To the editor:
Last spring the out-going lame duck City Council passed an ordinance moving the City Council and School Board elections from May to November. The supporters of this move said it would make it easier for citizens to vote for Council and save money by combining more electoral offices on one ballot. As it is set up now, the move does neither of those things. In fact it does exactly the opposite.
The core mission of the Alexandria League of Women Voters is to promote citizen participation and voting by an informed electorate. As president of the League for this year, I have been exploring the unfolding ramifications of just what having a November 2012 election for Council would do.
I telephoned Tom Parkins, the registrar of voters for Alexandria. He told me that if he had to conduct the 2012 election with the presidential race, Council seats and School Board seats all on the ballot with the resources he had in 2008, voters might wait in line to vote for four to six hours. I think he could hear my jaw drop over the phone line.
I know the registrar will do his best by adding more voting machines, polling places and more poll workers than in 2008. As a practical matter no one will be able to gauge just what resources will be needed to do something that has never been done before. In a time of shortfalls, the city will have to spend money. I have heard an estimate of $200,000 in additional expenses over what would have been needed for a Presidential election alone.
There is also our reputation as a community. My custom has been to watch election returns on presidential election nights until a winner is declared. In 2004 I watched CNN. Every so often, they directed their coverage to lines of voters in Ohio. In some parts of Ohio, people were in line until after 11 p.m. The voting machines had not been properly distributed across the state. Some people think that mistake affected the awarding of Ohios electoral votes in 2004. Whether that was so or not, Ohios reputation was tarnished.
The staggered terms promoted by the same Council members who got us into this regrettable situation are only a way toward less responsive local government and do not solve the issue of the 2012 election. The only workable solution I have heard is to move the Council and School Board elections to 2011.
President, Alexandria League of Women Voters