SAN ANTONIO – District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg proposes moving city elections from May to November to coincide with state and federal elections.
The idea, he says, is to increase voter turnout.
“We all do better,” he said. “Our city is healthier when we have more voices at the table.”
When discussed by the council’s Governance Committee Wednesday, most council members agreed they'd like to see more people at the polls but echoed a similar concern: making city politics partisan.
“If you enjoyed this year's presidential election, let’s add City Council and mayor to the mix so that candidates for City Council, rather than being asked about streets, drainage, police and fire, they’re getting asked about walls with Mexico, immigrants from Syria and free college tuition for all,” District 9 Councilman Joe Krier said. “Those are not city issues.”
“I think we shouldn’t underestimate the intelligence of San Antonians,” Nirenberg countered. “They know the difference between a City Council member and a president.’
Council members on the committee also raised concerns about getting the platforms of local candidates heard among the much often louder voices on the national stage.
Changing the elections would require a change in the city charter, which typically happens through a citywide vote.
The city charters spells out municipal elections are to be held in May and elected representatives are to take office June 1.
But the state has allowed cities to override their charter in the past. However, the deadline to make that request is by the end of the year.
Nirenberg’s office feels confident that deadline could be extended since it has been done twice before.
Despite the proposal's lack of support among the Governance Committee, it will move on to the city's Intergovernmental Relations Department, which will examine what legislative options may be available.
Council members, including Mayor Ivy Taylor, also agreed that they want the city’s charter commission to discuss the proposal.
According to Nirenberg’s office, even if the council overrides the charter to change the date of the election, the city must still hold an election to change the date newly elected council members would take office.