Council Forced to Delay Action to Change City Election Date

A special meeting of the Smithville Mayor and Aldermen was scheduled Tuesday night to adopt an ordinance on first reading to change the city election from June to August to coincide with the county general election. But the meeting was canceled after city officials learned from the Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) that the action could not legally be done by passage of an ordinance. It would require a change in the city charter.
Under state law, a municipality can change the date of a city election to coincide with the August or November general election, “notwithstanding any provision of a private act of a municipality to the contrary”. According to MTAS, the City of Smithville has such a private act charter, which prohibits the changing of an election date by ordinance. Such action requires a change in the city charter, which must be approved by both the board of aldermen and the state legislature.
Mayor Taft Hendrixson brought up the issue during the December 19 city council meeting. He said by having the city election along with the county general election, it would save the city some money in holding the election and it would probably bring more city voters to the polls. But by having the election in August, the terms of the incumbent mayor and aldermen this year would have to be extended by a couple of months.
During that meeting, the aldermen voted 4 to 1 to have an ordinance drawn up to make the change. Alderman Steve White, who voted against the proposal, said that while he favored saving the city money and encouraging a larger voter turnout, he was concerned with the legality of making these changes by ordinance, when the city charter calls for the city election to be held in June. White said he preferred waiting until other changes are made in the city charter before making this one. “With the way the charter reads, you would have to be extending somebody’s term and I don’t think we can change that without the charter being changed. As the charter reads, our election has to be in June. If we move it to August then that’s after our term is out,” said White.
Mayor Hendrixson replied “But our terms would be extended. Myself, yours (Steve White), and Mr. (Cecil) Burger’s term will be extended by approximately sixty days until the August Election this year. You can’t extend terms by more than two years but you can extend terms by up to two years,” said Mayor Hendrixson.
Alderman White continued “My thinking is that if we’re getting some more changes ready for the charter, I think we might ought to go ahead and have the election in June this time and then if we decide we want to do that (change election date) go ahead and change the charter that way if we want to change the terms we can do all that as the next elections come up,”said White.
City officials plan to present a resolution to the aldermen soon making changes in the charter but that action requires approval of the state legislature in addition to passage by the city council.
State law concerning changing the date by ordinance of municipal elections to coincide with general elections states as follows in 6-54-138
“Notwithstanding any provision of a private act of a municipality to the contrary, the legislative body of a municipality may by ordinance change the date of municipal elections to coincide with the August or November general election. The ordinance changing the election date shall provide for the extension of the terms of members of the legislative body of the municipality necessary to meet the election date, but no term may be extended for more than two years beyond its regular expiration date. If an action is taken pursuant to this subsection the presiding officer of the legislative body shall file a certified copy of the ordinance with the state coordinator of elections”

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