RACINE — City staff has chosen Nov. 7 as its preferred date for the special mayoral election, despite the fact that Mayor John Dickert has not set a date for his resignation.
Dickert, who has not responded to repeated requests for comment about his resignation date, was not at Wednesday’s meeting of the City Council’s Committee of the Whole and did not respond to a call for comment Wednesday. Finance Director Dave Brown and City Attorney Scott Letteney suggested Nov. 7 for the general election and Oct. 10 for the primary, but the City Council cannot order the special election until Dickert steps down.
The suggested election timeline would require Dickert to vacate the office before Aug. 23, since city staff would like to give officials the maximum 77 days to prepare. Letteney said city staff is operating under the assumption that Dickert will be out of office before the next City Council meeting on July 18.
However, Brown reiterated the potential timeline allows Dickert to stay on through the first few weeks of August.
“It’s no one’s announcement to make but the mayor,” Letteney added.
Fifth District Alderman Steve Smetana expressed frustration at the uncertainty surrounding the mayor’s resignation Tuesday.
“I’m receiving phone calls, probably like everyone else is, about this issue, asking when,” Smetana said.
Although they wouldn’t have been able to officially order the election until Aug. 23, aldermen could have accepted the staff’s recommendation Wednesday. When Council President Dennis Wiser asked for a motion to that effect, the room remained silent.
The special election poses a financial difficulty for the city. Anticipating only a spring election in 2017, the city budgeted just $120,000 for election spending this year and most of that has been spent, according to Brown.
With a special mayoral election added in the fall, Brown said city staff anticipate similar turnout to 2016, when the presidential election drew 85 percent of registered voters in Racine County to the polls. Brown added the city spent roughly $320,000 on elections in 2016, meaning an additional $200,000 from the city’s contingency fund would be spent on the special election if Brown’s estimates hold up.
Brown said part of the reason the city chose Nov. 7 is because it’s the first Tuesday in November, which is a typical election day in years with a general election.
“People are used to that being an election day,” Brown said. “That first Tuesday in November is always considered election day throughout the country.”
Additionally, Brown and Letteney said that the Village of Waterford is holding an election on that day, which wouldn’t require the county to add another election day to its schedule.
“The county will already be working on election stuff that day, so that helps the county out a little bit,” Brown said.
The city would need to use its old voting machines one final time, as its new machines aren’t expected to arrive until early December.