Proposal would require mandatory election runoffs

Posted at 7:40 AM, Aug 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-02 10:40:15-04
SAN DIEGO -- Controversial proposals to require that all elections for city of San Diego offices be decided in November and that all citizens' initiatives and referendums be placed on the general election ballot are scheduled to be considered by the City Council Tuesday.
The council members will be asked to decide whether to place the ideas before voters this fall since they would amend the City Charter -- San Diego's primary governing document.
Currently, candidates for mayor, city attorney and City Council win outright in the June primary election if they receive more than half the vote. The proposal would require automatic runoffs between the top two primary vote- getters.
At a heated meeting last month, supporters contended that turnout doubles in general elections over primaries, with participation by minorities tripling and younger voters jumping four to five times.
"I have long-held concerns about the fact that many people simply do not vote in the primaries, and when city elected officials win outright in those primaries, the vast majority of city residents never cast a vote as to who represents them," council President Sherri Lightner said at a meeting last month.
She called it "a huge public education problem" in that people assume the top candidates will move automatically to the general election, as happens at the state and federal levels.
Councilman Mark Kersey said it didn't make sense for him to have to run again after winning his reelection by a wide margin in June.
"You have to get a bigger mandate in November? It makes no sense," Kersey said. "This sounds like a good government measure. It is not."
The idea would also raise costs on the city for more elections and candidates who have to run twice. It might be better to have all the elections in November with ranked choice voting -- in which voters can list the candidates they support in order.
Councilman Chris Cate called it a "strictly political" process meant to avoid electing a Republican mayor.
Other potential ballot measures that will be considered would have voters decide whether San Diego High School can remain operating in Balboa Park when its lease expires, and extending a funding stream in the City Charter for regional park projects.