OUR VIEW: It’s time to consider runoffs for Mitchell’s electionsSix candidates are vying to become Mitchell’s next mayor, and it’s entirely possible that one of them will gain election without coming close to gaining a majority of the vote.
Six candidates are vying to become Mitchell’s next mayor, and it’s entirely possible that one of them will gain election without coming close to gaining a majority of the vote.
On June 5, one of those candidates may win a three-year seat at the head of Mitchell’s city government with only 20 percent of the vote.
A little history: In 2006, when three candidates ran for mayor, 4,233 registered voters took part. That was 39.5 percent of the city’s 10,705 eligible registered voters.
The split that year was 2,198 votes for Lou Sebert, 1,190 votes for Alice Claggett and 665 for Rube Adam.
This year, six candidates are running for mayor, and the candidate with the highest vote total will win. Under Mitchell’s election format, there is no runoff election between the top vote-getters. State law allows cities to pass an ordinance requiring a runoff, but Mitchell has not enacted such an ordinance.
So here’s the math: Let’s say 4,233 voters again take part, and those voters are split equally among the six candidates. That’s 705.5 votes per candidate.
It means that Mitchell’s next mayor could possibly gain election with, say, 710 votes, or roughly 17 percent of the vote.
More disturbing, the winning candidate could potentially have gained approval from only 4.8 percent of this city’s total population of 14,500 residents.
We don’t like it, and suggest the city make changes so that similarly busy elections in the future feature some sort of runoff system between the top two candidates.
A runoff would allow voters an opportunity to truly get to know the candidates, and a chance to better learn how those candidates stand on key issues.
It would allow voters an opportunity to see the top candidates express their ideas, ideals and opinions in true, head-to-head debates. That doesn’t necessarily happen under the current format.
In fact, we suspect most residents cannot even name all six candidates for mayor.
That does not indicate a healthy system.
Of course, there are some drawbacks to runoff elections, including the added cost of a runoff election and the likelihood of a diminished turnout compared to the first election. Those things will have to be considered, but we think they’re necessary evils to avoid electing a mayor with an embarrassingly low number of votes.
Perhaps the upcoming election will see one candidate earn election with a majority of the votes. We hope that happens.
But we know the potential exists for a sloppy victory, and we think it’s best to begin discussing how to avoid such troubles in the future.