Instead of generating consensus around thoughtful reform, the City Council pushed through a fundamental change to our electoral process that will prove to be costly, nonsensical and legally tenuous.
On July 11, the San Diego City Council reached a near unanimous agreement on a controversial issue: making changes to the city’s election process in order to increase voter participation and engagement. Unfortunately, the Council leadership failed to use the agreement to generate consensus around thoughtful reform. Instead, on a 5-4 vote, it forced through a fundamental change to our electoral process that will prove to be costly, nonsensical and legally tenuous.
The “mandatory run-off” system would force June and November elections even if a candidate wins a primary by an overwhelming majority or is running unopposed. It is worth noting that this system is not used in any large city in California or any large metropolitan area in the nation. Locally, it has not undergone a thorough legal review and will likely take millions of dollars away from streets and public safety while forcing voters to go through a prolonged and taxing election cycle.
Generally, when politicians want to propose fundamental changes to the structure of our democracy, there is a credible, bipartisan and independent process to back it up with. The correct approach would have been to study all of the options, research all facts, engage every community and strive to reach consensus.
Instead, five of our colleagues chose the wrong approach.
Typically, a proposal of this magnitude would be brought up by a City Council member or staff, scheduled to be heard at a committee, studied by the city attorney and the independent budget analyst, and then brought back for further review. Instead, at the last minute, a lobbyist and private issue-advocacy organization introduced a two-page letter to the Rules Committee, and forwarded the proposal directly to Council. This dark money group, calling itself the Independent Voter Project, has not disclosed the donors funding its effort.