We Need Even-Year Elections and Wards

November 15, 2014 at 5:53 pm Leave a comment

By Andrew Richter

I’ve been in a government reform mood lately for some reason and with the elections finally over (thank God), it’s time to concentrate on pushing needed reforms.

One of the big reforms that is needed at the local level is all elections (outside a special election) should be held in even years, not odd ones, and there should be Wards as well. This goes for all cities, counties, school districts, and whatever else. We need government closer to the people and we need to make sure all parts of cities and school districts have representation.

Take the 2013 elections in Golden Valley as a prime example. On election day there were 14,450 registered voters and they voted in two separate elections. There was the special election between Steve Schmidgall and John Giese. The total votes cast were 3,254 which represented 22.52% of the electorate. How can anyone in Golden Valley be proud of that voter turnout?

Then there were the council elections themselves. There were nine candidates fighting for two at-large spots. The winners, Larry Fonnest and Andy Snope got 1109 and 1346 votes respectively. Combined they got only 2455 votes or 17% of the electorate between the two of them! How can anybody say with any certainty that they represent the people of Golden Valley?

Golden Valley 2013 Election Results  

Golden Valley isn’t alone. Other cities like Minneapolis, St. Paul, St. Louis Park, and Hopkins also hold their elections in the odd year.

When you look at school districts the problem widens. Take District 281 for example. To the district’s credit, they switched from odd year elections a few years back, though their motives seemed to be financial rather than representation but so what! The thing that is missing are wards.

Look at the current school board (not the one just elected November 4). There are three whole cities represented in District 281; Robbinsdale, Crystal, and New Hope. Then there are parts of Golden Valley, Plymouth, Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center. Now here is the makeup of the current school board;

John Vento, Helen Bassett, and Linda Johnson all from Golden Valley

Mark Bomchill and Tom Walsh from Plymouth

Patsy Green from New Hope and Sherry Tyrell from Crystal.

That means three cities have no representation at all and five members are from two cities who both only have part of their city in District 281.

Having wards would not only bring our representatives closer to us and make sure all parts of the district have a say in the schools, but it would make things easier on candidates. Many at-large races don’t start the filing process until August. How can anyone knock on all doors in an entire school district in three months? And you’d have to raise probably $10,000 to send a mailer to the whole district. How does this get us the best representation?

Wards don’t exist in school districts and they don;t exist in many cities either. Around here New Hope, Golden Valley, and Brooklyn Center among others have all at-large elections.

Now, I know the world is run by those who show up but I honestly don’t understand the opposition to changing this. Imagine if all of our legislators or congressmen were elected at-large. Would people stand for that? No of course not. So why do we let cities and school districts do it?

If you’re wondering why your city or school district has at-large elections, perhaps you should ask yourself who is benefiting from this system. I’m just going to leave that for your imagination.



Entry filed under: Brooklyn Center, City Government, Community, Crystal, Golden Valley, New Hope, Robbinsdale. Tags: , , , , , .

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