To the editor:
Your recent editorial mentioned electoral reforms that should follow the previous Councils decision to move our City Council elections to November. However, you did not suggest the reform that is the easiest to achieve and the one that is most needed.
In Alexandria the City Council candidates for the two major parties are chosen by party caucuses. The highest turnout ever for one of these caucuses was for the Democratic caucus in 2003 when about 2,300 voters turned out. The six candidates chosen by that caucus all went on to serve on Council, shutting out the Republicans. As a practical matter, only 2,300 people chose the Council that served from 2003 to 2006.
Proponents of changing the election to November claimed that the change was about making it easier for Alexandrians to vote. There is nothing easy about voting in the caucuses. They are held for the entire city at only one location. That location moves from place to place around the city every three years. The date also changes, although they are always weekend affairs. There is no possibility of casting an absentee ballot. No wonder so few Alexandrians vote despite the inordinate amount of influence the caucus decisions have on the governance of this city.
Anyone who is truly interested in more participation and more interest in local government would support doing away with the caucuses and having primaries.
Wider participation in choosing candidates would obviously help those candidates in becoming better known and more acceptable to the general election voters. The primary would be held at all the usual polling places and voters would merely have to ask the election officials for the ballot of their preferred party. Absentee voting would be allowed. Certainly it would cost more to hold a citywide election, but the benefits far outweigh that cost. The two party committees have only to agree to hold a primary. The Alexandria League of Women Voters encourages them to do so.
President Alexandria League of Women Voters