Starting in 2020, the City of Manhattan Beach will hold the City’s General Municipal Election in November of even years in conjunction with statewide elections. On October 18, 2016, City Council adopted Ordinance No. 16-0026 establishing the new General Municipal Election dates. The election date change is in response to state mandates imposed by California Senate Bill 415 and declining voter turnouts.
This decision does not affect the March 2017 or March 2019 General Municipal Elections in Manhattan Beach. However, it will affect the term lengths of candidates who are elected in the March 2017 and March 2019 elections. Instead of being elected to serve the customary four years, they will serve terms of three years and eight months.
Background: Why the Change?
On September 1, 2015, the California State Legislature passed the California Voter Participation Rights Act also known as, SB 415. This new legislation prohibits a local government from holding an election on any date other than a statewide election date if doing so in the past has resulted in a significant decrease in voter turnout. This new law will go into effect on January 1, 2018. SB 415 requires cities with insufficient voter turn out to either change their election dates to June or November of even years or, prior to January 1, 2018, adopt a plan to consolidate its election with the statewide election no later than the November 8, 2022, statewide general election.
The public policy behind SB 415 was to address waning civic engagement in politics as illustrated by declining voter turnout in federal, state, and municipal elections. The legislative analysis asserts that one major contributing factor to low voter turnout - the timing of elections - could be addressed by synchronizing municipal elections with statewide elections. The Public Policy Institute of California surveyed 350 California cities and found that moving municipal elections to coincide with statewide elections could result in a 20-36% boost in voter turnout.
From June 23, 2017 – July 12, 2017, the City of Manhattan Beach received feedback from the community utilizing the City’s online public engagement tool, Open City Hall. The comments, along with the additional public comment, were given to the City Council for consideration at the July 19, 2016, regular meeting. At that meeting, the City Council directed staff to create an ordinance that moved the City’s elections to coincide with the national election cycle on the first Tuesday of November of even years.