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Woodside: Council shifts to even-numbered-year elections

 

(Expanded version of story previously posted.) The Woodside Town Council, in a unanimous vote Oct. 25, added a year to the four-year terms of each of its seven members.

The council basically had to. Term extension is a way to comply with a 2015 state law that requires most public agencies governed by boards or councils to schedule elections in even-numbered years, when voter turnout is usually much higher.

The terms of Mayor Deborah Gordon, Councilman Dave Tanner and Councilwoman Anne Kasten would have expired in 2017, but will now expire in 2018. Terms for councilmen Peter Mason, Tom Livermore, Chris Shaw and Daniel Yost will expire in 2020 instead of 2019.

As usual with a new ordinance, the council votes on it once more, usually two weeks later. The ordinance normally becomes effective 30 days after that, but this ordinance will go to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors for review. If the board approves it, it becomes law in 30 days.

The voter rights act, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September 2015, requires an agency to shift to even-numbered year elections if turnout in odd-numbered year elections was at least 25 percent lower than in even-numbered years.

Woodside easily met that standard. Turnout was 55.4 percent in 2014, 84.2 percent in 2012 and 76.4 percent in 2010, compared to 23.8 percent in 2013, 31.1 percent in 2011 and 24.8 percent in 2009.

The council faced the prospect of a financial penalty if it didn't act. Elections costs are shared among the jurisdictions that hold them. In Woodside, a typical odd-year election runs about $7,500, according to town staff.

As jurisdictions in the county move to even-numbered year elections, the number of jurisdictions still holding elections in odd-numbered years shrinks, and the cost rises for those that are left.

For Woodside, the cost could have jumped to $50,000 or beyond, Town Manager Kevin Bryant told the council. "I've seen estimates that go a lot higher," he said.

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