The San Bernardino General Municipal Election: A History

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Here is the election post about today’s General Municipal Election over at sbdpolitics.com.  This post is about the history of the San Bernardino Charter regarding primary and general elections.

The Charter of the City of San Bernardino created San Bernardino’s Primary Municipal and General Municipal Elections.

A primary election shall be held in said City on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March of each odd numbered year, for the nomination of candidates to be elected at the ensuing general election, and a general election shall be held in said City on the first Tuesday in May of each odd numbered year, for the election of City officers. Beginning with the primary election in 1995, and thereafter a primary election shall be held in said City on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November in each odd numbered year for the nomination of candidates to be elected at the ensuing general election, and a general election shall be held in said City on the first Tuesday in February of the following even numbered year for the election of City Officers. Said election shall be conducted in the manner provided for by general law; provided, however, that the Mayor and Common Council shall have power, by ordinance, to provide for the manner of holding such election.  Charter of the City of San Bernardino section 10.

However, if someone wins a majority of votes in the Primary Municipal Election, then there is no need for a General Municipal Election:

Any candidate for any City office who at a primary election shall receive votes on a majority of all the ballots cast for candidates for the office for which such candidates seek nomination, shall be elected to such office. Where two or more candidates are to be elected to a given office and a greater number of candidates receive a majority than the number to be elected, those candidates shall be elected who secure the highest votes of those receiving such majority, and equal in number to the number to be elected. Any officer elected shall hold office until his or her successor is elected and qualifies.  Charter of the City of San Bernardino section 10A.

That is why candidates were elected at the Primary Municipal Election on November 8, 2011.  The original section 10 of the 1905 Charter read:

 The provisions of all general laws governing elections for state and county officers, not inconsistent with the provisions of this charter, are hereby adopted as the laws governing city elections for city officers, and the provisions of all laws governing general or special elections in municipalities applicable to all municipalities of the state, or to municipalities of the fifth class, and not inconsistent with the provisions of this charter, are hereby adopted as the laws governing all general or special elections held within the city, and in all elections the mayor and common council and the city clerk respectively shall exercise the powers and perform the duties conferred or imposed by law on boards of supervisors and county clerks concerning elections.

Even though there was no reference to a primary nominating election, there was one in existing state law, and there were primary elections before the 1935 adoption of the new section 10.  I have information from one such election in which the candidates actually ran on a partisan ticket to be nominated in the general election.

This section was repealed in 1921 by the voters of San Bernardino.  The a version of the current section 10 was adopted by the voters on April 8, 1935:

Section 10: A primary election shall be held in said City on the third Monday in March  of each odd numbered year, for the nomination of candidates to be elected at the ensuing general election, and a general election shall be held in said City on the second Monday in April of each odd numbered year, for the election of City officers. Said election shall be conducted in the manner provided for by general law; provided, however, that the Mayor and Common Council shall have power, by Ordinance, to provide for the manner of holding such election.

Charter section 10 was next amended in 1949 to read:

Section 10. A primary election shall be held in said City on the Third Tuesday in March of each odd numbered year, for the nomination of candidates to be elected at the ensuing general election, and a general election shall be held in said City on the Second Tuesday in April of each odd numbered year, for the Election of City Officers. Said election shall be conducted in the manner provided for by general law; provided, however, that the Mayor and Common Council shall have power, by ordinance, to provide for the manner of holding such election.

The next Charter election held on March 20, 1951 added section 10A, though not in the modern form:

Any candidate for a judicial, school, or any City office who at a primary election shall receive votes on a majority of all the ballots cast for candidates for the office for which such candidate seeks nomination, shall be elected to such office. Where two or more candidates are to be elected to a given office and a greater number of candidates receive a majority than the number to be elected, those candidates shall be elected who secure the highest votes of those receiving such majority, and equal in number to the number to be elected.

In 1966, section 10 was amended again:

Section 10. A primary election shall be held in said City on the first Tuesday in February of each odd numbered year, for the nomination of candidates to be elected at the ensuing general election, and a general election shall be held in said City on the Second Tuesday in April of each odd numbered year, for the Election of City Officers. Said election shall be conducted in the manner provided for by general law; provided, however, that the Mayor and Common Council shall have power, by ordinance, to provide for the manner of holding such election.

In the event any amendment to the Charter involving an election is ratified by the electorate and its approval by the Legislature is not reasonably anticipated to occur before the ninety (90) day period preceding such election, the Mayor and Common Council by ordinance may authorize the necessary election process and procedures to commence, change and establish the boundaries of existing and future wards and authorize related acts in preparation for the election; and such ordinances or acts will be effective and operate retrospectively, cured, ratified and validated, provided the approval of such amendment by the Legislature occurs before said election.

Section 10 was amended on June 4, 1974, and I believe it amended the section to delete the second paragraph added in 1966, and change the primary to March and the  general election to May:

Section 10. Primary and General Election. A Primary election shall be held in said  City on the first Tuesday after the first  Monday in March of each odd numbered year for the nomination of candidates to be  elected at the ensuing general election and a general election shall be held in said City on the first Tuesday in May of each odd numbered year, for the election of City Officers. Said election shall be conducted in the manner provided for by general law; provided, however, that the Mayor and Common Council shall have power by ordinance to provide for the manner of holding such election.

Section 10 was amended for on June 2, 1992 to read (which was readopted by voters in November 2004):

Section 10. Primary and General Election. A Primary election shall be held in said  City on the first Tuesday after the first  Monday in March of each odd numbered year for the nomination of candidates to be  elected at the ensuing general election and a general election shall be held in said City on the first Tuesday in May of each odd numbered year, for the election of City Officers. Beginning with the primary election in 1995, and thereafter, a primary election shall be held in said City on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November in each odd numbered year for the nomination of candidates to be elected at the ensuing general election, and a general election shall be held in said City on the first Tuesday in February of the following even numbered year for the election of City Officers. Said election shall be conducted in the manner provided for by general law; provided, however, that the Mayor and Common Council shall have power by ordinance to provide for the manner of holding such election.

Section 10A was also amended on June 2, 1992:

Any candidate for a judicial, school or any City office who at a primary election shall receive votes on a majority of all the ballots cast for candidates for the office for which such candidate seeks nomination, shall be elected to such office. Where two or more candidates are to be elected to a given office and a greater number of candidates receive a majority than the number to be elected, those candidates shall be elected who secure the highest votes of those receiving such majority, and equal in number to the number to be elected.  Any officer elected shall hold office until his successor is elected and qualifies.

Section 10A was changed when the new Charter was adopted in 2004 to clean up the language regarding judicial and school election, and to put in gender neutral language in the last sentence.  However, the second line about “Where two or more candidates are to be elected to a given office and a greater number of candidates receive a majority” no longer makes sense because no City office allows more than one office holder.  It referred to the school board election, but the amendment deleted a reference to that language.  It could be useful if a “pick two” or “pick four” office is added to the Charter, but as it is currently written, it is anachronistic.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708
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About Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law
Michael Reiter is a Redlands, California-based lawyer, serving San Bernardino County and Riverside County in Southern California's Inland Empire. Michael Reiter is a lawyer practicing in the following fields of law: Municipal Law, Code Enforcement Law, Small Business Law and Real Estate Law. Michael Reiter practices in all the local courts, including San Bernardino Superior Court, Riverside Superior Court, and the United States District Court for the Central District of California. Michael Reiter was admitted to the California State Bar in 1998. Michael Reiter was Assistant City Attorney for the City of Redlands, a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino, and Staff Attorney for Legal Aid Society of San Bernardino. Michael Reiter serves all of San Bernardino and Riverside County, Orange County, and Los Angeles County. Michael Reiter can be reached at (909) 296-6708, or by electronic mail at michael@michaelreiterlaw.com. 300 E. State St. #517 Redlands CA 92373-5235

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