Tax increases work. Controversial projects help. Scandal is best.
Without drama to get people riled up, it's hard to attract voters to March elections such as the Tuesday contests in 23 cities, towns and villages in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
The low turnout and high cost — a March election can top $100,000 — has local governments in both counties debating when it's best to hold their elections.
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Coconut Creek, FL, USA
Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA
Miramar, FL 33025, USA
Oakland Park, FL, USA
Plantation, FL 33318, USA
Pompano Beach, FL, USA
Sunrise, FL, USA
Boynton Beach, FL, USA
In a referendum Tuesday, Oakland Park is asking voters to move the city's elections from March to November. More than half of Broward's local governments have switched to November in the past 10 years.
Lake Worth is also holding a referendum on election dates, asking residents to move the city's elections from November to March. Almost all other municipal elections in Palm Beach County are held in March.
The conflicting trends in the two counties show there's no correct answer as to whether March or November is best, said Boca Raton Mayor Susan Whelchel, who's been an elected city official for most of the past 20 years.
"It depends on who you ask," she said. "Both ways have their difficulties, and both ways have their positives."
Lake Worth is the only one of Palm Beach County's 38 municipalities with November elections.
But Boca Raton may soon consider moving to November. Troy McLellan, president and chief executive of the Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce, said his board has been discussing the advantages of November elections, and is planning to formally ask the city to consider a switch.
Starting in 1975, state law set all Broward municipal elections for the second Tuesday in March. The trend toward November began with Weston, which spearheaded a 2004 change in state law that allowed Broward's municipalities to switch from March to November.
Since then 16 of Broward's 31 cities have switched. In November 2012, Fort Lauderdale voters rejected a move to switch to November elections. The proposal also would have lengthened terms in office for the mayor and commissioners and eliminated runoff elections.
"I understand the logic on both [sides]. Most cities do it [switch] for fiscal reasons. Other cities say I don't want to get lost in the shuffle," said Mary Cooney, director of public services for the Broward Supervisor of Elections Office.
Advocates of November elections say the two biggest pluses are cost and turnout.
It's generally more expensive to hold local elections in March than November. That's because cities that hold elections in November of even-numbered years can piggyback on the federal, state and county elections that are already being held.
In March, municipalities pay the full cost, including poll worker salaries and ballot printing.
The high-profile contests in November draw much higher turnouts — about 70 percent in recent presidential elections and 50 percent in recent gubernatorial years — than March city elections, which sometimes attract single-digit turnout percentages.
"We will have higher turnout and encourage democracy," said Troy McLellan, president and chief executive of the Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce, whose board is working on a proposal to move his city's elections to November from March. He also touted the financial savings of November elections.
"We will have higher turnout and encourage democracy," said McLellan, the Chamber of Commerce chief. He also touted the financial savings of November elections.
Backers of March say elections dedicated just to local government are better.
In November, themunicipal elections are at the bottom of the ballot and are an afterthought for many people. Voters who go to the trouble to turn out for a March election likely know the issues and the candidates, said Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher.