San Jose city leaders reject proposal to move mayoral elections

City leaders in San Jose have rejected a proposal to move mayoral elections to presidential election years. The change was rejected despite some strong support from community advocates.

San Jose Council Member Magdalena Carrasco is disappointed with the council's 6-5 vote against her proposal to align mayoral elections with the presidential election cycle. She said, it’s a move that could have brought more people to the polls to vote for the city's highest ranking official.

“We know that in gubernatorial races, in other words, those off years those midterm elections,” said Carrasco. “The majority of the voters are wealthier voters, white voters, people who are not of color.”

Data from the city of San Jose shows from 1980 to 2018 voter turnout was 13 percent higher in presidential general elections than the mayor or gubernatorial races.

“Once people know that there's an election that's going to take place they become informed with issues up and down the ballot,” said San Jose State Political Science Professor Garrick Percival.

Voting rights and community activists are concerned with voter disenfranchisement.

“It hurts me that there's still such a split,” said Voting Rights Activist Anne Rosenzweig. “I think some of the council members don't understand how difficult it is for people who have been raised in a different culture, different country to know what their rights are.”

“The person who voted for the mayor in a presidential year election probably would have already voted for the mayor if it were a midterm election,” said San Jose City Council Member Lan Diep. 

Opponents argue if the move were to happen national politics could overshadow the mayor's race not to mention
there's less incentive to vote in the midterms. 

Diep voted against the change. He said, there are few barriers to voting in Santa Clara County.

“If people want to vote whether it's during a midterm election or for a presidential year election 
the barrier is very low,” said Diep. “We allow for 30 days of early votes, we allow people to vote by mail, we send them an envelope with prepaid postage.”

If it had passed, the change could have added two more years to Mayor Sam Liccardo’s term.

The council agreed to explore ways to boost political participation specifically in precincts where turnout is low. Some citizens said, they're now looking at putting a petition together to put the change on the ballot themselves.