Moves San José mayoral elections from gubernatorial to presidential election years beginning in 2024 and limits the mayor elected in 2022 to a two-year term, with the option to run for and serve as mayor for two additional, successive four-year terms.
What the Measure Would Do
Measure B would shift the timing of the next San José mayoral election from 2026 to 2024 to coincide with the presidential election. A mayoral election would occur in 2024, with the primary occurring on March 5, 2024 — the same date as the California statewide primary election — and the runoff, if necessary, occurring at the statewide general election on November 5, 2024.
Additionally, the mayor elected in 2022 would have a shortened term of two years instead of four, with the option to run for and serve as mayor for two additional, successive four-year terms. In other words, the mayor elected this year would have the potential to hold office for 10 years rather than eight years.
The current San José mayoral election system has been in existence since the 1960s, when San José voters first became eligible to elect the city mayor. In recent years, local organizations such as the San José/Silicon Valley NAACP and the South Bay Labor Council have begun to voice a concern that elections held during midterm (or gubernatorial) years generally have lower voter turnout, especially among low-income residents and communities of color, compared to elections held during presidential years.1
In San José, less than half of the city’s registered voters have cast ballots in the last four mayoral races. From 1980 to 2018, San José voter turnout was around 13% higher in presidential general elections than in gubernatorial general elections. Further research and modeling anticipates that holding future San José mayoral elections in presidential years could increase voter turnout by up to 33% — or about 169,000 additional voters.2
In both April 2019 and July 2020, the City Council rejected proposals to move mayoral elections to presidential years. The 2020 proposal would have delivered a two-year extension in office to current Mayor Sam Liccardo. Instead of passing the ballot measure in 2020, the City Council opted to establish an independent 24-member Charter Review Commission appointed by the mayor and City Council members. This commission reviewed and discussed relevant polling, research and policy for city charter amendments, including revisions to mayoral election dates. The commission’s work culminated in a vote to support moving the city’s mayoral elections from midterm election years to presidential election years beginning in 2024.
The San José City Council voted to place Measure B on the ballot. As a charter amendment, it requires a simple majority (50% plus one vote) to pass.
Measure B could boost voter turnout significantly during local mayoral elections, especially among low-income residents and people of color, which would help the electorate for mayoral elections better reflect the racial, ethnic and socioeconomic demographics of the city.
- Measure B was developed by an independent Charter Review Commission composed of experts and community leaders.
- If the measure passes, an increased number of voters would likely vote for mayor.
- Voters in the mayoral election would likely reflect city demographics more closely.
- Local issues may be overshadowed by national issues if the mayoral election is moved to presidential election cycles.
Shifting the mayoral election cycle to presidential years has the potential to serve broader goals of expanding equity and representation in the city for years to come. This change could encourage greater voter turnout and a more representative electorate, thereby involving more San José voters in electing this important local office.
A larger, more representative electorate would help more voters feel that their vote for citywide leadership is important and ensure that their issues are more accurately represented and addressed.
1 San José Charter Review Commission Recommendation Memo, July 2021, https://sanjose.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=9848470&GUID=EA104A8A-7AB….