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Vote "YES" for even-year elections in Moorhead

by Mike McFeely

Moorhead citizens who want to save themselves money should vote to change city elections to even-numbered years.

It's one of the issues on the ballot Tuesday, even though it's been overshadowed by the incredibly interesting race for mayor.

Here is the actual wording on the ballot:

Here's the gist of the story: Moorhead has long held its city elections in odd-numbered years, opposite "normal," even-numbered election years when we vote on ... well ... pretty much everything else from president to county commission and school board. Moorhead city elections are sort of akin to the Island of Misfit Toys. An amendment to the city charter that will be on the ballot would change regular city elections to even-numbered years.

This is a no-brainer, if only from a taxpayer standpoint. And there are far more reasons than that.

But let's start with the savings. Moving elections to even-years would save the city about $16,000 per election because it would not have to pay poll workers, hold election training or pay staff in odd-years. If you stretch that over 10 years (five elections), that would save about $80,000. According to the Moorhead Charter Commission, that could stop small taxes like the streetlight fee currently being discussed.

There are plenty of other reasons to vote "yes."

  • The charter commission says there is an increasing difficulty in finding volunteers to work at polling places in odd-years. That means paid city staff have to take time away from their jobs to work at polling places. The commission says many people who volunteered to work the polls this year are calling the city office to back out.
  • Moving the city elections to even-years will give citizens a break from politics. Campaigning and advertising during presidential and congressional election years have become so pervasive that people experience election burnout. Why not give the citizens a year away from the blitz?
  • There is concern that city elections held in even-years would become partisan, because the up-ballot races become so partisan. But county commission and school-board races have long been held in even-years and they do no become partisan. This is a non-issue, given election history.
  • Even-year elections would improve voter turnout. Moorhead city elections historically get less than 25 percent of eligible voters to turn out. Some elections have drawn about 15 percent of eligible voters. Presidential election years often get 70 percent or higher voter turnout. It is common sense that you want the highest possible turnout, so why not allow citizens to vote for city officials when they are going to the polls for presidential, congressional, gubernatorial or senatorial races?

There are other reasons, but those are the main ones. THE main reason remains money. The average cost per voter in odd years is $3.94. In even years, the average cost is $1.65.

If you can vote to save yourself money, why not do it?

Vote "yes" to change Moorhead elections to even-numbered years.

(Mike McFeely is a talk-show host on KFGO-AM in Fargo, N.D. He can be reached at mike.mcfeely@mwcradio.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcFeelyKFGO.)