OUR OPINION: It makes sense to vote in November
Moving the date of city elections might be difficult, but that doesn't mean it's a bad idea. The fact is that June elections disenfranchise many residents of the city. Because they are gone. These residents are college students. State law require...
Moving the date of city elections might be difficult, but that doesn't mean it's a bad idea.
The fact is that June elections disenfranchise many residents of the city.
Because they are gone. These residents are college students.
State law requires only 30-day residence in a precinct to qualify for voting. That makes most college students eligible to vote in Grand Forks.
But UND's calendar makes it hard for them to vote.
By state law, city elections are held the second Tuesday of June. This often falls between the end of spring semester and the beginning of summer session.
Of course, absentee ballots are available, but applications must be filed 30 days before the election. That's exactly when students are preparing for finals.
Students have an interest in Grand Forks city government, and they ought to be involved in city decision making. In some instances, their input might be decisive.
Of course, that worries people who see students as transients whose interests are contrary to those of established residents.
The truth is that students contribute enormously to Grand Forks. A recent study commissioned by student government suggested that students put $183 million into the local economy, not counting tuition and campus housing.
The student presence does give rise to issues that might otherwise not get attention. The most prominent current example is the city's noise ordinance. Another example limits how unrelated people may live at a single residence.
The first is aimed at loud parties. The second is intended to discourage students from moving into established residential neighborhoods.
Student's interest in the community goes far beyond the issues particular to them. Economic development is just one example because it will provide jobs for them.
Of course, students are consulted about these issues. In fact, the city of Grand Forks has a pretty good record of asking for student input. A meeting Sunday between City Council and the UND Student Senate is one example.
But students largely lack the kind of input that really counts, the power to vote for or against the people who make decisions.
The reason is easy to see. The calendar works against students.
The solution is apparent, too.
Move the election date to November, when students are in town and public attention is riveted on elections.
It's wrong to argue that moving the city election would reduce attention. Instead, holding the city elections when attention is riveted on politics would help raise the profile of city elections and emphasize their importance.
It might also help clarify the positions of city candidates by creating the kinds of coalitions, or even party lists, that characterize state and national politics.
Certainly, moving the city election would increase turnout -- and not just among students. Others who have an interest in city affairs are much more likely to vote in November than in June.
So, moving the date is a good idea all around.
The challenge will be to convince the Legislature. It's a challenge worth facing.