Fairfield to consider even-year elections

By From page A1 | February 15, 2013

FAIRFIELD — Solano County Supervisors Jim Spering and John Vasquez want Fairfield to consider changing its city office elections from odd years to even years.

The City Council at their request will discuss the matter. It meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday in its chamber at 1000 Webster St.

Spering and Vasquez represent different parts of Fairfield and wrote a letter to Fairfield making their proposal. They pointed to two recent elections to bolster their argument.

Fairfield in November 2011 had an election turnout of 24 percent. That year, voters elected two City Council members.

In contrast, Fairfield in November 2012 had a 72 percent turnout. No city offices were on the ballot, but the presidential, congressional and state races – as well as Fairfield’s Measure P sales tax measure – proved a big draw.

“The voters who are voting in these general elections, they are more engaged, they understand the issues better,” Spering said. “Off-year elections, people are just not thinking about voting.”

Plus, the cost-per-voter could be reduced from $5 to $10 per vote cast to as low as $3.50 per-vote cast, he said. That’s money Fairfield pays to the county for the election.

“It’s not a huge savings, but if we could get all the elections (in the county) to go to the general elections, there is a measurable savings,” Spering said.

Fairfield Mayor Harry Price said the evidence is clear that more people tend to go to the polls for the even-year, general elections.

“With an odd-year election, unless there’s some big issue locally or in the immediate area, the voter turnout has been low,” Price said. “That suggests a minority of people in a democracy are making a determination who serves.”

He praised Spering and Vasquez “for paying close attention to what is happening.”

Twelve cities and districts in the county have odd-year elections, Deputy Registrar of Voters John Gardner said. They include Fairfield, the Fairfield-Suisun School District, the Travis School District, the Solano Irrigation District, Vallejo and the Cordelia Fire Protection District.

Thirteen have even-year elections, Gardner said. They include Solano County, Vacaville, Rio Vista, Suisun City and Dixon.

Benicia is also looking to move to an even election year, Gardner said. If Fairfield and Vallejo follow suit, those still having odd-year elections would have even higher costs, since there would be fewer cities and districts to spread certain election costs among.

“Now everybody’s talking about it,” Gardner said.

Should Fairfield go to even-year elections, all council members would have a year added to their terms, a city report said.

The next city election as it now stands is scheduled Nov. 5. The mayor’s seat held by Price and council seats held by Catherine Moy and John Mraz are on the ballot.

If the City Council decides Tuesday it wants to make a change, it can take a vote in March and forward the request to the county Board of Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors could take action in April, a city report said.

Fairfield at one time had even-year elections. In 1985, the City Council voted to change elections in April of even years to November of odd years starting in 1987.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling has been a reporter with the Daily Republic since 1987. He covers Solano County government, transportation, growth and the environment. He received his bachelors of art degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.

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