This November, San Francisco voters may be asked to change the schedule for elections in San Francisco. But Mayor London Breed isn’t having it.
A proposed ballot measure, co-sponsored by Supervisors Dean Preston and Aaron Peskin and expected to be discussed at Tuesday’s board meeting, would change the schedule for certain elections in San Francisco to even-numbered years. It would also change the signature-gathering threshold to place new initiatives on the ballot.
Should the measure pass this November, Breed—who would otherwise be up for re-election in 2023—would remain in her seat before standing for election in 2024. The same change would apply to the elections for sheriff, district attorney, city attorney and treasurer. The proposed change is notable because it would align those elections with presidential elections, which typically yield higher turnout.
Speaking to CBS Radio on Tuesday, Breed called the ballot measure the wrong move and took a swipe at its chief sponsor Preston, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America who’s frequently at odds with the mayor.
“You’re talking about one supervisor who decided with a group of Democratic Socialists that they want to change elections in San Francisco in order to have more control and power,” said Breed. “This is a person who’s always talked about public process, and to take this and…put it on the ballot without any process or input, I think is the wrong thing to do for the people of San Francisco.”
In a letter to District 3 Supervisor Peskin, Breed cited the city’s relatively high voter turnout and pointed to two California cities, Los Angeles and San Jose, that engaged in extensive processes involving research into the local impacts and held numerous public meetings before bringing voters a plan to change elections. A similar process in San Francisco would be an “excellent idea” that she would support, Breed wrote.
Preston’s proposed ballot measure is one of several potential charter amendments that could land on the ballot this November. Other proposals include the creation of a Homelessness Commission, the elimination of a newly created Department of Sanitation and Streets and a housing proposal that competes with the mayor’s Affordable Homes Now ballot measure.
Preston’s office suggested that the mayor has ulterior motives for keeping city elections on the current schedule and pointed to a body of research that shows increased voter turnout in California cities that hold citywide elections in even-numbered years. Consolidating elections would save the city about $7 million in fiscal year 2023-2024, according to the city’s budget office.
Under a 2015 state law, California cities were required to consolidate municipal elections with the statewide election schedule if there were large disparities in voter turnout between the two cycles. An appeals court held that the law doesn’t apply to charter cities like San Francisco, however.
In a statement, Preston said that changing the elections schedule could double voter participation in key city races.
“We have the data and we know the impact,” said Preston. “San Francisco is behind when it comes to this civil rights issue, and it’s hard to understand why the Mayor wouldn’t want more people to participate in local democracy.”
At the July 12 board meeting, supervisors are expected to review the elections proposal, along with other proposed ballot measures.
If approved by a majority of the Board of Supervisors, the elections measure will go before voters on Nov. 8.
Annie Gaus can be reached at [email protected]