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CITY DISCUSSES BALLOT MEASURE TO
CHANGE ELECTION CYCLE OF SAN JOSE MAYOR
On April 16, 2019 the San José City Council is discussing bringing forth a ballot measure that will change the election cycle year of our mayor. Agenda Item 3.3 19-213 Click HERE for link to Agenda
The strength of a democracy is measured in how its people participate. The multitude of voices representing every walk of life in a community is what makes a democracy strong. San José should be given the right to decide on how to elect the person that serves as the representative of the entire city.
There is only one elected representative at City Hall who is chosen by and accountable to every resident in San José, and that is our Mayor. San José’s Mayor is empowered with unique responsibilities, duties, and abilities because they represent our all of us. Our city should ensure that voting for mayor is done with the greatest participation, and because of this. I urge the Council to bring forward a ballot measure to let residents decide when we should elect our mayor.
The data is clear. If the mayoral election coincides with the Presidential, more votes will be cast, and the difference isn’t even close. The participation rate for Santa Clara County in November 2016 was 83%, up from November 2018 of 71%. However, the voters did not have Mayor on their November ballot, and when the choice was up in June, 35% of San José voted. Less than 160,000 votes were cast in a city of one million. I do not suggest that more voters would have changed these results, but greater participation provides a greater mandate for the person who serves as mayor.
Additionally, when the Mayor’s seat has been open due to term-limits, voters had 10 candidates in a close race in 2006, and 8 candidates in even closer race in 2014. When there are important choices to be made and there are many choices available, more votes should be cast. This can be done by simply changing the schedule of when the Mayor is chosen. We are the 10th largest city in the United States and also serve as a political and economic model across the country, yet opposition to this proposal feels like we are protecting a political class through manipulation at the ballot box.
As our community continues to grow, the changes that we experience will not always be for the better. More residents have been activated because of the housing crisis, transit changes and potential major developments that will completely transform San José. The role of the mayor’s office is to guide our city through this, and having greater voter participation gives the office the political support needed to make the right and tough choices.
While this may not be the biggest issue before us, it has been shocking to hear what those opposed to this change are saying. The most troubling argument has been that voters should not be presented with this choice because “people who care vote,” as presented in Councilmember Diep’s memo. It is deeply concerning to hear any government official, elected or not, make such a dismissive statement and suggest that presidential cycle voters are chaotic and random. San José is a welcoming diverse community where every voice should matter. We cannot dismiss our own residents because we don't agree with their decisions.
We, the people of San José, deserve a City Hall that will ask us for feedback, and there is no better way than at the ballot box. Even with all the speakers and written comments submitted on this item, the voices being shared cannot fully reflect our entire city. I would rather see the voters say no to this proposal in the election than to deny them the option to choose. Afterall, we understand the importance of voter participation, and why the State of California moved up our Primary in 2020 to March. We wanted our votes to matter more in the Presidential process. Let’s put forth a similar choice to the voters of San Jose. Those who profess a desire to represent our communities should embrace the opportunity to share their message, not fear it.
Many of us hope our Council will take action to place this choice on a ballot that voters will already be getting. Even if the result is to stay the course, democracy will be engaged, let’s not deny the voices of our city to be heard on this fundamental issue. Thank you.
District 4 resident