The Village referendum* on the ballot in November proposes two changes to Board of Trustees Elections:

  1. Extend the term of office of the Mayor and each Trustee from two years to four years.
  2. Change the terms of office of the Mayor and each Trustee so that elections will be held in even numbered years (currently the Mayor and one Trustee run in odd numbered years)

See Proposed Local Law B-2023.

*On the ballot in the Town of Mamaroneck, this Village referendum appears below two town referendum items.


Background

This initiative began as a school project in 2019 for Mamaroneck HS students to conduct research on local issues to identify and define a problem.  In conducting their research, the students concluded that voter participation is higher in years with Federal elections and proposed that Village elections be aligned with those even-year elections (see a critique of the students’ research here.) The students presented their findings to the Board of Trustees and advocated for a change in the law which the Board rejected in 2019 and again in 2022.

However, at the January 9, 2023, Board of Trustees Work Session, a group of newly elected Trustees and the Mayor - on their own without any urging from the public - decided to proceed with the students’ recommendations which also included a provision to extend their terms  from 2 years to 4 years. The local law they proposed in January 2022 resulted in enormous public outcry. Community residents demanded that voters (not the Trustees) ultimately determine length and timing of Board elections. See the Mamaroneck Observer 2/16/23 article. 

In response, the Board backed down and revised their proposed law to include the current ballot referendum which requires voter approval. The Board passed the local law on May 8, 2023 by a 4:1 vote with Trustee Nora Lucas casting the sole no vote citing many of the arguments below. That referendum is the one on the ballot in November.


Why We Urge You to Vote No 

Local issues will be lostIn even years, attention is directed to federal and state elections, and important local issues receive little, if any, attention.  As a result, many voters  neglect to vote in the local races. Currently, Village elections align with Westchester County elections which are always held in odd years. It is in the best interests of the Village to continue to coordinate with the County in off-year elections - this helps to ensure County elected officials prioritize the Village's needs.

AccountabilityElected officials must be held accountable to the voters. Period. Four-year terms insulate elected officials from being accountable to voters, preventing essential checks and balances in governance.

The impetus for this proposed change is premised on inaccurate and incomplete dataFor this school project, the students failed to:  (1) differentiate abnormalities in election years (e.g., comparing the 2019 election cycle with no Republican opposition to the 2020 Covid election cycle where absentee ballots were mailed to all voters); (2) assess voters’ nonengagement in local elections when federal and or state elections are on the ballot; (3) assess the impact on County elections; and (4) look beyond a possible association with election year cycles and voter participation and actually prove causality between them on the local level. It appears that in their enthusiasm to make an impact, students drew sweeping conclusions on limited research on voting patterns not substantiated by local election data. While we support students learning about civic engagement, we also show them respect by providing honest and constructive feedback about how their research is faulty.


Pro-Referendum Arguments Don’t Hold Up

There is no evidence of increased voter turnout – As discussed above, the students’ research did not prove a causal connection with odd-year elections and voter turnout. The students’ research was faulty and incomplete, based on limited voting samples, and in at least one case included a graph that was not supported by the  data they cited as a basis for the graph. No verifiable data analysis has shown that even-year elections would increase voter engagement or increase participation by under-represented groups.

It is false that “yearly elections have a detrimental effect on the body politic”  - The Mayor at the May 8, 2023 Board of Trustee meeting contended that yearly elections have a “detrimental effect on the body politic”   We see this as a lame justification for ducking accountability to the public. If the Mayor finds community feedback a nuisance, it's time for him to retire.

The "inconvenience" of having to run every two years - The Mayor and the newly elected Trustees have complained about the burden imposed by the election calendar, the yearly petition drive, a possible primary and the general election. Elections are not held for the convenience of the elected!  Elections are held to allow citizens to decide if elected officials should continue to represent their interests.

This is NOT about election reform – Trustee Lou Young contends that the referendum represents "election reform".  To be clear, this referendum is the opposite of election reform which usually encompasses campaign finance reform, ranked choice voting, or making voting easier. There is no evidence that this change would increase participation by historically under-represented voters as proponents of the referendum would like you to think. To the contrary, this is an attempt by the Mayor and newly elected Trustees to avoid campaigning for office and being held accountable to Mamaroneck voters.


Conclusion

We absolutely support increased voter turnout, but this referendum does not further that goal.  If we truly want to increase voter participation, we should take steps to engage voters, to educate voters about local issues, to register voters and to urge our state legislators to make absentee voting easier and more accessible. As Trustee Nora Lucas said when she voted against this measure, “we don’t want to get out of the habit of voting.”  If passed, this referendum could do just that.

 

 


 

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