Pasadena Unified Board to Vote on Statewide Election Resolution

Published : Wednesday, December 13, 2017 | 6:07 AM


The Pasadena Unified School District will likely follow the lead of the Pasadena City Council Thursday, when they vote on a resolution to move their elections to coincide with the statewide cycle, as now mandated by the 2105 California Voter Participation Rights Act.

The City Council passed a similar resolution on Monday evening.

The California Voter Participation Rights Act, designed to increase voter participation, will consolidate local and statewide elections by prohibiting a city or school district from holding elections other than on a statewide election date, if past local elections have resulted in voter turnout being at least 25% less than the average voter turnout for the previous four statewide general elections.

The new law would go into effect January 1, 2018.

Pasadena Unified School District elections for the offices of the Board of Education are currently set to take place in March and April of odd-numbered years; with voter turnout averaging about 40% below the voter turnout for statewide general elections, making them subject to the new law.

On November 16, 2017, the Pasadena Board of Education requested that its City staff prepare a plan to consolidate the District’s future elections with statewide election dates held in even-numbered years, and prepare the resolution to be voted on Thursday.

Pasadena Unified Board Member Scott Phelps took a fatalistic approach to the move saying, Our options are a protracted legal fight that would be lost, or switching.

Phelps also noted that the PUSD faces the same dilemma as did the City Council with Martin Chapman, the City’s only election vendor, which has been essentially put out of business by the new law.

“So there wouldn’t even be the practical way to do it,” said Phelps.

“What I thought for a long time,” continued Phelps, “was that even if there were understandable objections to the change, or…too many people who don’t know local issues… there’s just no practical way to do the elections.”

Phelps had previously noted at a recent joint City Council-School Board meeting that an election committee should be formed, and that both the City Council and School Board should switch over immediately.

“I think there was in the community, and with some councilmembers, some resistance to changing over, but in the end, that’s what we’re doing. We’re just following the city clerk’s lead on this.”

While the City Council has not decided what election format they will choose in the new schedule—highest vote-getter wins, or a primary election with the top two vote getters per office running again months later—he is against the idea of a long wait for a general election.

“If we tapped our same way of electing right now,” Phelps explained, “which is that we have to get a majority of 50% + 1, if we kept that way of electing, we would have the California primary in March, or whenever it’s going to be. Then we could have a few months or more to wait, if the general election is in November. It’s far too many months.

Pasadena Unified, like the City Council, doesn’t need to decide immediately as to its new election format, but Phelps said he is leaning towards plurality voting.

“We’re going to have to do it like everybody else does around us,” he said. “I think we’re going to have to switch to (a system where) there’s 3 seats and 1 person gets 40%, 1 person gets 30%, and 1 person gets 20%, and then people below that don’t get on the school board.”

Said Phelps, “It makes sense to me to just take the top vote getters. It doesn’t have to be the majority. I don’t see the big deal, we don’t get a lot of people running for school board. It’s one of these unsung positions.”

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