Referendum on election changes fails

Published: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 10:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 10:23 p.m.

A charter amendment to change the schedule for city of Gainesville elections went down to a sound defeat Tuesday.

More than 56 percent of the votes cast were against referendum.

The proposed charter amendment would have moved city elections from every year in the spring to the fall of odd years and it would have extended commissioners' terms from three years to four years.

There were 6,438 votes against the changes, or 56.36 percent, and 4,986 or 43.64 percent favoring them.

The City Commission's latest round of talks on potentially changing the election schedule started in early 2012. At that time, the focus was on trying to boost turnout that hovers in the teens — turnout was less than 15 percent Tuesday — by potentially moving to general election years to coincide with county, state and federal races.

But that led to talk about city issues and city candidates getting lost in the shuffle and left at the bottom of a lengthy ballot. Then came the proposal to go to an every-other-year schedule in the fall of odd years. Moving away from annual elections would have brought a savings when the annual costs for elections run in the range of $200,000. But there was no evidence presented that it would boost turnout.

The move to fall elections and change to four-year terms would have taken full effect in 2017. Neither of the offices on the ballot Tuesday would have had their terms extended.

Commissioner Thomas Hawkins, who was skeptical of the proposed changes that went to voters Tuesday, said Tuesday night that he plans to push for partisan elections in even years when the City Commission launches a charter review process in upcoming months.

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