Why Vote NO on Referendum Question 4

q4Vote NO on Question 4

First some definition of terms:

  • Majority Wins – in an election, the candidate receiving at least 50% of the votes plus 1 is the winner.  In a multiple candidate race this clearly demonstrates that the winning candidate represents the majority of the voters.  Rarely (in our City’s history), no one candidate receives the majority, and thus a run-off election is required.
  • Plurality Wins – in an election, the candidate winning the most votes is the winner.  In a two-person race, the winner will have received the majority of the votes.  In a multiple candidate race, the candidate with the most votes will be the winner, even if that candidate actually has a minority of the total votes cast.  There would be no run-off election.

Rationale used by the Charter Review Committee and the Council:

  • The cost of having a run-off election was cited by both the City Clerk Snider and the City Attorney Lohman
  • Clerk Snider stated that in the last 15 years, never has the winner of the plurality vote not also won the run-off
  • The City already has a very low turn-out for Municipal (March) elections and the run-off two weeks later has yet a smaller percentage of voters.

Why  Maintain Majority?

  • The City’s most recent election gives an example of the case where the winner of the run-off would have won in either Majority Wins or Plurality Wins.  Mrs. Litt had 38% of the vote, Mr. Russo had 34%, Mr. Wicker had 20% and Mr. Easton had 9% of the 6331 voters.  Thus 62%, the majority, voted for someone other than Mrs. Litt.  In the run-off, Litt won over Russo with 58% of the vote – a clear majority of the 5235 voters.  With a different set of candidates or had the Mr. Russo been able to gather the votes of the other candidates, the outcome could have been different.  With plurality wins, one could question that Mrs. Litt had not earned the confidence of the majority of the voters who cared enough to vote.  With the run-off, Litt can totally claim to have earned her seat.
  • Run-offs happen rarely (2 in 2004 and 1 in 2017), and while the statistics that Clerk Snider states are true for the last 15 years, in the almost 60 year history of the City there has been at least one case where the winner of the plurality lost the run-off.
  • At all levels of government, it is a not uncommon technique to fill a candidate slate with ‘faux’ candidates (friends of an incumbent as an example), who divide the vote and make it easier for the incumbent or candidate with more name recognition to eek out a win by popular vote.  The run-off eliminates those candidates and lets the ‘legitimate’ candidates ‘duke it out’ in the run-off.
  • Some municipalities that have Plurality Wins require the winner to have at least 35% of the vote.  Referendum Question 4 does not have such a limit – thus a candidate with 4 or 5 opponents could clearly have a very small percentage of the total vote.
  • In the 2012 Charter Review, the then sitting council was presented with the same recommendation by the City Attorney, and wisely removed it from the proposed referendum.  (Note:  Council vote was 4:1 with Council Member Lane voting NO)
  • Cost of elections should not be the primary reason for eliminating elections – why have elections at all?  The March 13, 2018 election will only have the four referendum questions on it with no other candidates.  The City will be spending the cost of at least two run-offs on having this election.  

There is no compelling reason to change from Majority Wins to Plurality Wins

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