Early voting for the April 23 municipal election begins today. City residents have until April 18 to mark an early ballot, and recent elections indicate that a majority of the votes for Board of Education and City Commission will come during the early voting period.
Recent elections in Johnson City also suggest there will be a low turnout this spring. The city election in 2011 saw less than 12.5 percent of Johnson City’s 36,644 eligible voters go to the polls.
Maybe it’s the timing of the spring elections that catches some city voters off guard.
Most Americans only cast votes in fall contests for president, state General Assembly or for governor, which is a good argument for putting municipal elections on the same November ballot as state and federal races.
Doing so would save the city precious tax dollars to hold an election. As things stand now, Johnson City could spend as much as $75,000 on an election that might see no more than 10 percent of the city’s registered voters going to the polls.
A few years ago, officials in Jonesborough decided to move town elections to the November ballot. Officials say the move has allowed the town to save as much as $20,000 on the cost to hold its municipal elections.
Moving Johnson City’s municipal elections would also give new city commissioners more time to get acclimated before settling down to work on a new budget. Newcomers are now thrust into the fiscal fray with barely any time to familiarize themselves with the budget process.
Critics of moving the city election to November say the current date allows voters to concentrate solely on local issues, and not be distracted by issues dominating state and federal races. We don’t buy that argument, and we know many voters in Johnson City don’t either.
The question for candidates seeking one of two seats on the City Commission is: Do you support moving the city election to November?
Please join us at 5 p.m. today for our Community Editorial Board meeting in the Carl A. and Kathryn P. Jones Room of the Johnson City Public Library where we will put this and other important questions to candidates for the City Commission and School Board.