Birmingham elections could soon by synchronized

By Arielle Clay

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - People living in Birmingham may soon be able to make just one trip to the polls to vote for mayor and city council members.

A senate committee voted Wednesday on a proposed bill to synchronize elections.  Before voting on the bill the committee listened to the opinions of the public and city councilors.

"Someone in the city needs to speak for the 220,000 residents who were in fact disenfranchised because their local elected officials were not consulted,"  Birmingham City Council President, Roderick Royal said.

Royal's main issue with the proposed bill is that council didn't have enough say.  But the bill's sponsor, Representative Merika Coleman, said she tried to contact every councilor.  She also said the bill would help the city move forward.

"The public has said that because people that want to be mayor they've kept the current mayor from being successful and if they lose they sit back for two years being disgruntled," Coleman said.

"There needed to be some further discussion you can't just throw something on the table," Councilor Kimberly Rafferty said.

Along with worries the bill was too rushed Rafferty expressed concern about losing experience if a new mayor and city council are all elected at the same time.  Smitheman admits that is a drawback.

"Of course you'd have to start of a learning curve that wouldn't be there if you had people who had been there.  But of course government is to represent the people and I believe the will of the people was represented today," he said.

Many people were also concerned that current mayor William Bell's term would be extended to make the elections fall on the same day.  Coleman and Smitherman say that is in fact untrue.  Bell would serve until 2011 as expected.  Then whoever wins the mayor's race in 2011 would serve a shortened term of two years.  Another election would be held in 2013; the same time as the council elections.

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