Anchorage Assemblyman Chris Birch’s proposal is coming under intense scrutiny by a five member city ethics panel. The board met Thursday and Friday to weigh the merits of moving Anchorage’s municipal elections from April to November.
"It makes it easier on the taxpayers, it makes it easier on the voters, and they can basically show up once a year, ”said Birch.
Critics of Birch's plan say it violates the city charter which limits all members of the Anchorage Assembly to three consecutive terms.
Birch’s third and final term is up in April, but if his ordinance passes he would get an extra 7 months on the assembly. Five other assembly members could also get bonus time in public office because their terms expire in 2014.
"Could assembly members even vote on it? Theoretically if you could find somebody who doesn't have a conflict of interest,” said Assemblyman Dick Traini. “You can't because it affected all 11 assembly members."
Traini, whose term is up in 2016, says if the ordinance passes it means a lame duck assembly would preside over the municipality's budget because that process takes place between in November and December.
Birch says the 20 percent turnout for last April’s election is reason alone to make this change now. He’s hoping the measure will pass by the end of January, before the filing deadline for 2014 municipal candidates.
“The objective is to elevate the level of public participation and discourse in the election process, and if we can get to a 50% turnout process, I think it will be good for the community all the way around," added Birch.
Ethics Chairman Keith Silver says the board’s opinion will be posted on the municipal website by Monday, but its decision is non-binding.