Absentee Ballot

By Martin Wisckol / Staff Columnist
June 14, 2015 – Updated 10:42 p.m.

The latest Sacramento proposal to spur voter turnout would radically reduce the number of polling places and would send ballots to every registered voter. Voters could then mail them back, drop them off or vote at one of the remaining polling places

Secretary of State Alex Padilla, along with two Democratic state senators, announced Wednesday that they would amend an existing bill – which currently calls for a largely technical change to the sample ballot – to reflect the proposal, which is modeled after a new system in place in Colorado. The change is targeted to begin in 2018.

“California ranked 43rd in voter turnout nationally for the 2014 General Election,” Padilla said in a news release. “This problem cannot be ignored.”

The turnout of eligible California voters in November was 31 percent, a record low. Colorado saw 57 percent turnout. In the 2010 midterm general election, Colorado’s turnout was only 6 percentage points better than California’s.

Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley, in his capacity as president of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials, has been studying the proposal and called it “a huge change” from the existing system.

The approximately 1,300 polling places now used in Orange County would be replaced by about 100 “vote centers” where voters could cast or hand deliver ballots, Kelley said. Additionally, there would be 24-hour “ballot drop-off” boxes for those who prefer that to the U.S. Postal Service. The vote centers and drop-off boxes would be open beginning 10 days before the election.

While there would be additional upfront costs, the reduction in manpower and voting machine requirements would ultimately make the system cheaper for taxpayers, Kelley said.

Kelley’s clerks and election officials group has not yet taken a position on the plan.

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