How is it possible that failing to vote can increase voter turnout? Normally this would not make any sense, but this March Phoenix finds itself in a rare situation whereby this action is not only possible, but also desirable. The reason for this is the convergence of two events that create a perfect storm of opportunity.
First, there is House bill HB2604-53r2, enacted in 2018. As background information it should be mentioned that in 2018 Phoenix voters adopted a change to the city charter that mandated the move of some elections to dates that coincide with state elections. But that measure did not include all elections, evidenced by the fact that we are having a mayoral election in March. What HB2604 does is that it forces Phoenix, or any other political subdivision, to move election dates to coincide with statewide elections, if in any off-cycle election there is a substantial decrease in voter turnout. The actual language of the bill, including the formula for determining what is deemed “a substantial decrease” is typically complicated, but folks who like to read this sort thing may do so by going to HB2604
It is an undeniable fact that voter turnout is significantly higher when local elections are held on the same date as statewide elections. Therefore, if HB2604 kicks in, we will have substantial increases in voter turnouts in Phoenix for many years to come.
But what about foregoing the exercise of our choice by skipping this election? This is where the second part of the perfect storm comes into play, because Phoenix conducts its elections using the jungle primary system. This entails having all candidates lumped together for a “primary” election at which seldom if ever do we have a candidate garner a majority of the votes, which forces the two top vote getters into a runoff “general” election. But this type of election system quite often results in two advancing candidates that have identical political agendas, visions, and ideologies. That is exactly what happened in Phoenix this year. There is not one penny’s worth of difference between Gallego and Valenzuela. The future of Phoenix will be exactly the same no matter which one of these candidates is elected. This is true in all 8 council districts in Phoenix, but two of those districts should not participate in this project. The two exceptions are districts 5 and 8, which will have elections for their council members. Voters in these districts should make every attempt to vote so that their choice for councilman be heard. But for the rest of Phoenix voters, they should guarantee high turnouts for years to come by inducing a low turnout in March.