beach, I urged the council to move the elections to November. Unfortunately, that move never materialized. Now that North Miami is considering doing so, perhaps NMB’s City Council will now revisit the issue.
For North Miami especially, moving the election makes perfect sense. Within the span of just six months, the residents had to deal with their Mayor getting arrested and convicted, and then suffer through endless campaigning and two elections. I don’t imagine they’re too keen on having yet another election and potential runoff thrown at them for the next six months. Talk about election fatigue!
On top of that, the new Mayor has had little time to settle into his position. It would certainly be unfortunate if he had to hit the ground campaigning before he’s even had a chance to do the job for which he was elected.
Having another election so soon on the heels of the last one would be like déjà vu all over again.
“Spreading the Wealth”