By 2012, voters in San Joaquin County may not have a polling place in which to cast their ballot. Instead, they may be required to vote by absentee ballot only. County officials are exploring the idea of a vote-by-mail-only system because it could save the county considerable money, Registrar of Voters Austin Erdman told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
In fact, that’s already the trend. Only 25 percent of the voters who cast ballots in the June primary in San Joaquin County went to their local school, church, community center or neighbor’s garage to vote, Erdman said. That translates to only 11 percent of the county’s registered voters.
Erdman said he will study the feasibility of converting the county to absentee voting-only and bring a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.
Sacramento County mirrored California as a whole, with 60 percent voting by mail in the June primary, Erdman said. Sacramento County would save an estimated $1 million per countywide election, said Registrar Jill LaVine.
Voting by mail has several advantages, Erdman told the board. Among them:
• It would save the county a lot of money.• More people have turned out to vote. • It’s easier for election officials to conduct. • It would keep voting lists more up-to-date. • It gives voters a longer opportunity to study the ballot and find answers to their questions. • It’s “greener” because fewer ballots would be printed and people wouldn’t be driving to the polls.
In Sacramento County, LaVine said she isn’t optimistic that elections offices in California will get the support they need to make a vote-by-mail system a reality. The Legislature would have to approve a bill allowing it, and the governor would have to sign it.
LaVine, who co-chairs the California Association of Clerks and Elections Officials, proposed to hold any countywide elections by mail, but not state or federal campaigns, nor any elections that involve more than one county.
It would take considerable buy-in to get multiple counties to agree, she said.
Nevertheless, LaVine said she got support from nine of the 12 counties in the 1st Senate District to conduct a mail ballot-only election on Jan. 4 provided that there is a runoff for the seat vacated by Sen. Dave Cox, R-Fair Oaks, who died July 13.
However, no one in the Legislature was willing to sponsor such a bill, LaVine said.
Three people have announced thus far that they will run for Cox’s seat in the Nov. 2 general election — Assemblymen Roger Niello, R-Fair Oaks, and Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, and Rancho Cordova Mayor Ken Cooley, a Democrat. If no one gets more than 50 percent of the vote in November, a Jan. 4 runoff will be held.
Galt is included in the 1st Senate District.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.