For the first time since residents got the power to vote for San Jose mayor in 1966, the city’s top elected official could be decided on the same ballot as the president.
The San Jose Charter Review Commission on Monday voted to recommend the city move its mayoral contests from U.S. midterm election years to presidential election years starting in 2024. Commissioner Tobin Gilman was the lone dissenting vote among the 17 members present.
The proposal still has to win approval from the San Jose City Council at a later date. Should the council approve it, the city attorney’s office will draft a ballot measure for residents — voters will ultimately decide on any changes to the city charter.
Commissioner Garrick Percival said:
“Low turnout is problematic, particularly when the voice and preferences of people who typically participate in elections have different experiences and policy preferences than people who typically vote less often. This proposal is designed to make San Jose mayoral elections more representative of the local community.”
If voters eventually pass the proposal, the mayor elected next year would have a chance to run for two additional terms in 2024 and 2028.
The 23-member Charter Review Commission convenes to recommend changes to the city’s charter, which acts as San Jose’s constitution and determines the powers of the mayor and how residents vote.
The recommendation to shift mayoral elections was first brought up at the commission in July by Percival, a political science professor at San Jose State University.
Community organizations, including the San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP and labor groups have pushed for the change since 2019. They say shifting the mayoral election to presidential election years will help with voter turnout, especially among low-income voters and voters of color, who historically turn out less in off-presidential years.
Krista De La Torre, political organizer with the South Bay Labor Council, said:
“In an era of rampant voter suppression across the country that threatens the political voice of communities of color, we must take this opportunity to make the democratic process accessible to everyone. … We must work together to remove every possible barrier to voting in order to facilitate the highest level of voter participation.”