Pasadena to Formalize Dramatic Change in Municipal Voting, Move to State Election Cycle

Council will then decide proposed election format, following change

Published : Monday, December 11, 2017 | 6:37 AM

City Hall Ballot

Having held public meetings, along with hearing various Council presentations and discussions throughout the year, the City Council will vote Monday to adopt a resolution formally approving a plan for the City of Pasadena to comply with the California Voting Participation Rights Act (CVPRA), bringing the City in line with statewide election dates.

The Council is voting just prior to the CVPRA’s effective date of January 1, 2018.

Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Voter Participation Rights Act (CVPRA), on September 1, 2015, in a move to shift all “off-cycle” local elections to statewide election dates if local election participation rates result in low voter turnout elections.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra then opined in July that charter cities like Pasadena must also participate in the move to statewide elections. As discussed in an informal”straw poll” taken by the Council in October, the resolution will formalize the City’s intention to comply with the CVPRA.

The City Council will likely submit a Charter Amendment to voters on June 5, 2018, changing the timing of future municipal election dates held in odd-numbered years, so that those elections will occur on even-numbered statewide election dates.

The Monday vote and resolution does not, however, detail any further changes, such as the actual format of future City Council elections.

According to a City staff report, those details “can be considered and acted on in the coming weeks as part of future deliberations by the City Council, and as Charter Amendment language is developed and finalized.”

The Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) is considering its own plan separately from the City Council, with the Pasadena Board of Education scheduled to consider adoption of the PUSD’s plan at its upcoming December 14, 2017 Board of Education meeting. PUSD’s plan is similarly structured to the City’s recommended action.

The Council will now choose from a series of options to conform with the CVRPA, each of which would involve extending the terms of all current office holders in order to “synchronize” with the terms of State officeholders. A recent League of Women Voters meeting at City Hall showed public support for keeping the City’s current format of Primary and general elections.

Currently, the City’s Primary and General elections occur in March and April of odd years for the offices of Mayor and members of the City Council. Winning candidates must receive a 50%+1 majority in a race to be elected. Should a winner not be declared in a March Primary election, a runoff election is held in April for the top two candidates.

The first option for the new election cycle is to continue the Primary and General election format for the offices of Mayor and City Council, in which the odd-year March Primary election is consolidated with the statewide even-year March Primary election, and the City odd-year April General election would be consolidated with the statewide even-year November General election.

In such an option, all successful candidates must receive a 50%+1 majority in either the Primary election or the statewide November General election, and current terms for the Mayor and City Council would be extended by as many as 20 months in order to line up with the transition to the statewide election cycle.

In the second option, the City would utilize plurality voting for mayoral and City Council district elections, where a successful candidate must receive the highest number of votes cast for that race at a single election; determine if Mayoral and City Council district elections should consolidate with, and occur on, statewide Primary election dates or on statewide General election dates. As with the first option, current terms for the Mayor and City Council would be extended by as many as 20 months to line up with the statewide election cycle.

In a third option, the primary and general election format for Mayoral elections would require a 50% + 1 majority to be elected, and Council elections would be plurality. The City’s March odd-year primary election held would is moved to coincide with the statewide March Primary election held in even years. The odd-year City April General election would coincide with statewide November General election held in even years. In this scenario, the Council would need to determine if the City Council District elections should consolidate with and occur on statewide Primary dates or on statewide General dates; and current terms for the Mayor and City Council would also be extended by as many as 20 months to facilitate the one-time transition to the statewide election cycle.

Should the City Council submit the proposed Charter Amendment to the voters as part of a special election on June 5, 2018, the City Clerk’s office estimates that such an election would cost approximately $165,000.

The City Clerk staff would then return to the Council with resolutions calling for the special election, as well as a request for the appropriation of necessary funds to cover election costs.