Just as voters in Peosta, Iowa, deserve a chance to vote on filling a seat on city government, so, too, should the citizens of Dubuque have that opportunity. Dubuque City Council members are on the right track by indicating their support for a special election to fill the Fourth Ward vacancy created after Brad Cavanagh won the mayoral position and resigned his council seat.

We knew this day was coming — after all, both mayoral candidates in last month’s election were sitting council members. Both are halfway through their four-year terms. So, Dubuque residents were bound to have to fill the seat of one of them.

Now, we know it will be Ward 4, and voters in Dubuque’s downtown and South End neighborhoods should get the chance to weigh in on who represents them until 2023. While there is some expense associated with a special election, two years is too long a period to be filled by appointment.

It’s likely voters would agree. Last year, when Brett Shaw resigned his Ward 1 seat and the City Council filled his position by appointing a former council member, citizens wasted little time gathering signatures on a petition demanding voters be allowed to decide. That led to a primary election, because three candidates were in the mix, and eventually Susan Farber edged out John Pregler in a close general election in which 12% of the ward’s voters turned out.

If voters were willing to go through that process with just one year left in the term of the vacated seat, surely they would want the same option for a vacancy with two years left in the term.

What we should consider doing differently is holding primaries in city elections.

In the case of the Ward 1 seat earlier this year, the winner in both the Feb. 2 primary and the March 2 special election was the same: Susan Farber garnered 51.1% of votes in the race in March and 52.6% in February. The third candidate in the primary, Nichole Weber, got 101 votes.

Two years ago, the Ward 4 race had a third candidate, which forced a primary. And the third candidate got only 18 votes.

That begs the question, do we really need two elections?

Jenny Hillary, deputy commissioner of elections for Dubuque County, said the primary election in February cost about $10,000 to conduct. At more than 10 bucks per vote, there could be a better way. And that says nothing of the time, energy and planning on the part of elections officials, poll workers, candidates and voters.

One approach would be to go to a runoff system. Hold the election with as many candidates as file. If one candidate receives a majority of votes — more than all other candidates combined — then said candidate is the winner. If not, the top two vote-getters participate in a runoff election.

In both of those recent cases in Dubuque, the top vote-getter in the primary did get a majority of the votes.

Whatever the process for voting in the next City Council member, it should be just that — a vote of the people. Ward 4 residents deserve to choose their representative.

Editorials reflect the consensus of the Telegraph Herald Editorial Board.

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