From a financial standpoint it makes a lot of sense for the county to go to vote-by-mail only elections particularly in elections where the voter turnout is likely to be very low. Ms. Oakley believes this solution could save the county around $150,000 per election. An amount which is not chump change, especially over time.
On November 6, nearly 60 percent of ballots cast were mail-in ballots and less than a quarter of those registered actually voted. There were polling places that had 10 voters cast ballots in an entire day.
While I wholeheartedly agree with Ms. Oakley, I have an alternative suggestion that unfortunately is somewhat out of the hands of the Clerk-Recorder.
When I lived in San Luis Obispo, ironically in the first election I participated in, the voters voted to put all of the local elections on a single-ballot: the November General Election. That put all City Council and School Board Elections on the November ballot in even years when it would share a ballot with either the President or the Governor every single time.
The result is that except under very extreme circumstances (and there have some: the death of Congressman Walter Capps, the recall of Governor Gray Davis, and the ballot initiative that Governor Schwarzenegger put on the ballot), there have been two elections every cycle–the primary and general–and that is it.
Think about that from a cost saving point of view. Mail-in would save some money, but the marginal cost of having a few more items on the ballot is very small. Hey if school board doesn’t want to be on the November General Election ballot, they can share a place with the City Council.
They may argue that they will get lost in the shuffle in a big election and they like the spotlight. I would suggest when 30 percent of the people show up to the polls, there is no spotlight. No one is paying attention. Other than the controversy involving stuffing envelopes on campus, school board issues did not generate a lot of interest on the blog either.
I am not opposed to a mail-in only election, but for me, I like to go cast my ballot on election day. I like to go to the polls, see what’s going on in my neighborhood, go into that polling place, I used to like to punch my ballots before we went to the new system, and I especially like getting my “I Voted” sticker and wearing it all day, reminding others that it is election day and hopefully enticing them to also go to the polls.
From the standpoint of the Clerk-Recorder, moving an electoral date is somewhat out of the question. Moreover, I suspect that the school board somewhat likes the low voter turnout particularly when they want to pass parcel taxes. But if we are looking at this from a cost perspective, it makes more sense to consolidate elections.
The issue here is people are not interested in these elections, these issues. We have too many elections as it is. The election last month was the first of four in the next year, we have another one in February, another in June, and finally in November. People will come out for the big ones, so why not utilize that? Thus, I would prefer instead of going to mail-in only elections, we simply consolidate our elections to two a cycle–a general and a primary both in the even year.
—Doug Paul Davis reporting