While The Island Sand Paper does not endorse candidates, we do weigh in on community issues, two of which are the referendums, or referenda, if you prefer, that will be on the March 17 ballot. Yes we had to look that up to be sure we got it right. Latin nouns can be tricky.
Referendum #1 asks if you support moving Town Council elections from March to November to coincide with state and federal elections. A Yes vote moves the election to November. A No vote keeps it in March.
There is no debate that election turnout is much higher with state and federal offices on the ballot. The November 2016 General Election had an average turnout in the three Fort Myers Beach precincts of over 83%; the November 2018 General Election turnout was 73.3%. That’s about double the turnout of the last two March Town Council elections, when turnout was a paltry 35.7% in 2017 and 38.6% in 2019.
Having the campaign and election in the heart of our busiest season is also unfair to candidates and voters. There was a candidate forum this week. About 50 people showed up. Why so few? It’s the middle of the busiest time of the year. Voters are working or exhausted.
With more than double the FMB voter turnout in November compared to March, the claim that more voters are here in March than in November just falls apart. We vote for seats on the Fire Board, Library Board and FMB Mosquito Board all in November. Council elections should be held then also.
Referendum #2 asks if you support changing the term of council seats to 4 years from the current 3 years. A Yes vote approves 4-year terms. A No vote keeps terms at 3 years.
Three year terms are a legacy that is out of step with every other municipality in Lee County. For one, the odd number guarantees that our elections will not regularly sync with other Lee County elections. When we don’t align with other elections, we pay for the election ourselves using tax dollars that could be used for other Town priorities. Why? Just to say we’re different and unique? That’s a waste of money. We’re pretty sure that our election cycle is not what makes our Town different and unique to most people.
Some have said that it takes a good year to acclimate to the deluge of information that comes with being elected to council. It’s a steep learning curve for those who want to be informed and we hope that anyone elected would want to be fully informed on council matters before voting on them.
To adjust to November elections and/or 4-year terms, some council members will have extended terms, some up to 4 years, 8 months. We can’t figure out any way to avoid that if we want to move our elections to coincide with state and federal elections.
We support a Yes vote on both questions. Let’s increase our voter turnout for local elections and sync our elections and our council terms with other Lee County municipalities.
Missy Layfield, Editor
Bob Layfield, Publisher