Burbank may soon have a different schedule for future city elections.
The Burbank City Council unanimously voted on Tuesday to have city staff work on a charter amendment that would align the city’s election dates with the state’s dates as a way to increase voter turnout.
Answering a short list of questions created by City Clerk Zizette Mullins, council members suggested the next city general election be held in November 2020 to concur with the next statewide election. They also said the city should eliminate its primary elections as a cost-saving measure.
Any change to the city’s election process requires a charter amendment, which means that Burbank voters must approve the modifications. Mullins said she aims to have the amendments ready for the June 2018 statewide primary election.
Mullins added that council members have until Jan. 1, 2018, to approve a plan that outlines how Burbank will make its adjustments and comply with the California Voter Participation Rights Act, also known as state Senate Bill 415.
SB 415, which was signed into law on Sept. 1, 2015, requires that state, county, municipal, district and school district elections be held on the same date as a statewide election if the average voter turnout for those elections is at least 25% less than the average voter turnout for the previous four statewide general elections, Mullins said.
The last four statewide general elections have averaged about a 60.4% turnout, while Burbank’s last four city general elections have averaged about 16.9%.
Though the Senate bill was approved more than two years ago, local agencies had until the start of January 2018 to outline how they would align their election dates with the state’s schedule.
Mullins said Burbank and many other charter cities in the state were under the impression that they were excluded from SB 415. However, an opinion issued by the state attorney general on July 11 determined that charter cities and school districts whose elections are governed by city charters are affected.
Council members had the option to continue having standalone elections with a primary and a general election, but Mullins said costs for those elections are going up.
She estimated the cost for a primary and general election in 2019 would be about $1.7 million combined, which is a significant increase from the $430,300 the city spent for this year’s elections.
Also, there is a “strong possibility” that Martin & Chapman Co., the election-services vendor Burbank uses for its elections, will cease operations after 63 years, according to a staff report.
Council members also decided to continue including the Burbank Unified School District board member elections in with the city elections, but would ask the school district to fund its election instead of the city fronting all the costs.