Home Uncategorized Morro Bay, California, May Abandon Two-Round Elections for City Office
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Morro Bay, California, May Abandon Two-Round Elections for City Office

According to this story, Morro Bay, California, is the only city in California that holds an election for city office in June, and then has a run-off in November if no one gets as much as 50%. The city council has just voted 3-2 to ask the voters if they wish to repeal that system, and instead just have a single round in November. The majority on the city council says the two-round system costs too much.

11 Responses

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  2. Jim Riley

    You misread “only such city” as “only city in California”.

    It appears that Morro Beach is the only city in San Luis Obispo county that uses the June primary. There are of course many large cities in California that hold a June election, with a November runoff.

    Remarkably, the 2006 ballot measure doesn’t say anything about a runoff. It simply moved the general election to June. But Morro Beach is covered by state law that says if the general election is in June, then a majority is required with a runoff in November.

    Another interesting proposition that was approved in 2006 added a resign-to-run provision. In Morro Beach, council members are elected to 4 year terms, with two elected every two years; while the mayor is elected every two years. So there is a risk/was the practice that city council members would run for mayor midterm of their council term. If they lost, they would keep their council seat. If they won, they left a vacancy that required a special election.

    The ballot measure provided that in these circumstances, the person who caused the vacancy has to pay for the special election.

    In 2008, the first mayoral runoff was held, and the winner did not receive a majority, due to about 100 write-in votes.

    There was no runoff in 2012, nor will there be one in 2014, so the cost issue is pretty much a red herring. The county is going to charge them for one election in any case.

    Since the mayor who has now been elected twice without need for a runoff voted for repeal, reading between the lines he doesn’t like running in June.

    Of course the better solution is for California to move the primary to September.

  3. I re-read the story and it doesn’t say it is referring only to San Luis Obispo County. But, I acknowledge that San Jose (in Santa Clara County) has a June-November system. I don’t know of any other city in California that does, and I suspect you don’t either, or you would have named them.

    Sometime I wish you would explain why you don’t favor the Louisiana system of not having a primary, and just holding the congressional election in November, with a run-off in December if no one gets 50%.

    • Jim Riley

      San Diego also holds its mayoral primary coincident with the state schedule. One possible distinguishing feature between ‘Canaan’ and ‘Edelstein’ was the length of the gap between the primary and runoff (5 months in San Diego) and (1 month in San Francisco). The other distinguishing feature was that ‘Burdick’ happened in between.

      The actual Morro Beach ballot language was simply to move the election to June. The explanation of the change was that it would require a majority view.

      I think that the state statutes that apply are Election 1301(b) which permits a city to hold its elections coincident with the state primary, but also applies all the other regulations, in particular those in Elections Code 8140, which provides for the possibility of majority election in a nonpartisan primary election.

      I favor the system where Louisiana holds it elections in October and has a runoff if necessary in November.

      I think it would be a good idea if state elections were separate from federal elections, and local elections were separate from state elections.

      If California were to move its primary to November it would be problematic since legislative terms begin in December.

      The simplest solution would be for Congress to permit states that have initial (primary) elections open to all voters and all candidates, to hold them on the first Tuesday after the first Wednesday in September, and permit majority election without a runoff.

      • Richard Winger

        You have switched the subject in Louisiana to state elections, but I was asking about Louisiana’s congressional elections, which are held in November, and any possible run-off in December. What do you think of the November-December idea?

        • Jim Riley

          Louisiana did quite OK with September/October-November congressional elections for decades.

          I’m pretty sure the Love lawsuit was really an attempt to overturn the Open Primary, rather than just force the election to occur in November.

          After the Supreme Court decision, the two houses of the legislature deadlocked on the remedy. The House and Governor Foster wanted to simply change the election date to November, while the senate wanted to switch to party primaries held before the general election.

          This left the remedy to the district court, which changed the date of the election, rather than changing its form. The Love litigants had argued that the court should go back to the law before the Open Primary had been enacted. That is, while the date was what the Supreme Court objected to, the cause of the date change was the adoption of the Open Primary (the Open Primary replaced the Democratic Primary).

          The 5th Circuit upheld the switch to November-December in ‘Love v Foster’. Louisiana later changed its laws to match the court decision.

          After a few years, the Louisiana legislature passed a different version that would permit election to occur in November.

          If only one or two candidates filed, then there would be no primary, and the election would be held in November. If three or more filed, then there would be an Open Primary in October, with possibility of election by majority. The rationale was probably that primaries with 3+ candidates usually occurred when there was an open seat, and half a dozen candidates filed, and a runoff would usually be required.

          Nonetheless, this was overturned in ‘Daughter of Love v Blanco’ by a federal district court.

          It was after this that Louisiana adopted its misguided retrograde switch back to partisan congressional primaries.

          The November election date was an accident. In 1789, George Washington could not be elected until after Congress had assembled and counted the electoral votes.

          After deciding that congressional and presidential terms began on March 4, they faced the prospect of not having a president, particularly when the House had to choose the President from among the Top 5 in the electoral vote.

          So Congress decided that it would be the outgoing Congress whose term ended in March that would count the electoral votes, and choose a president if necessary.

          Congress met in December, and if they received the electoral votes from the states in January would have two months to determine a president (they used most of this time in 1801 and 1825).

          This meant that the presidential electors had to meet in early December in order to provide time for the votes to be sent to where Congress was meeting. In turn any popular elections to choose the electors had to be held in early November to permit a statewide canvass, notification of the electors, and time for them to travel to the meeting place in their state.

          In 1845, Congress fixed a single date for the choosing of electors, and chose a Tuesday. The addition of “after the first Monday” ensures a fixed number of weeks before the electors meet in December.

          It made no sense to hold congressional elections at that time, since those elected would not begin their term until 4 months later, and often did not take their oath and begin their service until 13 months later in December when Congress typically began each session.

          Nonetheless the Northern hegemons chose that date for congressional elections in 1872. Because terms still began in March, there was plenty of time for a new election if no candidate received a majority. A runoff is not really possible without government-printed ballots.

          The 20th Amendment changed congressional terms to begin on January 3rd. The delay of the presidential inauguration until January 20 provides the incoming Congress time to count the electoral votes and choose the president if necessary.

          The dates in the 20th Amendment assumed that the election would continue in November, but squeezed out much of the time for a runoff. A congressman elected in December might miss out on the office lottery and any briefings for incoming freshmen and possibly result in poorer committee assignment.

          But Congress can fix this by permitting states with open elections for Congress (Louisiana, California, Washington, soon Oregon, …) to conduct the first stage in September, with the possibility of election by majority.

          Congress would set a uniform date (first Tuesday after the first Wednesday in September avoids Labor Day and provides a uniform 8 weeks before the November date.

          Louisiana would surely switch, and I expect that Washington would as well. Since the Washington Top 2 is in statute, they might choose to switch to majority election in the Open Primary.

          Because it would be a nationally uniform date, voters would pay more attention. If California were electing its governor this September, turnout would be almost as high as in November.

          And as I noted in the previous message, California is unlikely to adopt a November-December calendar for general elections since it would not work for legislative elections.

          I just came across this interesting article. Be sure to paste the text into a text document to avoid pink afterglow.

          http://www.thegreenpapers.com/Hx/ExceptionsToCongressionalElectionDates.phtml

  4. Demo Rep

    NO primaries.
    P.R. and nonpartisan App.V.

  5. Richard Winger

    One big disadvantage to Louisiana’s electing members of Congress in September between 1978 and 1996 was that it causes confusion when political scientists and reporters try to calculate the national vote for each party for US House. In 2012, Democrats got the most votes nationwide for US House, but Republicans won substantially more seats. This prompted press inquiries into how often the party that wins the most popular votes still wins fewer seats. For 1996, a year the Republicans won the most seats, the question of which party got the most votes nationwide for US House depends on whether the calculation includes the September vote cast in all districts, or just the November vote in the two districts that had run-offs in November.

  6. Jim Riley

    One big disadvantage to having independent and minor party candidates on the ballot is that it causes confusion when political scientists and reporters try to calculate the national vote for each party for US House.

    See how silly that sounds?

    Tell the political scientists to use more footnotes, and tell the reporters to change their hairstyle, or to write about something that interests the public.

  7. Richard Winger

    Yes, Jim, your comment sounds silly. I have the total vote cast for each political party, for US House, nationwide, back to 1870.

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