In addition to casting ballots for City Council ward representatives and a new mayor, Muskogee voters will be asked Feb. 14 to decide three ballot propositions.

The first proposition, officials say, is a housekeeping measure needed to bring the city charter into compliance with state election laws. The third proposition complements the first.

Of the three ballot measures, Proposition 2 has received the most attention. The proposition gives voters a chance to decide how they want to elect Muskogee’s eight City Council ward representatives.

If approved, ward representatives would be elected by voters who live within the candidates’ respective voting districts. The City Council’s eight ward representatives presently are elected by a citywide vote.

The system has been criticized by some because the at-large system is seen as one that dilutes the voice of voters who live in districts with high minority populations.

Mayor John Tyler Hammons pushed for the change in 2009 during a charter review but failed to get any support. A second push this past year by the mayor and some community groups put the measure on the ballot.

“It enhances the democratic nature of the system,” Hammons said this past October. “We recently adjusted our ward maps, and we have equal populations among the wards. This would be the next logical step.”

Even with the mayor’s support, the measure has been criticized by others who say ward voting could prove divisive. Some opponents of ward voting, however, have expressed support of a hybrid system by which four city councilors would be elected by ward and four others citywide.  Regardless of how Proposition 2 fares, Muskogee’s mayor would always be elected by a citywide vote.

Proposition 1 would change the dates of Muskogee’s municipal elections, moving them earlier in the year. The change, officials say, is to comply with revised election dates established by state law.

Holding the general election in January and the run-off election in March would give newly elected officials a chance to play a bigger role during the annual budget process.

If Proposition 1 is approved, City Council elections would be conducted the second Tuesday in January and the first Tuesday in March during even-numbered years. Because of the earlier dates, the municipal three-day filing period for candidates would begin the second Monday in November preceding the election.

Proposition 3, complements the first proposition. It would establish the second Tuesday of March — a week after the run-off election — as the date council members and the mayor assume office after being elected.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.

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