Capitol Alert
The latest on California politics and government
March 10, 2011

With today’s deadline for budget action delayed by Gov. Jerry Brown, there’s a major question bubbling under the dome: How late will be too late for lawmakers to put Brown’s tax extension proposal on the ballot in a June special election?

Democrats and Brown are shooting for a June 7 vote, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg wants floor votes on Monday.

But legislators are notorious for pushing the envelope on deadlines, changing election laws as they go to suit their particular timetable in a given year.

Even Steinberg wouldn’t rule out action after Monday for a June 7 vote. “I think that there is always a couple of days of flexibility,” he said.

All this makes local election officials a little twitchy.

They say that window for action is closing fast, pointing to the calendar of printing deadlines and public display requirements laid out in the election code — all of which the Legislature could shorten.

“We’ve been pretty firm on saying or reiterating that there frankly isn’t a lot of wiggle room because of what it takes to put together a full statewide election,” said Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan.

The shortest time span for putting a measure on a statewide election occurred in 2009, when a May special election was set 88 days before the polls opened, according to the Secretary of State. County officials point to that benchmark, which falls tomorrow for the June 7 target date, as the day they need to start the process for putting on the statewide contest.

“Deadlines exist for good reason and that’s because that’s how long it takes election officials to do an election well,” said Santa Cruz County Clerk Gail Pellerin, president of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials. “Anything you do to that time line just means it is harder — and maybe nearly impossible — for us to do what we need to do.”

Allowing enough time for supplies and printing orders is a major concern for Sacramento County Registrar Jill Lavine, who has put vendors on notice that she could soon be calling on them.

“My budget’s tight. I don’t have a lot of extra envelopes back there,” she said. “Statewide, a lot of us use the same ballot printer and we’re going to hit that one printer at the same time.”

Here’s a sampling of some of the key dates once an election is called. Click here to see how that timetable was truncated for the May 2009 special election.

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