Editorial: St. Petersburg should consider moving city elections

Published Aug. 28, 2015

This week's primary election in St. Petersburg City Council District 7 predictably attracted little voter interest despite the high stakes. Fewer than 15 percent of registered voters in this south St. Petersburg district voted, a dismal record by any standard but particularly for a district with great needs that range from job creation to increased public safety.

Candidates Lisa Wheeler-Brown and Will Newton emerged Tuesday as the top vote-getters and advanced to the citywide general election on Nov. 3. Only 2,762 ballots, or 14.45 percent of 19,114 active voters, were cast in Tuesday's contest, according to the Pinellas County supervisor of elections. That is a paltry turnout for a race where the eventual winner could break the stadium stalemate on the council and determine whether the Tampa Bay Rays will be able to launch a regional search for a new stadium site.

There is no excuse for failing to vote when so many avenues exist to access the ballot, but voters' pitiful participation rates come as no surprise. Local elections held in years where there are no presidential or statewide elections historically draw fewer voters. The City Council should examine whether off-year elections make sense given the low voter turnout.

St. Petersburg voters will decide three City Council races in November. There is too much at stake for them to opt out.