AB 1873 Would Increase Participation, Save Taxpayer Money in Traditionally Low-Turnout Contests
SACRAMENTO – (Wednesday, February 19, 2014) – California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) introduced the VOTE Act today in an effort to boost voter participation and curb the taxpayer costs of special elections.
Assembly Bill 1873, known as the “Voting Ought To be Easy Act,” would allow California’s counties and cities to conduct special elections for legislative and municipal offices entirely by mail ballot, but would require them to provide full postage for all returned ballots if they choose to exercise the mail-only option.
Gonzalez said elections that don’t coincide with major statewide elections – like June primaries and November general elections – result in low voter participation and high costs for county election offices, which spend upwards of millions of dollars to set up polling locations and staff Election Day when local contests aren’t consolidated with a statewide election.
“Voters are more likely to participate in special elections if we give them several weeks to cast their ballots as opposed to a matter of hours on Election Day,” Gonzalez said. “By paying for the postage to return their completed ballot and providing voters an extended amount of time, the VOTE Act innovates our democracy in a way that will result in better access and participation – and that’s a good thing for California.”
Since the Presidential Election in November 2012, several special elections have taken place throughout California. Some legislative special elections failed to produce 10 percent participation rate. Even in the municipal elections that experienced higher turnout, voters who cast ballots at traditional polling place locations on Election Day made up just a fraction of all ballots cast in those contests as voters who mailed in a ballot represented the vast majority of those who participated at all.
“The special elections held in the last year show that a majority of voters choose to cast ballots in the four weeks leading up to Election Day by mail rather than at a polling place on Election Day itself. And for the large numbers who don’t cast ballots at all – whether it’s because they have a busy work schedule, family commitments or just plain forgot – it’s time California and their county elections office try cutting them some slack by giving them a larger window of time to exercise Democracy,” Gonzalez said.
Even by paying for the postage of every voter’s returned mail ballot, setting up Election Day drop-off locations for last minute voters, and allowing for in-person voting before Election Day, the VOTE Act is projected to save taxpayers money when special elections are needed. For example, the cost of every poll voter who cast a ballot in the 40th Senate District special election last March cost $221.43, according to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters. For every mail ballot counted in that race, the taxpayer cost was only $8.73.
For more information on the VOTE Act or to interview Assemblywoman Gonzalez, please contact Evan McLaughlin at (619) 850-2790 or (916) 319-2080.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez represents the 80th Assembly District, which includes Chula Vista, National City and the San Diego neighborhoods of City Heights, Barrio Logan, Paradise Hills, San Ysidro and Otay Mesa. For more information on Assemblywoman Gonzalez, visit http://asmdc.org/members/a80/.