Because of a change in the city's Municipal Code a decade ago, vacancies on the council must be filled by election, not appointment as used to be the law. Earlier this month, the City Council indicated it wants to return to that system and asked city staff to prepare the necessary legal procedures for doing that.
The mail-in ballot will cost $250,000, a fee charged by the Alameda County Registrar to conduct the election. That's still $100,000 under what the county would charge for a traditional election where voters could choose between a polling place or the mail to cast their ballots.
The balloting-by-mail process also can be done about a month faster than an election with polling places that could not be held before June. As it is, the winner of the May 7 election won't be seated on the council until June 4.
It's not clear how a mail-in ballot will affect turnout in the May election. Although a record-high 47% of all voters who cast ballots in the Nov. 6 election mailed theirs in, a majority, 53%, still preferred going to the polls. That 47%, City Manager Nelson Fialho pointed out, was not only the highest percentage of voters in Pleasanton, but also in any city in the county.
The council had the option of changing the code now to allow for an appointment of someone to fill the vacant council seat, but that would have required an ordinance change, public hearings and time allowed for an appeal, putting the appointed council member in office about the same time that an elected one could be seated.
"I think we should move ahead as planned this time, but start the process that would allow future councils to appoint someone rather than require a special election," said newly-elected Councilman Jerry Pentin. "For me, to spent $250,000 for a mail-in election or $350,000 for a regular one doesn't make sense when we are trying to find money for projects and capital improvements."
Fialho said the nomination period to be on the May 7 mail-in ballot will open Jan. 14 and close Feb. 8.
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