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City and county to combine elections?

December 6, 2011

The City of Bishop is looking at consolidating its municipal elections in March, such as this City Council race in March 2011, with national elections in November to save money. The public will have a chance to comment on the proposed consolidation at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12 at City Hall. Photo by Mike Bodine

The City of Bishop is looking into the possibility of consolidating its General Municipal Elections held in March of odd years with Inyo County General Elections held in November of even years.
Bishop primarily only holds elections for City Council, meaning a consolidation would cause a four-month reduction to some council member terms. And, according to some opposing arguments to the consolidation, it may mean focus on local council members and measures may get lost in the hyperbole of a presidential election, when local candidates accompany national candidates on a ballot.
The consolidation will also save the city approximately $15,000 a year. Denise Gillespie, assistant city clerk, said the County Elections Office is currently undertaking a cost analysis for an election consolidation. Kammi Foote, Inyo’s registrar of voters, was unavailable for comment at press time. Foote did say at the Nov. 28 City Council meeting that she and the department are “fully supportive” of a consolidation.
The city is asking its citizens to give their opinions and thoughts on the consolidation, and will be open to input now and at the next regularly scheduled council meeting, starting at 7 p.m., Monday, Dec. 12.
The public hearing for the election consolidation will be on the same day as another public hearing. To avoid confusion as to who is talking to what points, those wishing to speak at the public hearing are asked to fill out a speaker card available before the meeting.
Some pros and cons to the consolidation, compiled by city clerks, county staff and election consultants, were included in the agenda packet.
The pros include a projected – though not guaranteed – larger voter turnout, and a lower number of trips to the polls for voters.
Cons include, while not detailed, a loss of autonomy for the city involving elections. There would also be a loss of “Civic Pride,” according to the agenda packet, that a city feels when it has its own election. And, voting results may not be known for days, or weeks after the election. Candidates will also have less space for statements within the sample ballot booklet and candidates will have to travel farther on election day, as counting would take place at the county Registrar’s Office in Independence, not City Hall. There may also be added costs to local candidates fighting for visibility and coverage above a blanket of advertising by national candidates.
Gillespie said that if the council decides to move forward with consolidation, after hearing public comments, the matter will then move onto the agenda of the Inyo County Board of Supervisors.
Gillespie also explained the complicated schedule changes if elections are moved around. She said if the council decides to move forward with consolidating the 2012 elections, the previously scheduled March 2013 election for three City Council seats would be moved up to November 2012. If the council decides to move forward with consolidation in 2014, the March 2015 municipal elections would be in November 2014.
At the Nov. 28 Bishop City Council meeting, there was some debate among the council as to whether or not to move forward with the consolidation now or in 2014. To consolidate for 2012 would mean saving money now instead, but it would tighten the time factor for November 2012 elections. When asked by the council, City Attorney Peter Tracy said he was unsure what would happen should a “snag” come up in the consolidation process.
The council agreed to have a public hearing on the matter before proceeding. The hearing will be on the agenda for the 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12 Bishop City Council meeting at City Hall.
Foote was also not available comment on special state or federal elections.

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