It appears that it’s odd to be odd, at least when it comes to when you conduct elections.
In this case, it’s more a game of odd-man-out.
The cost of local elections is shared by those political and quasi-political entities that have those elections. That’s because each election has certain fixed costs. The more races on the ballot, the more those fixed costs are shared.
A sizable number of Solano County governments and agencies have odd-year voting, including some cities, school districts and special districts. Arguments for doing so vary, but voter participation numbers in recent years show that odd-year elections do not bring out the best in us in terms of our willingness to vote.
In short, we’re more jazzed to vote in even-year elections that see races for statewide offices, congressional offices and every four years, president of the United States, than we are during odd years when it’s primarily statewide propositions and local races. In some cases, there’s a 40 percentage point swing in voter participation between even- and odd-year elections.
That’s huge, considering how important – and how close – some local races have been.
Now, at the prompting of Solano County Supervisors Jim Spering and John Vasquez, things are about to change. The supervisors, who each represent parts of Fairfield, asked the Fairfield City Council and the Fairfield-Suisun School District to consider a switch from odd-year to even-year voting. Both bought into the idea with formal votes this past week, as did the Solano County Board of Education.
Now it’s up to the Board of Supervisors to approve the changes. We know at least two of the votes needed for approval are there. If approved, all of the electeds in each council or board will have their terms extended by a year to keep staggered terms of office on track.
That’s a small price to pay.
Local races matter. That’s where we select those who will make the decisions that affect us most. That’s where we decide whether or not to increase our taxes. That’s where the majority should hold sway, rather than the majority of a minority of registered voters.
Opponents question the motivation for the change. It’s good to hold a healthy skepticism for the motivations of our elected officials. It’s equally good to keep a close watch on our elected officials, so we can hold them accountable at the ballot box.
If we find that there’s some dastardly motivation behind the change to even-year voting, we can take some comfort knowing that the majority of registered voters will have a chance to express their displeasure at the ballot box.
The same can’t be said of odd-year elections.