Palo Alto voters choose even-year city elections
Saving money, increasing voter participation cited as reasons for shift
Palo Alto's century-old tradition of holding city elections on odd years came to an end Tuesday when voters approved Measure S, which shifts elections to even years.
The measure, proposed by Santa Clara Supervisor Liz Kniss, won in a landslide, with 76 percent of the vote.
Measure S would bring the city into line with national, state and county elections and reduce costs by an estimated $1 million over the next decade, Kniss estimated.
Kniss and other proponents of Measure S argued the proposal would also increase voter participation. They pointed to the fact that the last four even-year elections had an average turnout of 71.25 percent, compared to 43.2 percent for odd-year elections.
Councilman Greg Schmid and former Mayor Gary Fazzino both opposed Measure S, arguing that it would force local issues to compete for voters' attention with national and state elections. Schmid also said there would be less media attention paid to city-level issues and candidates if the local election were held concurrent with the national one.
But Measure S generally stayed under the radar in the months leading up to Election Day and did not generate broad opposition.
"It boiled down to a simple decision," Mayor Pat Burt said. "Not too many people had strong passions about this measure."
Councilman Greg Scharff, who proposed placing Measure S on the ballot, told the Weekly he wasn't surprised by the measure's easy passage.
"We're increasing voter participation and saving money," Scharff said. "It seemed like a no-brainer."
By switching elections to even years, the measure also extends the terms of each council member by a year. Burt, Vice Mayor Sid Espinosa and councilmen Yiaway Yeh and Schmid would have seen their terms expire next year. Now, they will serve until 2012.