County clerk-recorder asking supervisors to support vote-by-mail plan

If the county conducted its special elections solely by absentee ballot, it could save $60,000 to $80,000 on each election, county Clerk-Recorder Julie Rodewald says.

Rodewald is asking the Board of Supervisors to support statewide legislation that would allow each county to make its own call on whether to go exclusively vote-by-mail. Her request is on the supervisors’ agenda Tuesday.

With an all vote-by-mail system in place, the county would not have to train as many poll workers and rent polling places, among other cost savings.

A special election is one that is held outside the regular election cycle. County voters went through two special elections in 2010: a special primary and a special general election, both held to fill a vacancy in the 15th state Senate District that Republican Sam Blakeslee won.

“Nearly 80 percent of (those) who voted in the two special elections voted by mail,” Rodewald wrote in a report to the Board of Supervisors.

In the November general election, 62 percent voted by mail. As of Jan. 11, more than half the county’s voters had requested “vote by mail” status.

Gov. Jerry Brown wants another special election this June that would allow voters to approve a planned five-year extension of three taxes currently set to expire June 30.

Rodewald told The Tribune that there has been resistance in the Legislature to voting by mail from legislators who fear voter fraud. She said the county has safeguards in place to keep that from occurring.

Two states, Washington and Oregon, conduct all their elections by mail, she said.

Rodewald stressed that she and fellow registrars are seeking to allow a local board to exercise its judgment on a case-by-case basis.

“Approval of the resolution does not mean that all special elections in the county will automatically be conducted entirely by mail ballot,” she wrote.

Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, has introduced Senate Bill 109, which would give counties with populations under 400,000 the option to hold solely vote-by-mail elections when a special election is called.

Blakeslee, who assumed office after the pair of special elections spread over five counties, said he has not reviewed the specifics of the bill, but thinks that “in concept (it) is worth considering because it would help address access and voter participation concerns generally associated with special elections.”

Blakeslee has introduced legislation that would require the state rather than local taxpayers to foot the bill for past and future special elections.