Shores to vote Tuesday on changing elections to fall
Over the years, every city and town in Indian River County has shifted its council elections from March to November – except Indian River Shores. Next Tuesday, Shores voters will decide whether they want to change the town’s date as well when they vote in the presidential primary election.
The referendum addresses seven different items; all but two are housekeeping items intended to clean up or clarify charter language to match state law or reflect current policy.
The question of changing election dates would push the scheduled March 2017 Shores election up to this November, also changing Town Council terms in the charter.
Currently, Shores Town Council members serve four-year terms that expire in March of odd-numbered years, meaning that Shores residents usually are voting that day only for Council.
Proponents of this schedule say it allows Town residents to focus on the municipal election instead of having the Town Council race as just one more item on a very long November ballot.
But Councilman Dick Haverland has argued it would be better to have Town elections in November of even-numbered years, when voter turnout is greater for state and federal elections.
The move could also save the Town roughly $5,000 every other year. But the extra cost is only incurred if the Shores must actually hold an election, which often is not the case. Except for the past few election cycles, the Town frequently has had the same number candidates as seats and no election has been needed.
The change would shorten the terms of all the incumbents by four months.
“Three seats on the council are set to expire in March 2017, and two in March 2019,” Town Clerk Laura Aldrich told local residents in a memo about the referendum.
If the referendum passes, the terms will expire in November 2016 and November 2018 instead.
The issue has divided the Town Council. Councilmember Jerry Weick opposed the change in three separate votes last fall, saying he didn’t want the Town Council race “at the end of a long ballot.”
Councilmember Brian Barefoot initially opposed the change, saying he’d rather town residents focus just on the municipal race, but on the final reading of the ordinance in December, he changed his vote, with the caveat that town staff should “widely publicize” the proposed change.
Weick is term-limited, as councilmembers can only serve two consecutive four-year terms, so at least one seat in November would be open if the change is approved by voters.
Barefoot and Councilmember Tom Slater could run for another four-year term. Haverland will be term-limited in 2018.
Fellsmere changed its election date to November in 2007, when, according to City Clerk Debbie Krages, the State of Florida offered a window for municipalities to make the change without having to put a referendum on the ballot.
The City of Vero Beach also switched at the same time, as did the City of Sebastian, but Sebastian put the issue on the ballot anyway.
The Town of Orchid changed its election date to November in 1996.
Non-partisan voters who are not participating in either of the presidential preference primaries can still vote in the Shores referendum, as they will receive a ballot with only the ballot question on it.
Sample ballots are posted on the Indian River Shores town website www.irshores.com.