Ventura has been holding its elections in odd years, rather than with state and federal elections, as far back as many local residents can remember. The city’s charter, which describes how to run official city business, was established in 1932 but details about the establishment of election years have been rather foggy — the present schedule has been used for several decades, at least. Decades ago, maybe that seemed like the right thing. Maybe more people cared about politics. But given the apparent apathy toward local politics — voter turnout for the last Ventura City Council election was 29 percent — Councilmen Erik Nasarenko and Carl Morehouse did the right thing in leading the charge to change the current charter’s way of handling election years.
In a 4-2 vote Monday night, the City Council agreed to put it before the voters this November. Morehouse voted against the measure, saying that he didn’t agree with the amendment of adding a year to councilmembers’ terms, should the initiative pass in November. He felt cutting one year from their terms would show voters their sacrifice. We understand Morehouse’s point of view. After all, with such low voter turnout, do the people of Ventura actually have true representation? But delaying this vote to move forward to the ballot seems counterproductive. How many more years might it have taken for it to be brought up again and to have the council majority vote in favor of it? Neal Andrews dissented, saying he felt nonpartisan positions would turn partisan and that voters would be less informed because of the chaos during regular election years. Andrews has favored some sort of charter reform for years, including considering the election of the mayor (Andrews has been passed over for mayor since he was voted onto the council in 2001), so this action was somewhat surprising. But that argument falls short — does Oxnard have that problem? Camarillo? Ojai? We would say no.
Come Election Day this November, we hope Ventura residents take advantage of this rather abrupt turnabout regarding elections, given that the status quo seemed just fine for many elections of councilmembers. Plus there will be instant savings as county government covers most of the cost during regular elections. There is one thing to note about Ventura County voters, though. While the breakdown was a bit harder to obtain for each city in 2012, Ventura County voter turnout was 77.39 percent; California, 55.2 percent; U.S. 58.2 percent. It may not be that local voters are apathetic at all. It may just be that Ventura politicians took advantage of waning interest in off years or just didn’t bother to think about what a change would mean. Either way, we look forward to renewed interest in Ventura politics and hope that voters will pass the initiative on Election Day.