Voters to decide on eliminating city primary

Charter change on April ballot

Jefferson City voters will be asked April 8 if the city should change its charter to eliminate primary elections.

In October 2012, the City Council approved a March primary date after state law took away February primary dates, except in cases where a charter city specifically required a February election in the city charter.

Because Jefferson City’s charter does not specifically require a February primary, only that a primary election must take place, the council had set the 2013 primary for March.

That date creates some difficulty as the ballots for the April general election are printed before the March primary date. Another issue is that absentee voting is allowed six weeks before election day, which means absentee voting would begin before the primary has been held.

City primaries are held only when three or more candidates file for the same city office, with the top two candidates squaring off in an April general election. If one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, no general election is held and that candidate wins the office.

City Attorney Drew Hilpert said after the state law was changed, the county clerk urged the city to eliminate the primary because of the inherent problems with a March date.

“That was a lot of stress and difficulty for the county clerk,” Hilpert said. “He thought the best option was to eliminate the primary option.”

Hilpert said many cities have chosen to eliminate their primary as it also serves as a cost-saving measure.

Last year, the city stated eliminating the primary could save about $28,000 per year in election costs.

The general election will be held April 8, and the proposed change to the City Charter is the only citywide issue on the ballot, other than school board races.

Voters in the 4th Ward also will be casting ballots to decide between two candidates to serve on the City Council.

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