CLEARWATER, Fla. — As state lawmakers discuss changes to Florida’s voting process, the City of Clearwater is in talks of its own about overhauling its elections.
City leaders are debating whether or not to implement a majority voting system, meaning the candidate has to reach 50 percent of the vote to win.
In the 2020 Clearwater municipal election, there were so many candidates running for office that two people were elected to the city council with less than 50 percent of the vote.
What You Need To Know
- Clearwater officials looking at changes to city elections
- Officials debating whether or not to implement a majority voting system
- Clearwater City Council
To win a seat in Clearwater, candidates only have to earn more votes than their opponent.
Now some council members say that should change.
“I think we need to have it defined that you know the people sitting received more than 50 percent of the vote,” said Hoyt Hamilton, a member of the Clearwater City Council.
Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard said he has an open mind about changing the election system.
“And so you have people winning with far less than a majority,” Hibbard said. “And citizens have approached different council members and said, they would like us to explore a different system.”
Council Member Kathleen Beckman does not want any changes to the system.
“I think it will become even more about money,” Beckman said. “It will be ‘Who has the most resources.’
“I think that those with more money will have an easier time. Especially if they have to have a run-off and do a quick turnaround. And I think it may encourage PACS to get in a lot more outside spending.”
Mayor Hibbard agrees that having a run-off election will increase costs to the city and to the candidates and could also lead to moving the voting dates from the spring to the late summer and fall.
“And then you are up against national, state and county elections,” Hibbard said. “So it’s harder to get the exposure so citizens get information and figure out who they really want to support.”
It’s important to note that any change would ultimately be decided by the voters in a referendum, which, if approved by the city council, could be on the ballot in March of 2022.
The next step for the city council will be to hear a presentation from a Florida League of Cities official about what options they have.
That’s set for next month.