Sunday, June 7, 2009

Keep Local Elections In May

Keep Local Elections In May
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
June 7, 2009

Run, don’t walk to City Hall this Saturday, June 13 for the City Council Public Hearing. The most important docket item is a resolution requesting a referendum to appear on the November ballot moving City Council and School Board elections from May to November.

As a former candidate for the School Board, I strongly support the retention of May local elections, for although I was on record disparaging the pathetically paltry – 19 percent – turnout, at least the candidates found themselves center stage.

Let’s dispel the notion that moving local elections to November would increase turnout. Sure, more citizens may cast votes in November, but by adding the City Council and School Board races to a ballot that may include presidential, senate, congressional candidates one year, and governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, state senate and house of delegate candidates another year, local candidates will simply receive less attention than they deserve.

Most voters are already under the misguided impression that the higher ranking office the more influential it is in our lives. Quite the contrary. The president represents over 300 million Americans before the global community. Members of the House of Representatives represent approximately 650,000 citizens. When someone’s Social Security check has been inexplicably delayed, they don’t call the White House, they call their Congressman.

On the state level, the governor in Richmond is not called to report a pothole, instead City Hall is contacted. Retaining May for local elections is vital for voters to become familiar with the candidates and the candidates to spend time hearing the concerns of their potential constituents.

Governance at the most local level is the most effective. Elected leaders are closer to their constituents, live in the same neighborhoods and are affected by the same issues. Moving local elections to November where the candidates and the issues can be lost within the shuffle of the seemingly more “important” offices will allow the majority party to become complacent, and responsibility and accountability to the voters would, in essence, disappear.

This is not a Democrat versus Republican issue. Instead this is a non-partisan issue that should give the voters a serious level of consternation. Even the League of Women Voters and local NAACP have expressed concern with the potential date amendment.

Those unable to attend the June 13 hearing due to religious observance, contact the City Council at 703-746-4500 or via the City website at As the great radio talk show host Bob Grant says, ending his program, “your influence counts – use it!”

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and political consultant living in Alexandria.

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