Phoenix Voters To Decide Whether City Elections Should Move

By Christina Estes
Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2018 - 9:18pm
Updated: Thursday, April 19, 2018 - 12:49pm

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phoenix city council
(Photo by Christina Estes - KJZZ)
Phoenix City Council meeting on April 18, 2019.

Voters in Phoenix will soon decide whether city elections should move from odd years to even years to coincide with state general elections. The topic generated a passionate debate at City Council chambers Wednesday.

For Councilman Sal DiCiccio who’s pushed the idea for years, the argument is simple: put local political races on the same ballot as state races and voter turnout will increase.

“This is in the best interest of the city of Phoenix voters,” he said.

But, Councilmembers Laura Pastor and Daniel Valenzuela — the two members who voted against the proposal — worry the city’s non-partisan elections will become party-focused.

“I think this is being rushed,” said Valenzuela. “In fact, we’re talking about it today because the goal by some on this council is to put this on the August ballot.”

“There’s a bigger agenda to this,” Pastor said. “And if you guys can’t see it, we’re in trouble.”

And Pastor expressed concern about losing control over ballot language. If Phoenix elections move, descriptions on certain things would likely be shortened as Maricopa County, not the city, would oversee language.

“Because of the number of items on November general election ballot —  the state offices, federal offices, others, judges, propositions, all the items that are on the ballot —  there is often a limited amount of space on the county ballot,” explained Cris Meyer, city clerk. “The county’s best estimates are that for a November election there would be room for the city of Phoenix, for example, to have two to four ballot measures, sometimes that might be less, sometimes it might be more, depending on what else is on the ballot.”

Meyer said a full description of each item would still appear in other materials like the publicity pamphlet and a ballot text pamphlet that is often mailed with the ballots.

Several residents spoke out against moving city elections to coincide with state elections. Some think voters will be overwhelmed with a larger ballot and be less likely to participate in local issues.

Councilwoman Debra Stark said she is proof that turnout increases in even number years.

“I actually ran in a special election in 2016 and we had almost 48,000 voters, usually it’s not that high in District 3 and District 3 is actually one of the highest turnouts for voting, “ she said. “What we’re doing is we’re taking it to the voters and the voters can tell us whether or not they like this idea.”

Mayor Greg Stanton provided statistics that showed voter turnout increased among various groups from his re-election in August 2015 to November 2016.

He said independent voter turnout was 20 percent of the total vote in August 2015 compared to 27.7 percent in 2016. He said turnout among Latino voters during his reelection was 11 percent of the total electorate compared to 18.7 percent in Phoenix in 2016 and among African Americans turnout was 2.7 percent of the total electorate in 2015 compared to 3.85 percent in 2016.

Phoenix voters will make the decision during the state primary election in late August.

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