With more voters casting ballots by mail, Santa Clara County may start offering prepaid postage as soon as this fall.
According to the Registrar of Voters (ROV), which will present its findings on the subject to the Board of Supervisors today, the county could foot the cost of return postage and then collect reimbursement from cities and special districts. The discussion comes as part of a broader review of the ROV after slow returns in last year's election put the agency under the microscope.
About 70 percent of voters in the South Bay vote by mail. Some precincts in the county only offer mail-in ballots, though districts limited to just vote-by-mail elections already get prepaid postage. With voter turnout in the last election at its lowest in decades, election officials suggest the convenience of all-mail elections could encourage more people to vote. The tricky part is figuring out how to pay for it.
County attorneys are studying the possibility of raising allowing cities to raise candidate filing fees to cover the cost of postage.
By law, the county has to absorb costs for federal, state and county contests. So the cost recovery would have to come from cities and special districts. With only a few school and special district elections on the ballot this November, the cost of postage will amount to about $31,000, all of which could be reimbursed from local jurisdictions.
In the June 2016, primary, however, the only local election on the ballot will be for the city of San Jose, which means the county would have to absorb the cost of postage for the other contests. Assuming a two-card ballot with 240,000 returned by mail, the county estimates a prepaid postage cost of $167,000 for next year's primary with only $25,000 eligible for reimbursement from San Jose.
Still, the county would have to budget up-front postage costs from the general fund, the ROV report notes. The requested reimbursement rate for local jurisdictions would be about one cent per registered voter for each contest on the ballot.
To gauge support for the proposal, the county surveyed 15 local jurisdictions, a dozen of which responded favorably, for the most part. Only Palo Alto and Los Altos brought up concerns about whether the investment would even boost voter turnout.
- Supervisors will consider a resolution to ban all county-funded travel to states that have enacted laws allowing discrimination based sexual orientation—namely Indiana and Arkansas.
- County officials are cracking down on illegal fireworks this year.
- Months after dedicating $8 million to Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, the county may kick in another $6.5 million to help buy the place and save 400 people from relocation if the landlord sells the place to developers. "As development pressures continue to increase in Santa Clara County, more and more working class families are finding it harder and harder to keep their foothold in our community," Supervisor Joe Simitian wrote in a memo supporting the allocation. "Rather than drive them out, we have an opportunity to ensure they will always be welcome at the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park. ...If we lose 117 units of affordable housing in one of the hottest property markets in Country’s history, there is no guarantee they will ever be replaced."
WHAT: Board of Supervisors meets
WHEN: 9am Tuesday
WHERE: County Government Center, 70 W. Hedding St., San Jose
INFO: Clerk of the Board, 408.299.5001