Supervisors 'appalled' at Schwarzenegger's choice of dates for state senate election

Arguing that a special election date for the state senate dictated by Gov. Schwarzenegger will depress turnout, overwork employees in the county clerk-recorder’s office, and cost county taxpayers a needless half-a-million dollars, the Board of Supervisors is poised to ask the governor to change the date.

The letter to Schwarzenegger asking for the change, placed on Tuesday’s agenda by Chairman Frank Mecham, says the board is “appalled” that Schwarzenegger set two special elections instead of one to fill the state senate seat vacated by Abel Maldonado when he became lieutenant governor last week.

Schwarzenegger set the special general election for Aug. 17. Under the state election code, a special primary election also must be held, eight weeks before the special general election. That creates another election just for the state senate, on June 22 – two weeks after the regular statewide June 8 primary election.

Schwarzenegger could have, and apparently still could, change the special general election to coincide with the Nov. 2 general election. A special primary would still have to be held, but nonetheless moving the second contest to November would make for one less election.

In its letter to the governor, the board is seeking the Nov. 2 date for the election. Supervisors say the current dates will cost San Luis Obispo County $1 million and the five counties touched by the 15th state senate district $6 million. The other counties which contain a portion of the 15th state senate district are Santa Cruz, Monterey, Santa Clara and Santa Barbara.

Supervisors also noted in their letter that they have not yet been reimbursed the $376,000 for the special election the governor called in May 2009.

The board said it is also concerned about the extra burden placed on its county clerk-recorder’s staff, “extremely dedicated public servants” who already are operating within budgetary constraints.

Having too many elections, supervisors added, tends to depress voter turnout, “rather than enhance our citizens’ trust and respect for government.”

Asked last week about changing the date, Schwarzenegger’s spokesman said Schwarzenegger nominated Maldonado to become lieutenant governor in November and the legislature delayed his appointment, so it is to blame to for any extra expense.

However, Julie Rodewald, San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder, said Schwarzenegger still could have chosen to have the special election in November.

Sacramento insiders say Schwarzenegger likes the mid-summer special election date because Republicans are more likely turn out than Democrats.

The governor also has said delaying the election until November will leave the state senate seat vacant for too long a period.

Officials who conduct elections in the affected counties, as well as the California State Association of Counties have criticized the date the governor chose.

So far, however, there is little visible support in Sacramento for changing the date. Maldonado, whose ascension to higher office created the senate opening, said last week he won’t second guess the governor.