City of Grand Rapids to consider Task Force on Elected Representation recommendations

Feb 12, 2020

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Proposals for change City of Grand Rapids elections have been reviewed by a task force and presented to the city commission. It’s up them to hold a public hearing before adopting changes.

The Task Force on Elected Representation evaluated four proposals. The process began in August after the City Commission passed a July ordinance forming the task force.

The 11-member committee researched the proposals, applying values for encouraging and engaging a greater number of voters in the election process resulting in greater governance.

Three proposals achieved those outcomes. The first, changing the city’s election schedule to even-numbered years.

“There was research that showed that about four times more people participate in the even-year elections because they have state elections and federal elections all on the same ballot.”

Rick baker, President of the Greater Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce served on the task force. He explains the drawback is the ballot gets longer.

“The local election would be toward the end of that and so you can get some ballot fatigue.”

However, one less election will save the city money.

The task force also recommends the adoption of, as worded in the proposal, “Requiring general elections, regardless of whether a candidate receives the most votes during primary elections.”

In the past, a general election is ruled out if a candidate received greater than 50-percent of the primary vote.

Also, when it comes to filling a City Commission vacancy requiring a special election, the Task Force on Elected Representation recommends one be held if there’s more than one year left in term of office prior to the next general election. If it’s less than one year, an appointment is made.

The task force rejected the proposal expanding the City Commission’s wards to eight, single-member districts from the current three ward system with each represented by two-members.

“It often encouraged more diverse representation; persons of color and women more likely to be elected in dual-member seats. And it also created an environment where the commissioners had to collaborate because they were representing the same area.”

The Grand Rapids City Commission and mayor will now consider the recommendations.

Patrick Center, WGVU News.