By Samuel Vasquez Martinez
If you have not been feeling represented by some of our elected officials lately, you are not alone. Scandal after scandal has damaged the trust we had in City government and left us to wonder if our leaders have our best interest at heart.
To rebuild this trust and move forward as a City we need to ensure our leaders are responsive to the community. This can happen through our electoral system, but not in the way our system presently operates. Our elections are currently structured to limit accessibility and to make sure that only a small percentage of residents actually vote.
Local elections in Everett are held on odd-numbered years, commonly called off-cycle elections, while the better-known and better-attended national elections happen on even-numbered years.
For example, in 2021, under 7,300 Everett residents voted in the Mayoral election. However, just the year prior, nearly double the number of voters voted in the 2020 presidential contest, with 14,365 ballots cast. This is not a fluke, but an established pattern.
Off-cycle elections are voter suppression, plain and simple. Instead of building obstacles to voter engagement, let’s meet voters where–and when–they are to build a more engaged citizenry. We should consolidate our elections to have national, state, and city elections all on the same ballot. This would ensure that our local leaders face all of Everett’s voters, not just the select group of residents that show up to off-cycle elections.
This is also a racial justice issue. Studies show that off-cycle voters tend to be whiter and older, when compared to the voters that show up for even year elections. Eliminating this subtle form of voter suppression is necessary if we want to achieve a representative city government that celebrates all of our diversity.
This isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the fiscally responsible thing to do. Elections are expensive; if we eliminate odd year elections, we save taxpayer dollars and ensure a stronger, more representative democracy.
Changing local elections to even years is a small, common sense reform that would ensure higher voter engagement and help Everett build back trust with residents, foster a more representative city government, and save us money to boot!
I urge our city council to take up this issue as quickly as possible. Let it be a sign to all residents that you hear the hurt in the community and seek to make a tangible improvement with a lasting impact. The time for empty words is over and the time for action is here.
Samuel Vasquez Martinez grew up in Everett, attended Harvard University, and now works in New York State Government. He can be reached at [email protected].