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Special CD10 election will cost $850,000-plus

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Friday, June 26th, 2009 at 3:13 pm in congressional district 11.

Check out my story here about how the special election to replace Rep. Ellen Tauscher will cost cash-strapped Contra Costa County at least $850,000.

Given the severe budget crisis, is it time to let counties conduct mail-only elections especially for low turnout special elections?

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  • Arne Simonsen

    I have to agree that the Special Election for CD-10 shuld be a mail-in ballot; but there must be safeguards to prevent fraud.

  • John W

    Ouch! Since much of the voting is already mail-in, how much would be saved with an all-mail election?

  • steve weir

    Low turnout elections often have more than 50% of the total turn out cast by mail. Mail ballot elections can, in fact, boost turn out.

    As it is, 42% of our voters in Contra Costa are permanent vote-by-mail voters. (Even the June, 2008 and May 19, 2009 statewide elections approached 70% of the total turnout as vote-by-mail ballots.

    Calif. Counties are required to check the signature on the outside of the voted ballot envelope against that voters signature on their voter registration card. In the November Presidential Election, 858 ballots (or 0.37% of the total vote-by-mail cast) were rejected for wrong or no match signature.

  • steve weir

    John W, I believe that we can save an additional $0.50 over what I am proposing if we were able to have an all mail ballot. However, we have made such strong progress towards saving costs, the benefit of going to an all mail model goes down. ($0.50 savings in the 10th Congressional District would be just over $126,000.)

    Our usual cost for an election is about $7.50 per registered voter. We cut back for the May 19th election and it came in at $3.98 per registered voter. We believe we can reduce that cost for the pending Special Vacancy Election. In this economy, I and my staff recoginize that we have to examine every aspect of conducting an election, including the costs of envelopes, training costs, postage costs, temporary employee costs (NO OVERTIME), etc. We believe that we are making good progress.

  • John W

    Steve Weir, thanks. Nice to get good info right from the source. And thanks for the good work you do for the county.

  • Elwood

    What John W said.

  • Steve Mick

    Good article Lisa, but the county’s financial exposure is worse than that. The “domino theory” is waiting in the wings. If Joan Buchanan is elected to CD10, there will need to be another election to fill her seat in the Assembly and depending on who wins that office there may need to be still another election.

    Solution: Don’t vote for anyone who currently holds elective office to fill the CD10 seat.

  • http://adrielhampton.wordpress.com/ Adriel Hampton

    I’ll buy Steve’s premise. And they say my generation has a short attention span …

  • Sean Donahoe

    If (a big if, admittedly) Joan wins the CD10 Special Election, my money would be on Gary Davis to make a run for the AD15 slot. Yes, yes, he’s filed for CD3, but EdVoice could bring some serious money to the table. Of course his name recognition in this portion of the district is virtually nill, but I’d never heard of Joan Buchanan before she started her Assembly run …

    Steve Mick, your “solution” is flawed. The “domino theory” scenario would only be triggered should Buchanan or De Saulnier win the CD10 contest. Garamendi’s win will not result in any further special election, at least not in this county. So if you are concerned about the cost of another special election, feel free to vote for the Lieutenant Governor as your next Congressman.

    [Adriel, on the subject of besmirching a generation (even jokingly) as lacking in focus and seriousness, did you mean to drop in briefly and post such an ambiguous comment?

    Which Steve's premise did you agree with? The head of elections Steve, or the guy with a mistaken theory on the "domino theory?" I suggest demonstrating your inattention to detail online isn't a wise campaign strategy, especially when you've positioned yourself as a web-savvy Gov 2.0 advocate.

    If you get the basic facts wrong because you are quick to megaditto and agree with perceived allies online, rather than checking your facts and making an informed comment, how can the voters trust that you won't be misled by lobbyists or special interests?]

  • Steve Mick

    You note correctly that “The domino theory scenario would only be triggered should Buchanan or De Saulnier win the CD10 contest.”

    Well to avoid the above trigger, don’t vote for anyone who currently holds elective office to fill the CD10 seat.

    If neither wins the CD10 seat, then no additional special election is needed.

    Seems flawless to me…

  • DanvilleDemocrat

    Sean Donahoe,

    Well argued on the silly “domino theory ergo no current office-holder” argument, re: CD-10. To pile on, a special election doubtless will occur no matter which of the two current state legislators win the race. (In fact, to draw out this hypothetical ad absurdum, electing State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier likely would produce TWO special elections, assuming State Assem. Joan Buchanan decided to pursue DeSaulnier’s seat and won. This is hardly an impossible scenario since the Democratic “primary” likely will be splintered and close, regardless of who wins, between the four most well-known candidates: Buchanan, DeSaulnier, and Garamendi. A very narrow loss by Buchanan would be a powerful argument for a quick turnaround candidacy for the vacant senate seat. Similarly, a narrow loss for Anthony Woods to Buchanan or DeSaulnier might be enough to hopefully prompt him to consider state legislative service.)

    In the final analysis, I appreciate Registrar Weir’s efforts to save money on holding elections. But folks (including journalists) who object to the cost of the tools of representative democracy (which is never “free”, pun intended) as an example of wasteful government spending are barking up the wrong tree. I see arguments in favor of the state reimbursing counties and localities in greater sums for the costs of holding elections generally … but given that additional funds from the State of California to pay for ANYTHING seem like trying to squeeze lemonade out of a rock, I think the cost of holding a free and fair election is a price well worth paying. It’s surely preferable to the drama and problems posed by gubernatorial appointments of, for example, U.S. senators (see, e.g., Illinois and New York in 2009).

  • John W

    I can think of reasons other than election costs and aforementioned domino theory to not vote for anybody who currently holds a California state elective office for the CD 10 seat. Leave it at that. Not my district, so I’ll just watch. Reminds me. If candidates can shop around for districts to run in, how come voters can’t similarly shop around for districts and races to vote in?

  • Arne Simonsen

    Steve, you’re the best! You should go with a mail-in ballot for the CD-10 Special Election and also let people vote absentee at your beautiful new building in Martinez during regular working hours, and until 8 PM on Election Day.

  • EdiBirsan

    More voting by mail is what is happening naturally. I strongly support major efforts to get more people to vote by mail. However I should point out that for the last 10+ years I have been election day worker ($80 for a 16 hour day-such a deal you will not find elsewhere).
    I think we will still need to have some sort of community out reach for people to go for the first time voting as that is when we check ID. I cannot see it as reasonable to have people from East County go to Martinez to vote for the first time. However if there was a massive increase in by mail voting, then we could probably get precincts with a base of 20,000.

    Oregon has been doing mail voting on a larger scale than we have and I would be interested in some follow up on what affect it has had on turnout, initial registration, and other aspects that we can learn from.

  • Jane Lea

    It took a lot of money and hard work to get Joan elected and 6 months in she’s jumping ship. First, she hasn’t proven herself or committed herself to the constituents that got her elected. Second, who does she think she is the governor of Alaska? Oh that’s right she couldn’t complete a term either.

    Garamendi is the best choice for people issues. He’s termed out, experienced, and has good bi partisan support.

  • RF

    I hate seeing Community activists hawking party hacks on the internet.