I hope residents come out to speak on any and all of these subjects, but I wanted to spend a little more time explaining why I think its so important that we move forward with the proposal to sync our city elections with state and federal ones.
In a 2015 letter to the City Council, the ACLU of Maryland described the proposal to sync city elections with state and national ones as a "proposal with great promise to increase voter engagement... substantially increasing and diversifying voter turnout for local government and thus promoting a more representative government" and stated that the "benefits of consolidated elections outweigh the risks."
In 2015, Takoma Park voters had your own chance to weigh in on the question, with 75% of voters across all parts of the city supporting the referendum which read: "Beginning with the election in November 2018, and providing that voting rights can be maintained for City residents who are 16-17 years old, non-citizen, or on parole or probation for felony conviction, and that instant runoff voting and same-day voter registration can be maintained, the City of Takoma Park municipal elections for Mayor and Councilmembers should be changed to the Tuesday following the first Monday in November in each even-numbered year in order to coincide with Maryland statewide general elections."
The most obvious reason to make this change in election date is that it makes voting easier for residents - elections are on the same day in the same year. The second, is that it appears that synced municipal elections see dramatically higher turnout from voters. For example, in it's letter of support to the Council the ACLU noted that Richmond, Virginia's shift to synced elections saw turnout increase from 17% to 42% and Ocean City, Maryland's turnout doubled to 48%. Looking at Takoma Park's own election results, turnout is about 400% higher in state and local elections or to put it another way, about 4,000 voters, on average, stayed home for the last 4 city elections but showed up for the last four state/federal elections.
Off-year elections disproportionately affect apartment residents and minorities
To me the most compelling reason to make the change is because the current election date has a disproportionate effect in pushing some voters away more than others. The data is available from past election results to directly look at this question.
Here is one example: Essex House on Maple Avenue is a large apartment building that provides affordable housing to a a very diverse population. In Presidential election years, about 90 residents from this building have voted in recent years. From gubernatorial elections, about 30 residents. City elections? Ten or fewer voters.
This wouldn't be a big deal if all parts of the city dropped by a similar amount... but that is not what happens. Here is an example below. Looking at data from the same Essex House apartment building, there are about the same number of potential voters there as on Woodland Avenue in Ward 2. If blocks with lots of single-family homes and apartment buildings that support our most diverse populations were equally affected by the timing of elections, the graph below would not look any different from one year to the next - city and fed/state elections would be all mixed up in the height of the bars.
Instead, what you see is that in Presidential election years, there are more voters from Essex House than Woodland Avenue, but in city elections there were as few as one Essex House voter for every 8 who showed up from Woodland Avenue. Residents of this apartment building are not showing up at city elections compared to areas of single-family homes.
This pattern is not isolated to these streets or a few buildings, it is true throughout the city. Here are a few more examples. In national/state elections there are about 75% as many voters in the Park Ritchie Apartments at 7600 Maple Ave in Ward 4 as vote on all of Takoma and Cedar Avenues in Ward 1. However, in city elections there are only about 35% as many voters. Or look at the 2015 city election for these areas and the 2016 election 12 months later. Park Richie generated 82% fewer voters than these Ward 1 streets in the 2015 city election but almost exactly the same number of voters in the 2016 national election.
Or consider all of Ward 6 which had almost 1,200 voters participating in the 2016 election. In Ward 6, residents of apartments had almost an equal likelihood of turning out to vote in state and Federal elections: they were 82%, 74% and 96% as likely to vote as residents of single-family homes in the last three elections. But in city elections? Far more residents of apartments stayed home. On average, apartment residents were only 28% as likely as single-family home residents to vote.