Luke Cavener swearing in

Meridian City Councilman Luke Cavener was sworn in to office Jan. 2, 2018. He is serving his second term on City Council. Cavener was also elected vice president of the Council.

After holding a public hearing to get feedback, the Meridian City Council voted May 22 to keep the election process for council members the same as it has been in past years.

In Meridian, candidates choose which seat they wish to run for and then represent the city at large. Voters citywide vote for council members by seat. The process is the same in Boise, Meridian city attorney Bill Nary said.

Idaho code also allows for cities to establish a system in which the seats are not designated, all candidates run for all open seats and the candidates earning the most votes are elected to the open seats, again representing all citizens of the city. Eagle, Star, Garden City and Kuna use this system, according to Nary.

Another option allows cities to establish districts, and candidates run to represent citizens residing in a specific geographic district.

Meridian City Councilwoman Genesis Milam led the discussion to change the election process to a system where seats are not designated.

Milam said this process would allow the candidates to “run for something rather than against someone.” She said the current process makes a candidate pick a council member to run against.

“The only people who benefit from (keeping it the same) are the people sitting up here voting for it,” Milam said.

The city received six emails before the City Council meeting, all but one of which stated they preferred a system that established districts. One resident testified during the meeting they preferred a process where seats were not designated.

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None of the public testimony advocated for keeping the current voting system.

Councilman Treg Bernt said during his time knocking doors and campaigning, more people seemed interested in districts. Also, attendees at the city’s May 9 town hall seemed more concerned with the costs associated with changing the election than with how it was conducted.

“I struggle with this, but I lean more toward keeping it the way it is,” he said.

Changing the election process would not cost the city of Meridian any extra fees, according to Nary.

Council member Ty Palmer spoke in favor of keeping the process the way it is because the city would be in a better position to handle other changes in the election process that could occur.

Ultimately all members of the council except Milam voted to keep the voting process the same.

City Council President Joe Borton said the council would be open to revisiting the topic if there was additional information or more public testimony.

Patty Bowen is the Meridian Press reporter. You can reach her at pbowen@idahopress.com.

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