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New law requires cities to move elections dates

SANTA FE SPRINGS — The City Council here is expected to act Dec. 8 on an ordinance to switch its election dates from November of odd-numbered years to November of even-numbered years to coincide with state and national elections in compliance with a new state law.

Bell Gardens and Pico Rivera are expected to take similar action Dec. 13.

City councils may choose to start their even year voting in 2018, 2020 or 2022, but a decision must be made by Jan. 1, 2018, according to Santa Fe Springs City Manager Thaddeus McCormack in a report to his city council Nov. 22.

Council members’ terms could be extended or reduced by not more than one year, depending on when they were voted into office, under the state law, Senate Bill 415, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown Sept. 1, 2015. It took effect last Jan. 1, McCormack said.

The law is aimed at increasing voter turnout, which is usually higher for state and national elections than for local municipal voting. Although cities may chose between the June primary or November general election, county officials advise the latter for a greater turnout as determined by a state study, he added.

The switch is required under state law for any city whose local turnout of voters is 25 percent or less than its turnout for the state and national elections. County election officials said all area cities would fall under that requirement, McCormack said.

If the Bell Gardens, Pico Rivera and Santa Fe Spring councils formally approve the 2018 starting date, council members in those cities who were last elected to four-year terms in 2013, would see those terms extended one year from 2017 to 2018.

Those last elected in 2015 would hold office until 2020 instead of 2019, McCormack said.

Voters in the city of Los Angeles approved Charter Amendments 1 and 2 in the March 2015 election that moved city elections from March and May of odd-numbered years to June and November of even-numbered years, beginning in 2020.

Other area cities which vote in the fall of odd-numbered years — Lynwood, Paramount, Maywood and Montebello — were considering the issue but had not taken formal action as of Nov.18.

Also undecided as of Nov. 18 were cities which are already planning or have scheduled municipal elections in the spring of odd-numbered years and have already committed to elections next March 7.

Those include West Hollywood, Bell, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Norwalk and South Gate.

The Monterey Park City Council has tentatively decided to continue voting in the spring of odd-numbered years until 2021 when it will switch to November 2022, a city spokesperson said.

Whittier holds its municipal elections in April of even-numbered years and as of Nov. 18 had taken no formal action to change, a city clerk spokesperson said.

Bellflower also will hold its City Council election next March 7, but is required to switch to voting in November 2018 under a court settlement, which also requires the city to change from citywide voting (in 2017) to district elections in 2018.

A number of unsuccessful candidates had sued the city claiming the citywide voting in Bellflower was unfair to minority candidates. Voters approved the settlement in voting Nov. 8.

The terms of Mayor Dan Koops, last elected in 2013, and Councilman Juan Garza, appointed last summer to fill the final year of former Councilman Scott Larsen’s term, will be on the city’s spring ballot along with expected challengers who file by Dec. 9.

If re-elected in March, Koops, who lives in newly created District 2, could hold office until November 2020, instead of 2021, City Clerk Mayra Ochiqui said.

Garza must run in the 2018 election if he wins this March because he lives in newly created District 5, which will be on the ballot that year along with Districts 1 and 3.

Mayor Pro Tem Ron Schnablegger and Councilmen Sonny Santa Ines and Ray Dunton, last elected in 2015, live in Districts 1, 3 and 5 respectively, and must run in 2018 instead of 2019 if they want to remain on the council, Ochiqui said.

The 2018 election could pit Dunton against Garza should the former seek re-election and if Garza wins in 2017.

Council terms in Districts 2 and 4 would be up in 2020.

Competition against council members in all of the spring 2017 voting is uncertain pending the filing period through Dec. 9.

Alhambra and Downey already vote in the fall of even-numbered years.