Politics & Government

Election 2014: Everything you need to know about voting in SLO County

Richard Campas votes at the Atascadero Lake Pavilion polling place in 2010.
Richard Campas votes at the Atascadero Lake Pavilion polling place in 2010. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

The Nov. 4 general election will officially begin Monday when the San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder’s Office starts sending out vote-by-mail ballots.

Workers will begin mailing 88,416 ballots in batches. It should take them about a week to get all the ballots in the mail, said Ashley Gibson, deputy clerk-recorder.

“We hope that voters will get them within a week or week and a half,” she said.

Voting by mail accounts for 58 percent of the county’s anticipated total voter registration of about 152,000. Voters have until Oct. 20 to register to vote in the Nov. 4 election.

Voters have until Oct. 28 to request a vote-by-mail ballot, Gibson said. In all, 94,000 vote-by-mail ballots were sent out in June’s primary election.

The close of polls on Election Day is the deadline for returning mail-in ballots. Voters who wait until the last minute to vote should bring their ballot into the elections office or their polling place to make sure it arrives in time to be counted.

Voter trends

County elections officials have noticed several trends this general election compared to the 2010 general election, according to reports compiled 60 days before each election.

First, overall voter registration has decreased by 5,554 voters, or 3.6 percent. However, elections officials expect the numbers to be close to 152,000 by the close of registration Oct. 20.

Second, fewer voters are registering as Democratic or Republican. Democratic voters decreased by 4,446, or 8.3 percent, and Republican voters decreased by 3,738, or 6.1 percent.

Conversely, the number of voters who have chosen to not state a party preference or are registered with a party that is not qualified for the ballot in California has increased by 1,806, or 5.8 percent.

Of the county’s 147,702 voters, 49,258, or 33 percent, are Democrats; 58,111, or 39 percent, are Republicans; and 31,339, or 21 percent, have no party preference.

Who’s on the ballot

On Nov. 4, voters will decide numerous state and local elections including the District 4 county supervisor race, clerk-recorder race and races for city council seats in six of the county’s seven municipalities. Twelve local initiatives are also on ballots.

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, is running for a ninth full term in Congress. She is challenged by Republican Chris Mitchum.

On the state level, Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, is running for a third term. He faces Heidi Harmon, a Democrat. Achadjian outpolled Harmon by a 2-to-1 margin in the primary election.

Two of the higher-profile races are the contest to select a District 4 supervisor and the clerk-recorder race.

Appointed District 4 supervisor incumbent Caren Ray is in a hotly contested race for a full four-year term with Nipomo businesswoman Lynn Compton. The district includes Arroyo Grande, Nipomo and Oceano.

In a countywide election, Assistant Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong is facing off with Deputy Clerk-Recorder Amanda King to replace their boss, Julie Rodewald, who has held the office for 20 years.

Plenty of ballot measures

Three measures to provide additional funding for schools are on the ballot. This money would generally be used to repair facilities, purchase equipment and upgrade utilities.

The largest is a countywide $275 million bond measure for Cuesta College. San Luis Coastal Unified School District is seeking $177 million in bonds. Atascadero Unified School District is seeking $58 million in bonds.

Six cities also have measures on the ballot. Four would increase or extend existing increased city sales taxes to provide additional funding.

The city of Arroyo Grande is asking voters to make it a charter city rather than a general law city. Charter cities generally have greater control over their governance than general law cities.

The city of Atascadero has two measures on its ballot. One would increase sales taxes by a half-percent for 12 years and the other would direct that the additional money be spent on repairing roads.

Voters in Grover Beach are being asked to approve a $48 million bond measure that would be spent on street repairs.

In Morro Bay, voters are being asked to approve an amendment to the city’s municipal code that would change the election of mayor and City Council members to the November general election and eliminate the primary election.

Pismo Beach has two measures on its ballot. One would extend an existing half-percent sales tax increase for 12 years, which the council said it would use to help pay for infrastructure such as undergrounding utilities and improving parks.

The other measure would create a new land use designation for the Price Canyon area to allow dry farming, grazing, parks, trails, schools, public buildings and limited residential development.

Finally, the city of San Luis Obispo is asking voters to extend its half-percent sales-tax increase for eight years. The money would be used for a variety of purposes including open space preservation, public safety and other services.