Editorial: Go out and vote today

With two strong candidates who are ideological opposites on many issues, today’s primary race for the 15th District state Senate seat will depend in large part on which party can get out the vote.

Overall, Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district by 6 percent, but because Republicans traditionally turn out more for special elections, this is not a sure victory for Democrats.

Also, with two third-party candidates on the ballot, it’s possible that no clear winner will emerge today, in which case there will be an Aug. 17 runoff.

The timing of these special elections has been a huge point of contention with Democrats, who accused the governor of deliberately scheduling two special elections — rather than consolidating one with a general election — to give Republicans an edge.

Based on economics alone, we agree it was a horrible move. It would have collectively saved counties $3 million — $500,000 for our county alone — had one of the elections been consolidated with a general election.

It would be a travesty if, on top of having to spend money our local governments can ill afford, the turnout is so low that it puts the decision-making power in the hands of a small minority of voters.

If you’ve already voted by mail, good for you. Your job is done. If you vote by mail but haven’t yet sent in your ballot, it’s too late to do so now. Instead, drop your ballot off today at any polling place or at a county elections office. For your convenience, the elections office at 1055 Monterey St. in San Luis Obispo will operate a drive-through drop station from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

If you vote at the polls, be aware that some polling places have changed since the June 8 election, so check your sample ballot or go to www.slocounty.ca.gov/clerk to verify your polling place.

Much is riding on this election. Don’t rely on others to make your choice for you. Remember to vote.

Cities need hiring leeway

The county grand jury was right on target when it questioned the wisdom of electing — rather than appointing — city clerks and treasurers. Cities should be able to recruit the most highly qualified individuals for these jobs, rather than crossing their fingers and hoping that candidates reasonably suited to the posts will stand for election.

Many cities in California already have switched to appointed clerks and treasurers, but three cities in San Luis Obispo County — Arroyo Grande, Atascadero and Paso Robles — continue to directly elect them. Tonight, the Arroyo Grande City Council will consider putting measures on the November ballot to switch to appointed clerks and treasurers — a move in keeping with the grand jury’s recent recommendations.

The Atascadero City Council also will discuss the grand jury report tonight but is not scheduled to vote on whether to put the issue on the ballot.

We strongly urge the Arroyo Grande City Council to move forward with the ballot measures, and we urge the Atascadero City Council to at least consider that as a possibility. After all, city residents do not directly elect planning directors, police chiefs or city managers. Why, then, elect city clerks and treasurers?

These offices have evolved into highly technical positions that require training, education and thorough knowledge of the latest legal requirements. Cities should be able to cast a wide net in recruiting candidates — not depend on an election process that requires no particular credentials, aside from residency.

Consider, too, that in some instances these positions are held by individuals who agree to run for office — often because they meet residency requirements — but then turn the reins over to city staffers who carry out the actual duties. Cities are then on the hook for providing costly health benefits to officials occupying what are essentially ceremonial positions.

Based on potential cost savings alone, the move to appointed positions makes sense.

We commend the county grand jury for raising this issue, and we urge the cities of Arroyo Grande, Paso Robles and Atascadero to follow through by bringing it to their voters.