August 1991 Home   Newsletters

September 1991

October 1991

President's Message: Welcoming Public Input - Transit Style (Arlene Ellis)
Current Position on Local Government
Consensus: Position on the City Council, Adopted April 1980
Discussion Questions for Consensus Meeting
Viewpoint on KHVH
Search for Leaders
Changing the Voter Requirement for Charter Amendments
Educating the Public on Proposed Amendments
Time Restrictions on Charter Amendments
Teamsters Vote Count
Letters (Adeline Schutz)
Consensus Meeting
Letters - 2 (Barbara Kem Neff)
Community Events

Changing the Voter Requirement for Charter Amendments

To amend the charter at present, a majority of the voters who actually cast a vote on the amendment must vote in the affirmative. Efforts are being made to change this requirement to a majority of the ballots taken whether votes are cast or not. All blank and void ballots, in effect, would be counted as negative votes.

Supporters of the change say that the charter should not be subjected to frequent, piecemeal and frivolous amendments which, they say, is possible under the present voting requirement. Opponents of the change agree that amendments to the charter should be made after much careful thought and weighing of its consequences, but feel that the required process should not be so difficult as to make amending of the charter virtually impossible.

An amendment to the state constitution in 1980 changed the voting requirement for amendments from a simple majority to a majority vote equal to at least 50% of all votes cast in the election. Between 1982 and 1990, eighteen amendments were on the ballots for voter approval, and eleven were rejected. Five of the eleven would have been approved under the old voting requirement.

How would the change in the voting requirement for city charter amendments affect the right of the public to petition for amendments? To overcome the apathy of voters when it comes to charter amendments and to give them the information and incentive to vote, takes a great deal of effort and money on the part of any group initiating an amendment. If blank and spoiled ballots were placed as an additional hurdle, might it not discourage most groups?

Another argument for changing the voting requirement might be that a minority of those taking ballots can amend the charter because of the many abstentions and spoiled ballots. In rebuttal, it could be said that our whole election system is based on the majority of votes cast. Our legislators, our governors, our council members and others are all elected by the majority of votes cast--not necessarily by the majority of those going to the polling booths. Blank and spoiled ballots do not affect the vote count.

The question could be asked, "Why should blank and spoiled ballots be counted as negative votes?" They could just as easily be counted as affirmative votes. On the city council, two "kanaluas" or passes, the equivalent of abstentions, are counted as. affirmative votes.

Supposing that making amendments to the charter more difficult is a desirable objective, this could be done by changing the voting requirement from a simple majority of votes cast to say a 2/3 majority. But this poses a problem. Take an issue like changing the voting age from the present 18 to 2.0. Suppose 60% of the voters decide that 20 is the right age. 60% is not a 2/3 majority. The 40% who voted for age 18 will set the voting age. A minority of the voters has set a major policy.

Those who don't cast their votes on the amendments ballot either don't understand the issues possibly because of the lack of publicity and public education, haven't bothered to try to understand the issues, or don't care enough. Should those who don't cast their votes on the amendments be the deciding factor in whether the amendments are adopted or rejected"?

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