The Turlock Irrigation District Board of Directors voted Tuesday, Dec. 5 to transition from odd to even year elections, adding an extra year to each director's term.
The Board voted 5-0 to move the election of directors from November of odd years to November of even years, consistent with the state's preference to consolidate local elections with statewide voting already scheduled for even years. According to assistant general counsel Sara Lima, who presented the rescheduling resolution to the board, this new election code requires districts with significantly less voter participation in odd years to make the change to the even year election.
Over the last four years, in odd years there was 22 percent voter participation in Stanislaus County, while during even years, there was 60 percent voter participation.
"The law states that if you have at least a 25 percent drop in voter participation, then you are required to consolidate," said Lima.
The plan to consolidate TID Director elections into the statewide general election must be mapped out by Jan. 1, and will then go to the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors for approval before implementation by 2022. The plan approved by the TID Board on Tuesday adds one year to each director's term, bumping them into the even year election.
Directors for Division 1, Michael Frantz, and Division 4, Rob Santos, were elected for their current terms in 2015 and due to serve until 2019, while Division 2, 3 and 5 Directors Charles Fernandes, Joe Alamo and Ronald Macedo were all elected for their current terms in 2017 and due to serve until 2021. Now, each director will serve an additional year, with elections in 2020 and 2022.
"This year was proof that there are not people lining up in droves to compete for these seats, but how does it work for a person like myself who was voted into a four-year term?" asked Frantz. "The voters voted to put me in office for four years - how do I just get a free year without their permission?"
Lima explained that the alternative to granting each director an additional year is subtracting a year from their term, and that most, if not all of the other districts which have made the change have extended their terms.
"Voters voted for a four-year term, so for us to reduce it to three years...that's not compliant with what the voters wanted," said Santos. "It's a toss up."
"The benefits of the law are to reduce the cost of elections, and also to increase voter participation," said Lima. "Overall, I think you could argue those benefits outweigh having an extra year."
The Ceres City Council made adjustments to its election cycle in January because of the new law. That change involved a one-time extension of councilmembers' terms by a year. The seats occupied by Linda Ryno and Ken Lane, which were due to expire last month, now expire in November 2018. Both seats will be up for grabs when California elects a governor and weighs in on other statewide offices.
The seats of Mayor Chris Vierra and Councilmembers Bret Durossette and Mike Kline were set to expire November 2019, which would be considered an off-year for elections. Adding a year to their terms mean they would be before voters on Nov. 3, 2020, which is a presidential election.