The Long Beach City Council in California unanimously voted on January 8 to change the city’s election schedule to coincide with the state’s. Rather than holding general elections in April and runoff elections in June, the city and the Long Beach Unified School District will hold general elections in March and runoff elections in November starting in 2020.
The need to change election dates came from Senate Bill 415, a 2015 law that required local elections to align with the state’s election schedule by 2020 if local election turnout was 25 percent less than the average turnout in previous statewide general elections. Long Beach’s voter turnout for the April 2018 general election was 13 percent, while the voter turnout for California’s statewide general election in November 2018 was 65 percent. Long Beach had an estimated population of 469,450 in 2017, according to the United States Census Bureau.
The cities of Lawndale and Walnut, which both have populations of just over 30,000, also switched from holding elections in April to holding them in November. Other cities such as Norwalk and South Gate, which have populations of 106,084 and 95,430, respectively, switched from holding their elections in the spring of odd-numbered years to holding them in the spring of even-numbered years. Pasadena, which has a population of 142,647, also switched from holding its primary and general elections in odd-numbered years to even-numbered years.
Senate Bill 415 also affected school district election schedules. Over 80 percent of the state’s largest school districts that were scheduled to hold elections in 2017 switched to 2018.
Fifteen seats—four citywide offices, five city council seats, three school board seats, and three community college board seats—were on the ballot in Long Beach in 2018, and eight of those seats had unopposed races. The change in the city’s election schedule extended the terms of current officeholders by five months.