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, which was proposed by Santa Clara Supervisor Liz Kniss, won in a landslide Tuesday, with 77 percent of the voters supporting it, early results reported late Tuesday night indicate.
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 that the proposal would both save money and increase voter participation. They pointed to the fact that the last four even-year election 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 with national and state elections for the voters' attention. But Measure S generally stayed under the radar in the months leading up to the election and did not generate any 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 Espnosa and councilmen Yiaway Yeh and Schmid would have seen their terms expire next year. Now, they will serve at least until 2012.
Schmid spoke out against the shift, saying that city-level issues and candidates would be overshadowed by the larger elections and there would be less media attention paid to them if they were combined.