Casper City Council Discusses Straw Polling, Decides New Process for Mayoral Selection
On Tuesday night during a work session, the Casper City Council discussed straw polling and reviewed the Council Leadership Election Process, making a few changes to the process as it stands currently.
Casper City Clerk Fleur Tremel led the discussion, answering questions, going over the current process and providing direction on a new process that offers a bit more consistency.
A straw poll is an ad hoc, meaning it's an unofficial vote. It's used in order to show the popular opinion.
According to a memo from Tremel to City Manager Carter Napier, "In the past, Council has used a straw poll process to select the Mayor and Vice Mayor that would be voted on during the first Council meeting of the year."
Previously, Councilors would nominate a Mayor and Vice Mayor. They could self-nominate or nominate any other Councilor for the position by anonymously filling out a sheet and delivering it to the City Clerk. City Staff make sure the nominee accepts the nomination, and then drafts a ballot.
"One of the things I brought up, and we talked about it in leadership today and Amber [Pollock] had the perfect answer for it..." Mayor Knell said. "One of the things I was thinking was that every other year we have new Councilors coming in, which, you guys will appreciate this. You're asked to vote for a Mayor and, generally, you don't know any of us. And so it puts you in a very tough spot. And so one one of the things I suggested was, every other year, the current City Council would elect the leadership positions because they're with them every day and have been with them all year. But then Amber brought up a really good point and said that doesn't bring you guys into the process. And, not only that, but you may just be coming on Council and want to run for one of those leadership spots. And this would eliminate the ability for you to do that."
Mayor Knell said he "kinda" likes the way the City Council does things now, but that if anybody had any better ideas, he would welcome them.
Council members then discussed the process and spoke about the pros and cons of various ways of doing things. Some members preferred "the old way" of voting, via rank-choice votes. Others expressed disdain for rank-choice voting.
"I think the City Clerk and City Attorney counting the votes is an excellent way of going about that part," Councilor Steve Cathey offered. "I do not like the rank-choice voting. You can actually wind up with somebody that didn't necessarily get all of the first place votes winning an election. Which, that kind of defeats the purpose of some of the others. You're gonna wind up kicking somebody out of the way regardless. I think we oughta go back to the way we've done it for the last...this year is the first year we've done rank-choice voting."
Rank-choice voting is a means of voting that allows voters to rank multiple candidates on a ballot in order of preference.
Eventually, the Council voted in the majority to continue rank-voting for the straw polls.
Moving forward, Councilors will conduct a straw poll to select their nominees for Mayor and Vice Mayor positions. Oncoming Councilors will be able to participate in the straw poll during an executive session. The City Clerk and City attorney will count the straw poll results, and only the winners of those elections will be made public. This means that the public will not know how many people voted for one person over another, or who was ranked higher than whom. Only the the first place results will be made public.
Following the executive session, during the first regular meeting in January, the Casper City Council will formally cast their vote to elect the nominees who were nominated in the straw poll.
You can read the full memo from the City Clerk regarding the election process here.
The full discussion can be seen below, beginning at approximately the 1:17:00 mark.