A bill that would drastically change the way San Diego County’s special elections are run passed without any Republican help – it got just two votes total from GOP lawmakers in Sacramento.
It might surprise you to learn, then, that when the idea first emerged, Democrats helped lead the charge against it.
How some leading party members reversed course in just a few years says a lot about the current political landscape and the future of elections in San Diego County.
Democrats wrote the current bill – which would create a five-year pilot program in San Diego County that would make special elections for open seats run primarily by mail, with a drastically reduced number of polling places – and they led the political charge for it.
But Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the bill’s author, remembers how hard she fought to kill the idea of vote-by-mail elections years ago.
“What happens I think so often is there is this attachment to the status quo, there’s fear about changing things,” Gonzalez said.
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@voiceofsandiego If people can even figure those out anymore or know what they are for that matter, and separate themselves.
All elections in Oregon are vote by mail as a result of a 1998 citizens' initiative. It is very popular. It's cheaper, easier for voters and there have been very few problems with it, certainly far fewer than with in person voting. People are made to wait for many hours in polling places in some states.
The State of Washington has had mail in voting for all elections for a few years. There have been no problems and it has increased voting significantly. CA Republicans don't like the bill for an obvious reason - the greater the voter turnout - the more it favors democrats.
@bgetzel One thing that's really interesting is that it was Republicans in some other states who spearheaded the vote-by-mail efforts. An expert I talked with said when looking at the politics surrounding vote-by-mail, it's absolutely necessary to dig down into the immediate elections each party is facing right now in each particular geography. You're right, everyone knows the Dems in San Diego County are struggling and the low turnout generally tends to kill them. But one thing I hope people also take away from this piece is that San Diego County officials presented this bill to politicians as a serious cost-saving and "logical" measure. Michael Vu and others here like Geoff Patnoe are really coming at this issue from as nonpartisan a perspective as one could reasonably imagine. Elections in San Diego County are pathetic and costly. They're trying to change that. And no matter what we all personally think about the bill, I'd bet we could all agree that the current status quo of voting processes in San Diego County is a bit sad on several levels and I think any discussions about ways to move forward and improve are important.
@Chris Glenn @Ari Bloomekatz @bgetzel Actually even some rural precincts (with less than 250 voters) in California are 100% (required) vote-by-mail. The general findings of the academic research is that it tends to increase turnout in (generally low turnout) special elections, but can hurt turnout in (high turnout) general elections. So this bill, which applies only to special elections, strikes a good balance for improving turnout and reducing costs.
You can be certain that each party checked very carefully to see if voters inclined toward their points of view and candidates were more or less likely to vote under this system. How the parties line up on this tells you what they learned. The rest is just verbal political cover.
@Chris Brewster There's a lot of truth in this comment. Even the smartest voting/elections experts all say that the people with the best voting data are of course political parties/campaigns/consultants. To me, that's part of the biggest problem here. Everyone can argue that they're defending the rights of everyone and voting in the best interests of everyone when there's not a public wealth of data out there. I spent a little time yesterday going through some of the data Michael Vu and others have collected, and while it's fascinating and important, the overall vote-by-mail discussion across the nation is hindered greatly by a dearth of deep and expansive research.
As if Republicans care about MALDEF or any other civil rights groups. Their goal is to disenfranchise as many minority voters as possibly. Keep them from voting. The less that vote the better chances they have at the pols.
I'm trying to wrap my head around the idea that vote-by-mail can somehow disenfranchise the disabled. I would think that having a mail-in-ballot would increase the possibility of voting for someone who has a hard time moving, since they would be able to vote from the comfort of their own home. Likewise, if a voter is visually impaired, I believe they'd probably have aids agh home that wouldn't necessarily be portable.
In regards to minority voters, MALDEF's opposition seems suspect, too. Most new citizens are struggling to get an economic foothold, often holding two or more jobs. Getting to the polls would be difficult for someone who has to work many hours at minimum wage, so voting from home seems like a no-brainer.
Things that make you go "hmmm…."
And when the postal worker is caught throwing ballots in the dumpster then what? I am registered to vote by mail but I rarely mail it and end up dropping it off at one of the many local polls. Streamline the polling stations. Maybe a pilot program to have polling stations at malls and on military bases where people will be reminded. Walmart always have someone outside collecting signatures for something. Set up a polling tent in the parking lot.
@Craig Carter I trust postal workers with my ballot more than poll workers.
This is hardly new territory. We can already sign up to become mail-in voters in general and primary elections. Lorena did great on this one.