City council considers ward-only voting move

By Oliver Lazenby

The manner in which Blaine city councilmembers are elected could change. Council at its May 14 meeting directed staff to prepare  an ordinance for ward-only elections. In ward-only elections, councilmembers are elected exclusively by voters in their wards.

Currently, if three or more candidates run in a particular ward, there’s a preliminary, ward-only election to select two candidates. The city at large votes on the top two candidates in the general election.

“That’s a little unusual,” said city manager Dave Wilbrecht at the meeting. “Most every place I’ve worked candidates are voted on by constituents within their bounds.”

Former city councilmember Dennis Olason, a longtime advocate of ward-only voting, brought the issue up to the council in a letter. The city will bring a proposal for ward-only voting to the council at one of the next two meetings, Wilbrecht said. State law requires public notice and a public hearing before council adopts new voting rules.

Ward-only voting could potentially limit incentive for councilmembers to think about the city as a whole.

“Right now, I feel like I represent every one in the city, and I like that,” said councilmember Eric Davidson. “If I’m only elected by people in my ward, those are the only people I’m concerned with.”

Conversely, with Blaine’s current system it’s possible for parts of the city to be poorly represented. Blaine has three wards, with two councilmembers per ward and one councilmember elected at-large, or by the entire city.

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