Gilbert considers changing when elections are held - East Valley Tribune: Gilbert

Gilbert considers changing when elections are held

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Posted: Tuesday, July 26, 2011 4:17 pm

Gilbert's process of shifting town elections to the fall to comply with state law is entering its final stages.

At Thursday's Town Council meeting, members will discuss whether to hold elections in even- or odd-numbered years. A vote will likely be scheduled for the following meeting, either on Aug. 4 or Aug. 18.

"There's been a lot of interest in this topic in the community the times it's been discussed," Mayor John Lewis said. "Holding a session to discuss and learn some more before voting gives us a chance to invite people to come and speak on it if they want."

Town elections during even-numbered years would be concurrent with state and federal voting, increasing turnout. It is also the most cost-effective solution.

Odd-numbered years enable town elections to be the sole focus, a dynamic Gilbert has traditionally liked.

This year's primary Council election was on March 8, the general May 17. That election cycle cost the town $558,732.

An odd-year fall election cycle is projected to cost $561,697, an even-year cycle $148,137.

"There are definite pros and cons, independent of the Council terms changing," Lewis said.

If elections are moved to odd-numbered years, the terms of current Council members would be extended by six months. If moved to the fall, they would be reduced by six months.

The terms of Lewis and Council members Jenn Daniels and John Sentz end in June 2013; members Eddie Cook, Ben Cooper, Victor Peterson and Jordan Ray expire in June 2015.

Lewis called a third option - a fall election in which Council terms would be extended by 18 months - unlikely since it figures to invite a legal challenge.

A six-month term extension or reduction could conceivably be challenged. An extension could be defended successfully because state law requires Gilbert to make a date change, but there is more legal risk with a reduction, according to the law firm of Perkins Coie, which provided an opinion to the town.

Town attorney Susan Goodwin declined comment before she briefs the Council at Thursday's meeting.

"After the last election, I know there are some strong feelings from those on the Council," Lewis said. "But I think we should be able to make a decision quickly. We've been collecting information on it for the past year."

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