DUNWOODY, Ga. — The Dunwoody Charter Commission recommended a number of changes to how city elections are conducted at its Sept. 21 meeting.
Commissioners voted 3-1 to provide that the candidate who draws the most votes for a seat on the City Council be declared the winner. The change basically substitutes the term “plurality” for the current wording that requires a majority, meaning more than 50 percent of the vote. They did stipulate, however, that the winning candidate must receive at least 45 percent of the vote to claim victory.
However, the commission did not extend the same provision for candidates running for mayor. A vote for that change failed 2-1 when Commissioner Wayne Radloff abstained.
Charter Commission Chairman Robert Wittenstein offered up some historic perspective on local elections.
“I’m not commenting on whether this is right or wrong, but when Bob Dallas ran against Mike Davis for mayor (in 2011), there was a third candidate in the race, and in the runoff, the person who got the most votes in the general was not the person who won the election,” Wittenstein said. “So, there’s an example that happened not so long ago in Dunwoody history.”
Wittenstein added that historically runoff elections draw low turnout, are expensive to conduct and can be “anti-Democratic.”
The commission also voted to extend the mayor’s term limit to three terms from the previous two-term limit, and it imposed a three-term limit on members of the City Council.
“I will say, like I did at the last meeting, that I’m not a fan of term limits,” Wittenstein said. “I don’t feel personally that I should tell people who they can and can’t vote for.”
But there were counter arguments.
“On the other side of the coin is there are some people who are polarizing, negative, and you can’t get them out of office,” said Amy Swygert. “Not having limits can breed complacency.”
The commission also voted to alter the mayor’s election cycle to coincide with district elections. After some discussion about how it would affect the current mayor’s tenure, the commission voted to push the change to the 2027 election.
Wittenstein cited low voter turnout at district-only elections as one of the contributing factors to moving the mayoral cycle. The measure passed unanimously.
The recommended changes to the charter must be approved in the Georgia General Assembly in order to set up a voter referendum.
The commission also discussed proposed agenda items for its Oct. 5 meeting, including changes to the way expenditures are allocated for the mayor and the council, the timing when newly elected officials take office and the manner in which emergency meetings take place.