Early primary costs for counties likely to be high | SierraSun.com

Early primary costs for counties likely to be high

The state Senate’s decision to move California’s 2008 presidential primary election from June to February will likely present a challenge and added costs in Nevada and Placer Counties.

Approved on a 31-5 vote by the Senate, the measure is now in the hands of the Assembly which will likely send the bill through committees next week.

On Tuesday Sen. Dave Cox, who represents Truckee and North Tahoe, voiced his opposition to moving the presidential primary election to February 2008.

“We still face a multi-billion dollar structural deficit and we have higher priorities than an expensive election,” Cox, R-Fair Oaks said in a statement.

The presidential primary election will likely cost Placer County close to $850,000, said Jim McCauley, Placer County Clerk-Recorder-Registrar of Voters.

The election measure is “very much on our radar,” said Kathleen Smith, Nevada County Clerk-Registrar of Voters. Changing the date of the presidential primaries in California has been an issue for some time. The Legislature’s decision to move the election from June to March back in 1997 didn’t do the job, she said.

In 2004, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation moving the presidential primary elections back to June.

Special elections, such as the October 2003 recall election, cost Nevada County about $150,000, Smith said. A presidential primary election tacks on extra expenses for the county because it is federally mandated, she said.

The Help America Vote Act now requires the county to use a voting system accessible to voters with disabilities in order to provide them with the option to vote privately and independently. Election costs will also increase since it will be a multi-party ballot, Smith said.

As the election measure reads now, the bill states an “intent” to reimburse counties for the costs of the presidential primaries, Smith said.

“That language is too vague,” Smith said. “We would want some unequivocal language that would accommodate a full and timely reimbursement.”

The California Association of Clerks and Elections Officials is urging the election measure include language that would allow counties the option to conduct the primary election by an all-mail ballot, Smith said.

However, the Legislature is not in favor of adding the all-mail option to the measure, she said.

Smith said the California State Association of Counties is prompting the Assembly to amend the measure to more directly address reimbursement costs.

Also, the election measure will add another primary election to 2008, which already has statewide elections in June and November, Smith said.

“It’s going to be tough,” Smith said. “There is such a lack of confidence in voting in our country. The Legislature is not considering that.”

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