Their real motive

Don’t be fooled by the ballot shift measure

It remains to be seen whether proponents of a measure that would shift Chico City Council elections from November to June have collected sufficient valid signatures to get it on the ballot. They need 6,623 signatures of registered voters who live inside city limits; last week they turned in petitions with 8,002 signatures on them. That means 83 percent of the signatures must be valid for the measure to qualify—a high figure.

Backers of the measure have insisted that it isn’t an effort to disenfranchise students, who live here in November but usually are gone in June, but rather an attempt to have a better-informed and more-committed electorate.

Indeed, in the press release announcing the submission of the signatures, the measure’s chief organizer, Stephanie Taber, twists herself into statistical knots to make that point. Did you know, for example, that in November “35% of the electorate has lived in Chico less than one year”? Or that in June “90% of Chico voters have lived in Chico more than one year”? Or that “[d]uring the November 2008 election 10,000 Chico voters had lived in Chico for only three months prior to Election Day”?

Gosh, we didn’t know that. By the way, where do those figures come from?

Still, we acknowledge that the proponents’ motive isn’t to avoid the student vote. They know that students rarely vote in local elections, even when they go to the polls. In the November 2008 election, they voted in high numbers for president but largely ignored the down-ballot City Council election.

No, the real reason for the proposed shift is that fewer people in general vote in June, and those who do vote tend to be more conservative. Proponents want to ride that conservatism into control of the City Council.

Keep that in mind if the measure makes it to the ballot.