Sunday, March 11, 2007

Ballot question on At Large Council voting fails

On March 5th, City Council considered a measure that would have changed the procedures for voting for At-Large Council members in Denver. Council Bill 92 would have asked voters to approve a charter change to require candidates running for an at-large council seat to receive a majority vote.

Denver's Channel 8 Update recorded the conversation as below:
As it stands now in the Charter, all at-large candidates run in a single pool and the two candidates who tally the most votes get the seats. The new measure would essentially split the race into two individual races.

Current Councilman-at-large Doug Linkhart, the sponsor of the bill, shared his reasoning for authoring measure…

“Let me tell you what I see the problem is. One is there are two people out of all the elected officials in Denver, including the Mayor, Auditor, Clerk and Recorder that we just created, and of my colleagues here, everyone else is elected by a majority except for the two At-Large. And what that creates is the possibility of having someone in this position who is elected by a slice of the population. I use myself as an example. I was elected with 17% of the vote. Now, hopefully, you think I represent the entire city. But that 17% could have easily gone to someone who doesn’t represent the entire city. It could be simply a slice of the population geographically or in some other way. So I would like to see the At-Large members elected by a majority to truly reflect the entire city. The second issue is accountability. There is no way currently, or let’s say it’s very difficult, to hold incumbents accountable in this position.”
- Doug Linkhart, City Council Member-at-Large

...Other Council members, predicting a low voter turnout in May, questioned the push to get this measure before the voters without hearing from the public.

“We are possibly looking at a turnout of between 10 maybe 12 percent. I think this is a serious issue. And if we really want to put it on the ballot, let’s do it in November when we have an 80 percent turnout.”
- Charlie Brown, City Council Member, District 6

“People say to me ‘WHAT? You’re running again? What? Four years has passed?’ So, they don’t even know the Council’s up, much less that there are going to be two issues on this ballot. And so I’m willing to vote not to put it on the ballot this time, but to do a better job of presenting it to the public so that they have time to weigh in.”
- Peggy Lehmann, City Council Member, District 4

District 9 Councilwoman Judy Montero added anther perspective to the opposition.

“I do not have letters of support from, for example, the League of Women voters, and that really bothers me. Because what that says to me is that maybe this initiative or this proposal before is not driven by the voters and it’s not driven by the community. And that really worries me.”
- Judy Montero, City Council Member, District 9

While the vote was 6 to 4 in favor, the bill was defeated as it failed to muster the required majority of council.

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