For years the city of Dublin has had two seats in four wards for residents to vote on during city council elections. Now, city officials are considering moving away from that system to an at-large one, which would allow residents to vote for candidates no matter what part of the city they live in.
The discussion about the possibility of Dublin going to an at-large system has branched out from council meetings to the streets, exactly where city officials wanted it.
"This isn't something that's happening tomorrow, but it's hard to find people willing to run in some of the wards and it's hard to get people in some wards out to vote at all. We want people who want to be here, we want people who are for Dublin, all of Dublin, not just their ward or their street," Dublin City Manager Nancy Wooldridge said.
Woodlridge and Mayor David Leatherwood presented information to the council in January on the possibility of changing the current ward system. During a workshop Monday night, the council returned to the issue and discussed it with an attorney.
"Currently, you have elections in some cases where only 10 people vote," Wooldridge said. "We had a perfect example of this a few years back when a gentleman lost an election 10-9, and he didn't even vote. These are the kinds of things we want to prevent."
Jeff Ullman, an attorney for the city, advised council members of cases going to court when residents didn't feel like they had a fair chance of representation. Ullman also said cities the size of Dublin generally do not have wards because the voter turnout is too small.
"What we don't want are our citizens feeling like they aren't getting a fair chance," Leatherwood said. "Everyone should be represented, but we also need the voting to be fair and sometimes pitting neighbor against neighbor isn't exactly fair either. Especially not in small wards like we have now."
But in the end, the council and city officials agreed they will not be the ones to make the decision.
"It's not up to us," Wooldridge said. "We've decided we are only going to make the change if that's what the people of Dublin want. Our attorney has informed us we don't have to take it to a vote or anything. We simply must pass an ordinance stating we are going to an at-large system if we so choose. But that's not what we're going to do. The mayor and council want to have time to talk to residents and get their opinions. We've discussed holding a town hall meeting to get information from residents before anything changes."
This is the first week to file to run in the general election for Dublin ISD school board and the Dublin City Council. No one has filed to run in either election, including incumbents, as of press time.