Letters to the Editor

Bring back a single election to Morro Bay

Morro Bay has a reputation as a politically engaged community. We pay attention to issues, vote in large numbers and are open to new ideas about the political process.

For these reasons, Morro Bay voters decided to experiment with an election process almost never seen in citywide elections and not used by any other city in San Luis Obispo County. The experiment was a twostep system with a general election in June and, if necessary, a November runoff election.

Morro Bay voters hoped the two-election process would encourage more candidates to run for office and to elect by a clear majority rather than by a plurality. Morro Bay, full of independently minded individuals, voted to try it.

Four election cycles later, critical flaws have been revealed in the two-election experiment. So many flaws, in fact, that residents like us have asked the Morro Bay City Council to put the twoelection process back in front of the voters to determine if it should continue.

Mayor Jamie Irons and Council members Christine Johnson and Noah Smukler responded to the community and voted to place Measure J on the Nov. 4 ballot to allow residents to decide. Council members Nancy Johnson and George Leage dissented. Measure J asks Morro Bay voters to simplify our election process and return our city to a single general election in November.

Here are three critical reasons we urge our fellow residents to vote Yes on Measure J:

First, under the two-election system, candidates face the prospect of running two campaigns in a single year while the city incurs the expense of two elections. Today, it’s possible for the community to be dragged into nine months of campaigning only to restart campaign season a mere 14 months later. Morro Bay can’t afford this wasted cost and time. Plus, an unnaturally extended election season actually shrank the field of candidates with each subsequent election. In 2014, we had only two candidates for mayor and only three candidates for two council seats — the smallest field in years.

Second, election data consistently shows that more citizens vote in November than in June, especially in presidential election years. In the race for Morro Bay’s mayor in 2008, 54 percent more people voted in November than in June. In the 2010 mayoral contest, Morro Bay voter turnout was 32 percent higher in November than in June. Yet, in 2012 and 2014, seats for mayor and council were all decided in June when voter turnout is lower. We must maximize the number of voters who choose our council by holding a single election in November when voter turnout is highest.

Third, the two-election system creates a six-month waiting period when candidates elected by a clear majority in June must wait until December to take office, as in 2012 and 2014. It is unacceptable to have a council not responsible to voters for that long, especially when it allows a lame duck council to be in charge of policy for up to six months. This waiting period disrupts city business , risks the loss of focus on critical projects and may allow outgoing councils to act contrary to the will of voters who elected candidates by a majority in June.

Common sense says a single election in November is best for Morro Bay. Join us and vote yes on Measure J.