Aligned elections: Taxpayers, voters win; special interests lose - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

Aligned elections: Taxpayers, voters win; special interests lose

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Posted: Saturday, May 19, 2012 5:37 pm | Updated: 12:44 pm, Fri Sep 28, 2012.

If you’re tired of multiple election seasons and “invitation only” off-year elections by local governments, relief is on the way.

Gov. Jan Brewer has signed HB 2826, which requires Arizona cities and towns to align their election cycles with state and federal elections — when most people vote. It’s a win for voters, a win for taxpayers, and a loss for special interests.

The “Special Interest Lobby” tried to argue that changing the election cycle would cost more and hurt turnout in city elections. That’s like arguing that day is night.

Chandler, Scottsdale and Peoria changed their election cycle so that their citizens could vote for mayor and City Council at the same election in which they selected county, state and federal representatives. In all cases, turnout for local elections skyrocketed.

It’s also much less expensive to add several lines to a ballot that’s already being produced than to conduct an entirely separate election. The opponents’ argument that it would cost more requires a disconnection from reality that would seem impossible for most people.

What happens under the current system is that municipalities hold elections when people are least likely to be tuned into them — if they’re even in town. Phoenix, for example, has its primary election on odd-numbered years, in August, when most voters are out of town. That allows for those who most benefit from spending decisions by the City Council to influence that race. Local columnist Bob Robb has referred to them as “invitation only” elections.

Congratulations to Rep. Michelle Ugenti, who marshaled this landmark bill through the Legislature, and to Gov. Brewer, who withstood massive lobbying by the current beneficiaries of low turnout elections and signed the bill. This legislation was truly a citizen driven improvement and a result of many hours of volunteer work. Many, many people worked day and night, knocking on doors at the Legislature and making phone calls helping our state be more transparent and accessible to voters.

• Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio represents District 6, which includes Ahwatukee Foothills. Reach him at council.district.6@phoenix.gov or (602) 262-7491.

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