Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan is urging the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to shoot down a request from every school board in the Santa Clarita Valley – and the Newhall County Water Board – to move their elections to even years, when more people vote.
Each local agency board voted within the last few months to switch election years – but it’s not up to them. The county supervisors would have to say OK.
The supervisors are scheduled to decide Tuesday.
The school boards – COC, Hart, Saugus, Newhall, Sulphur Springs and Castaic – and the water board want to move their elections from odd years to even years, when they’d be on the same ballot as governor or president, to “enhance voter participation and further increase the percentage of voters participating in the school (or water) board election.”
The move would save the local agencies money, since each would bear a smaller proportional cost of a bigger ballot.
Plus, the local school boards say they’re concerned about the California Voting Rights Act, which seeks to ensure minority group access and participation in elections.
All local school and water board members are elected at large (instead of each board seat representing a unique geographic area), and the Voting Rights Act prohibits an at-large election if it “impairs the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of its choice or its ability to influence the outcome of an election.”
The local agencies hired a consultant to study the local demographics. The agencies say that according to the study, dividing board seats geographically wouldn’t “necessarily actually increase minority voting power.”
But there is “ample evidence,” the agencies said, “that moving to even-year elections would substantially increase voting power in each of the districts.”
Moving the elections would also give each board member an automatic one-time, one-year extension of their terms. There would be no 2013 election, so board terms that otherwise expire in 2013 would expire in November 2014 instead.
Not so fast, says the registrar-recorder.
The county’s antiquated ballots can’t handle any more of those little holes.
“The InkaVote Plus voting system uses a ballot that is a modified version of old IBM punch cards, introduced in Los Angeles County during the 1968 elections,” Logan said in a report to the supervisors. “While these ballots are compact and facilitate speedy tabulation, they also offer very limited ballot capacity.”
“The ballot cards have only 312 vote positions,” Logan said. “A significant share of the county is using 75 percent or more ballot capacity in November even-year elections.”
Complicating matters, Logan said, new state legislation moved all state ballot measures to the November election. No more state propositions on the June primary ballot – further limiting the capacity of the county’s November ballots.
“The 88 cities, 85 school districts and numerous other jurisdictions within the county cannot all be accommodated on even-year election dates,” Logan said.
“Your board’s policy since 1981,” he told the supervisors, “has been to deny requests for consolidation of local elections with statewide primary or general elections.”
The Castaic Lake Water Agency beat the 1981 cutoff for even-year elections.
The city of Santa Clarita – which formed after the 1981 cutoff – holds its elections in April of even years. Explorations into consolidating city elections have met similar resistance from the county registrar-recorder’s office.
Logan is asking the supervisors to “make a finding that the ballot style and voting equipment used in Los Angeles County will not accommodate consolidation” and to deny the requests.