Herald American The Press

Norwalk sets hearing on change of election dates

NORWALK — The City Council will conduct a public hearing Nov. 21 on a proposal to move municipal elections from the spring of odd-numbered years to March of even-numbered years to coincide with the state primary.

The state Legislature recently voted to move the California primary from June to March while keeping the general election in November.

The Norwalk plan would skip the scheduled municipal election in March 2019 and instead hold the election in March 2020. It would mean the extension of the terms of all sitting council members, City Clerk Theresa Devoy said in a report to the council.

Mayor Luigi Vernola, Vice Mayor Leonard Shryock and Councilwoman Jennifer Lopez, elected to four-year terms in 2015, would see their terms extended from 2019 to 2020. Council members Margarita Rios and Tony Ayala, elected to four-year terms in March of this year, would see their terms extended from 2021 to 2022.

Huntington Park, meanwhile, plans to conduct elections in November of the odd-numbered years until 2022 and then in June of even-numbered years beginning in 2024 and continuing thereafter under the approved ordinance.

The next Huntington Park city election will take place in November 2019, Vice Mayor Jhonny Pineda said.

Another change in its election law would place a limit of three consecutive four-year terms on council members. However, they could run again after being out of office for at least two years.

Election moving would put both cities in compliance with a state law, Senate Bill 415, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2018. It requires all cities with low turnout at stand-alone municipal elections to vote in the state primary or general election in even-numbered years.

Most area cities vote in March of odd-numbered years and are affected by the law because the average voter turnout for the past four city elections was less than 25 percent.

Bellflower has already set its next council election for November 2018 while Santa Fe Springs has moved its balloting from November of odd-numbered years to November of even-numbered years.

“The rationale behind SB 415 was to address waning civic engagement in politics as illustrated by declining voter turnout in federal, state and municipal elections,” said acting Huntington Park City Manager Ricardo Reyes in a report to his council Nov. 7.

“The legislative analysis asserts that one major contributing factor to low voter turnout — the timing of elections — could be addressed by synchronizing municipal elections with statewide elections.

“The Public Policy Institute of California surveyed 350 California cities and found that moving municipal elections to coincide with statewide elections could result in a 20-36 percent boost in voter turnout,” Reyes said.

He noted that Elections Code Section 10403.5(b) requires that “no term of office shall be increased or decreased by more than 12 months.

“Typically, when faced with changes in state law addressing election dates, cities will increase terms, rather than decrease terms,” he added.

Mayor Marilyn Sanabria,Vice Mayor Pineda and Councilwoman Graciela Ortiz were elected to four-year terms in March 2015. Their terms would extend eight months from March 2019 to November 2019.

Councilwoman Karina Macias and Councilman Manuel Avila were elected for four years in March 2017. Their terms will extend from March 2021, to November 2021.