ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Recently, the St. Pete Charter Review Commission (CRC) voted to move forward with a proposal to change the City Council election system to single-member district elections. The Commission will now adopt specific language that will then go to the voters for their approval on this November’s ballot.
Currently, St. Pete has eight City Council members, elected in an at-large runoff system where candidates face the entire electorate citywide in the November runoff, regardless of which district they come from. As a result, in the past 15 years, Black candidates for the City Council have lost every runoff election against a white opponent.
The CRC’s action recommends ending the quixotic at-large runoff system, proposing true single-member district elections instead.
The following joint statement is by Emma Bellamy, senior staff attorney for the SPLC Action Fund, and Nick Warren, staff attorney for the ACLU of Florida:
“The way the St. Pete City Council is currently elected dilutes the voices of St. Pete neighborhoods and, disturbingly, impairs Black voters’ ability to elect candidates of choice, with racially discriminatory effects.
“We commend the Charter Review Commission for their thoughtful consideration of these longstanding issues. Their recommendation to end the peculiar and unbalanced at-large runoff system and adopt single-member districts has kickstarted a process to ensure greater equity and responsiveness to all the City’s residents.
“We look forward to the CRC members following through on this important issue and doing their part to improve local democracy in St. Pete.”
The CRC meets again on the mornings of June 21, June 28, and July 12 to finalize measures for the November ballot. City residents can give public comments in person or by email.