State

Modesto mayor delays decision on runoff elections

Modesto Mayor Jim Ridenour on Tuesday opted to put a little more thought into whether the city should eliminate runoff elections after close local government races.

He postponed a decision that could have led to voters making that call at the ballot in November.

Instead, Ridenour intends to appoint a committee to evaluate whether Modesto should keep runoffs, do away with them or delay them.

The choices follow a 2007 report from the city's Charter Review Committee that called the runoff system "broken" because of a demanding timeline that compels the city clerk to select runoff candidates within days of a general election.

In 2001, Modesto canceled a runoff when 10,000 ballots didn't go out in time.

In 2005, the city sued itself to block a runoff when an examination of the returns showed that then-challenger Kristin Olsen had defeated incumbent Denny Jackman with more than 50 percent of votes on the first try, a margin that should have made the runoff unnecessary.

The Charter Review Committee recommended that Modesto do away with runoffs because of those errors, but it left room for further study by advising that the city might want to investigate their merit if voters supported a move to district elections.

Voters took that course in February 2008, when they approved a ballot measure that resulted in Modesto replacing citywide council elections with district races. Voters will select council members by geographic district for the first time in November.

Ridenour's decision to delay the vote on runoff elections doesn't affect the November council races. It still could get to the 2010 ballot and be in place for the 2011 council and mayoral election.

Bee staff writer Adam Ashton can be reached at aashton@modbee.com or 578-2366.

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