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Tuesday, November 20 , 2018, 8:56 am | Fog/Mist 51º


Santa Barbara to Decide on Even-Year Elections Ballot Language

The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday will take another step toward implementing even-year elections and deciding how to fill vacant seats.

Threatened by expensive litigation, the city of Santa Barbara moved to district elections in 2015. The rush to agree on a settlement, and avoid costly attorney fees, left several details unresolved.

Since Santa Barbara is a charter city, voters must technically approve the switch to district elections from the at-large system of electing council members.

 Voters must also decide whether Santa Barbara should move to even-year elections, according to the city.

The City Council is pondering whether to put both questions under one charter amendment on the ballot, or two.

City officials want to avoid one ballot item passing while the other one fails, but worry that combining the two issues into one measure could confuse voters.

Under the even-year election proposal, council members elected in 2015 and 2017 would finish out their terms in 2019 and 2021.

Their successors, however, would get five-year terms, through 2024 and 2026, so that elections could move to even years. Whoever wins the mayor’s seat in 2021 would get a one-time, five-year term. 

Activists believe even-year elections, which coincide with state and national elections, would increase voter turnout. 

According to the proposed charter amendment language, any vacancy on the City Council, including the mayor’s seat, would be on the ballot, “on the next regularly established general municipal, district, county, or state election.” In the meantime, the council may make an interim appointment.

The person appointed could then run for office, but they couldn’t use the word “incumbent” on the ballot, according to the city. 

The council held a special election in June to fill the District 3 council seat vacated by Cathy Murillo when she was elected mayor in November.

Instead of appointing someone to fill the seat, the council left the seat empty and put the issue to the voters.

Westside resident Oscar Gutierrez won the election and will be soon sworn in to join the other six City Council members.

The City Council will face filling another vacancy in January when Councilman Gregg Hart leaves the council for the county Board of Supervisors, since he won the Second District seat in the June 5 election.

The proposed ballot measures will be discussed at the 2 p.m. City Council meeting Tuesday at City Hall, at 735 Anacapa St.  

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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