NEWS-LEDGER – OCT 12, 2011 –
Steve Marschke, News-Ledger Editor
Yolo County will run a “pilot” program for the state testing out the process of holding all-mail ballots, where polling stations are all but phased out of the election process. In August, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 413, a bill authored by Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis) that gave that authority to the county.
Sometime after Jan. 1, the county will try out the process on a county-wide vote that will not include such “big” ballots as next fall’s general election and presidential vote, said Susan Patenaude-Vigil, an assistant clerk-recorder with Yolo.
“By law, it won’t occur on an election that is the same date as a statewide primary or a general election,” she said.
All-mail ballots have already been held in Yolo for some local special elections – including school district measures in Davis and Esparto. But AB 413 will let Yolo test out an expansion of their use.
In an all-mail vote, the county elections department (led by Clerk/Recorder Freddie Oakley) will mail out ballots, and voters will be asked to mail them back in or drop them off at an authorized vacation. But they might more accurately be called “mostly-mail” elections:
“According to the assembly bill, there will be at least one drop-off location in each city that is accessible for 28 days leading up to the election, and at least one polling place. . . open on the day of the election where people can request a ballot,” said Patenaude-Vigil.
If a city requests more drop-off boxes or more polling places, they will be provided, she added. So far, there hasn’t been a lot of talk from the cities about how many such locations are needed.
One of the reasons for the push to phase in all-mail ballots is that more voters are already asking for permanent “Vote by Mail” status – what used to be called “absentee ballots,” said Assemblymember Yamada’s office.
Another reason is that it is hard, and expensive, to set up polling places staffed by pollworkers.
“Back when I first started in the ‘80s, there were elderly people who weren’t working who would do it,” said Patenaude-Vigil. Now, you have families where everyone is working.”
The pilot program is scheduled to run from 2012 until Jan. 1, 2018, and Yolo County will be required to report back to the state on its experiences.
“We look forward to conducting this study and expect to find that these elections save money and improve voter turnout in local elections,” said Clerk-Recorder Freddie Oakley in a press release.
Copyright News-Ledger 2011