Our View: A voting solution for June 5 election, for now
February 2, 2018
Plenty of curve balls were thrown at last week's Board of Supervisors meeting.
As Nevada County's registrar of voters, Greg Diaz had a hard task — convince four out of five supervisors to approve about $300,000 for a new voting initiative intended for the June 5 election.
If approved, every registered voter in the county would receive a vote-by-mail ballot. Precinct polls would disappear, replaced by a fewer number of vote centers that are open longer.
It's part of the Voter's Choice Act, which this board previously has endorsed. We still support the initiative, because — let's face it — everyone who has the right to vote should, and making it easier for them to cast a ballot is a good thing.
Last week's curve balls put the voting change in jeopardy. Supervisors balked at handing over $300,000 with what they said was little notice. Diaz snapped back, pointing to a series of public meetings last year about the voting program. Additionally, he sent his staff to supervisors months ago with information about the change.
Let's get straight to it: There's plenty of blame to go around in this scenario. However, instead of pointing fingers, our elected leaders need to get to work.
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After sniping at each other publicly — and in front of California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, no less — it appears that's what they've done privately.
A Tuesday meeting of the county's budget subcommittee led to a drastically different resolution than last week's supervisor meeting. It took a little over an hour for Supervisor Ed Scofield and Diaz to reach agreement.
If approved by supervisors, the county would provide $258,000 for the June 5 election. They reduced the initial $300,000 cost partially by assuming not everyone would return their vote-by-mail ballot, meaning those postage costs aren't needed. Our county gets advanced equipment, we move our voting system into the 21st century and we all get more access to the polls.
This sounds like the win-win-win Padilla referred to at the supervisors' meeting.
This isn't a perfect solution to what happened last week, but it is a solution and it'll work for now.
Diaz and the supervisors obviously had some kind of miscommunication. Yes, it made for messy political theater but there are no real villains here.
What they can do from this point on is ensure everyone knows what page we're on before airing the dirty laundry publicly.
One method of doing that is having a community discussion about the cost of the Voter's Choice Act.
That act gave 14 counties, including Nevada County, the option to implement the new voting method this year. There's no requirement for any county to do it. Only five counties, including ours, opted to try it.
Padilla did a great job trying to sell the program. Problem is, the state isn't covering the full cost. Nevada County can get reimbursed $15,000 for education and outreach efforts, a fraction of the $258,000 proposed.
And remember, this is $258,000 on top of the about $600,000 already budgeted for the election.
Is this the best use of our tax dollars? Should a county that's already a leader in voting by mail shell out more cash to get ballots in every voters' mailbox? Does our community, in fact, want massive change in how its elections are conducted?
Maybe we should vote on it.
The weekly Our View column represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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