Friday, May 27, 2005

Sun Valley changes election format; mayor applauds voters' decision

Express Staff Writer

Bill Alban passes his ballot to Beverly Reeves during Sun Valley's special election on Tuesday Photo by David N. Seelig

Sun Valley voters closed a longstanding debate Tuesday, May 24, when a majority of voters mandated a change in the City Council election format.

"I think its great. The number one thing is that the voters have spoken to have the two most eligible candidates able to serve," Mayor Jon Thorson said.

On Tuesday, 192 voters cast ballots in favor of ending designated-seat elections, while 72 citizens cast votes against the proposed change in election format. Of 906 registered Sun Valley voters, 264 cast ballots, 64 of which were absentee ballots.

Thorson said the high number of absentee ballots and the large voter turnout—given the election was held in the area's "slack" season—indicated citizens were invested in the issue.

Councilman Blair Boand said he is glad the debate was settled by voters, not the council.

"We wanted (the issue) to go to the people," he said.

The majority voted to return to the open-seat system, under which all council candidates run against each other, competing for the same number of open seats. Those candidates who receive the most votes gain the seats up for consideration.

"In essence, I am delighted. I have been for open-seat elections even before I was an elected government official," Thorson said.

Implemented in 1995, the designated-seat election system asked the electorate to vote every other year for candidates vying in individual races to fill two specific, numbered seats on the council.

In October 2004, Thorson requested the council make a change to adopt an open-seat election format. The council debated the matter and rejected his proposal without taking a formal vote.

"The other system removed part of my franchise," Thorson said.

Thorson also believes talented citizens were discouraged from participating in city politics under the designated system.

The change in the election format stems from an initiative petition signed by 169 Sun Valley voters and submitted by Sun Valley resident Milt Adam in April. Essentially, the petition demanded that the city terminate its designated-seat election system and return to an open-seat format. Adam had brought the issue to the council in August 2003 but did not succeed in forcing a change.

In response to the citizen petition, the City Council decided to hold a special election on the matter rather than pass an ordinance that would have established open-seat elections.

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