Single District Elections for Tucson Ward Only or Single-District Voting in city council elections won't solve every problem in this city, but its a start. American ideals have always pointed toward decisions that are made as close to the individual as possible and practical. The first step to better government in the City of Tucson may come in deciding to actually change the way we choose our city leaders.
We've constructed a proposal for changing our current Council election system from the at-large system to one where we can elect our own council to represent us. (Click Here)
A Ward Only World
Really, its not so scary. Our view of representative government still leaves room for fluctuation in the electoral picture. In fact, there are only two wards that would seem unfriendly to a Republican Candidate (Wards 1 & 5). That's under today's ward map with a strict party-line interpretation. History shows that Tucsonans will freely and frequently cross party lines at the polls. Our proposal is really quite simple.
If you note the map and the June 8th 2005 voter numbers (below), you'll see that a coalition between Republicans and Independent voters could conceivably take Wards 3 or 6 fairly. A coalition between a Democrats and Independent voters could take Wards 2 or 4 fairly. Indeed the victory of Shirley Scott in Ward 4 in the election of 2003 showed this when she won the election and her ward (4). Wards 3 and 6 are currently represented by Council that did not win their wards while Ward 2, like Ward 5, ran unopposed during the last cycle. Wards 1 and 5, where Democrats hold a sever edge could become even more volatile during the primary if a weak or unacceptable Democrat was holding the council seat. Currently a primary challenge is more dangerous to both parties. If the challenge fractured party unity it could allow another section of town to bring in a non-representative candidate as happened in 1997 in Ward 6.
So, does this argue for a nonpartisan electoral process? Not at all. The Single District solution seeks to better inform the voter. The only thing that a non-partisan election scheme does is hide a candidates political viewpoint. That means that voters go to the polls with less information about who they are voting for. That leads to lower turnout, whereas trends show that a switch to single-district voting from at-large elections actually increases voter turnout. We believe that this is a good thing.
Besides, if a candidate wants to run as an In dependant they already can. Consider a world where we would not have to vote for candidates based on name recognition. We could actually have met or at least seen and heard candidates from all sides of the political spectrum and then actually vote on their true merit. Where the power of money didn't reign supreme and negative attack adds didn't come to our doors in the last few weeks before the election when candidates running clean can't respond. Imagine voting for a candidate with ideas for the future instead of a prepackaged better tube of toothpaste. Smaller elections can bring this as they have elsewhere.
Representative democracy isn't the most efficient form of governance, but its the best form going so far. For some, though, it doesn't go far enough and many will call for Proportional Representation (PR) with a ranked form of voting. The argument has merit, but we feel that it may be too big a step and disenfranchise more voters in the short term. FairElect does indeed call for Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), which is a form of ranked voting. The problem, though, reveals itself when you consider the size and diversity of the City of Tucson. You can read the full argument with the following link for FairElect's call for IRV, but we can also cut to the chase.
In short, the argument asks "how can a voting system that allows an at-large type of election, that also removes districting of elected officials, represent a diverse and sprawling city like Tucson"? How can a set of politicians on the more affluent northwest corner of Tucson represent people in the more socioeconomically disadvantaged southwest side? FairElect backs a single district system simply because it adds to the diversity of voices in city government. FairElect is a voter-centered organization that seeks a better voice for all citizens. At this time, the argument that explains how socioeconomic differences can be bridged when a majority is allowed to choose the representatives of the minority has not crossed our desk. We're still looking though.
A Ward-Only World is really quite familiar. Your neighborhood association elects within it's borders, as does your legislative and congressional district. So the system works above and below the governmental level of city ward. Why not your city ward? Should you have the right to elect your own representative to the City Council?