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City Vote Change Sought

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City Vote Change Sought

By Glen Harris

(City Government Reporter)

Both the Democratic and Human Rights Parties will be conducting petition drives this summer to place charter amendments on the November ballot to  eliminate city election victories by plurality votes.

City Democrats have voted to seek run-off elections for mayoral and City Council races which end with no candidate getting 50 per cent of the vote. The HRP proposal is to establish a system of preferential voting for mayor, but not council.

The HRP has always favored a preferential voting system, but the Democrats, even though they would probably gain the most from it, have refused to support such a plan.  Instead, the city party has approved a committee recommendation for the runoff elections.

Marjorie Brazer, city Democratic chairwoman, said the proposal the party is backing calls for runoff elections within two weeks after the general election for all races in which no candidate receives a majority.

Mrs. Blazer said research over city races involving three parties tor the past three years showed that in only four of 14 such contests did the winner receive a majority vote.

The HRP proposal is similar to a charter amendment it tried to get on the ballot two years ago.  That effort failed when not enough valid signatures were obtained on the petitions.

It would allow voters to vote for first, second and possibly subsequent preferences for mayor after each party has chosen its nominee in the February primary.  If none received a majority in the regular general election in April, the candidate with the lowest vote total would be eliminated.

Then the voters who designated the eliminated candidate as their first choice would have their second choice ballots counted.

An HRP release announcing the petition campaign said, "We frankly concede this will probably insure a Democratic victory.  But mayoral candidates will be able to run on real issues, not phony ones like splitting the vote, and Ann Arbor voters will not be blackmailed into choosing the lesser of two evils."

HRP Councilwoman Kathleen Kozachenko says the proposal does not include the ward contests because that would eliminate any minority parties and would not be a reflection of the community's makeup.

The party also called the Democratic plan for runoff elections a "selfish power grab that this city can ill-afford.  And they (Democrats) want to accomplish it by making this electorate endure an extra two weeks of partisan campaigning for a third election that need not be held."

Mrs. Brazer says the Democrats  considered a preferential voting system, but abandoned it as "unwieldy."  She said that while three parties might fit on a voting machine with a preferential ballot, more than three would make the system "absolutely unwieldy."  She also noted recent court rulings have made it easier for small parties to get on the ballot.

The advantage of runoff elections, Mrs Brazer said, is that they would give voters "clear cut choices” under a readilly understood election procedure.

City Clerk Jerome S. Weiss estimated election, if conducted citywide, would cost about $30,000 to pay the election workers and move the voting machines in and out of the precincts.

The deadline for turning in petitions to get issues on the November ballot is Aug. 5.  Weiss said about 4,000 valid signatures will be needed.