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Low Voter Turnout Expected in Special Election

August 12, 1985

MIAMI (AP) _ A change from a city-manager form of government to a strong-mayor rule is one of two proposals up before the voters Tuesday in a rare summer election expected to draw very low turnout.

Miami’s future form of government might be decided by no more than 20 percent of 113,030 registered voters, City Clerk Ralph Ongie said.

Ongie said his prediction was based on the season - ″the dead of summer.″ He said it couldn’t recall a Miami special election ever being at this time of year.

The second charter proposal on the ballot would make the mayor’s race partisan if the first one passes.

The Dade County Elections Department, which normally forecasts voter turnout, wouldn’t even make a guess for this election because of what department officials said was a lack of voter interest.

″It’s a strange election,″ said elections supervisor David Leahy, ″We haven’t dusted off our crystal ball for this one.″

Commissioner Joe Carollo predicted Monday that both charter proposals would pass, and disagreed with Ongie and Leahy.

″I think there is voter interest out there,″ he said.

But Sharon Mitchell, an assistant supervisor of elections, said her office has received few phone calls about the election. She said only 268 of the 750 absentee ballots requested have been returned.

″The low voter turnout is ... because the election is being held in the summer and many of the voters lack understanding of the ballot or the issues involved,″ Mrs. Mitchell said.

She said the last Miami special election, held in December 1982, brought out 34.2 percent of the voters. A proposal to create a one-cent sales tax for construction of sports and recreation facilities failed by 81 percent in that vote, Mrs. Mitchell said.

If the strong mayor proposal passes, the city’s day-to-day operations will be the responsibility of a mayor rather than a city manager. A fifth city commission seat would be created since the mayor would no longer be a part of that body.

The other charter amendment, if passed, would require the Republican and Democratic parties to stage mayoral primaries. Currently, the mayor’s race is a wide-open, non-partisan election.

The Committee for a Strong Miami and the Republican Party have been campaigning for a strong, partisan mayor. A Hispanic action committee and black leaders have been actively campaigning against the issues.

Carollo said most major U.S. cities have a strong mayor form of government. City Attorney Lucia Dougherty cited New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Fransisco and Atlanta as examples.

″The chief executive officer is specifically answerable to the people and can be elected every four years,″ Mrs. Dougherty noted.

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