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Supervisors nix four satellite voting offices


Last updated 10/29/2019 at 5:20pm

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The San Diego County Board of Supervisors Tuesday rejected a proposal to establish four satellite voting offices, after some members complained it was an unfunded mandate.

The vote was 3-2, with Supervisors Jim Desmond and Kristin Gaspar in opposition. The measure required four votes for passage.

The proposal stemmed in part from state legislation, recently signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, that allows Californians to register to vote on election day at local polling places and voting centers.

In advance of the March primary election, the four satellite offices would cost nearly $1 million: $350,000 for salaries and benefits, and $550,000 for services and supplies. According to county documents, federal and state monies would provide a partial reimbursement.

County Registrar Michael Vu said if supervisors didn't move forward with opening satellite offices, it could result in longer lines and potentially put the county at risk for not certifying the next election within 30 days. That would lead to the county seeking an extension through the courts, Vu added.

While board Chairwoman Dianne Jacob voted in favor of the proposal, she said the state law demonstrates how Sacramento is "out of touch with reality and what takes place on the local level.''

Because so many county residents vote via a mail-in ballot, every registered voter should receive one, Jacob said.

In July, the board directed Chief Administrative Officer Helen Robbins-Meyer to conduct a vote center model feasibility study and report within 120 days. The vote center model allows those registered to cast a ballot at any center within their county.

The study also covered the feasibility of pilot vote center locations, along with the security and staffing; voter fraud prevention; comparing costs of the current system, an all-mail ballot model and the vote center model; and a possible independent audit of the voter registration list.

Robbins-Meyer said the new state law requires the need for satellite offices, where staff will be able to handle registration duties.

"We don't have the opportunity to say just because it's unfunded, we're not going do it,'' she said. "It would be very helpful, I would say critical, to have these satellite locations. So, I urge you to give us these satellite locations.''

Desmond said while he understands the need for satellite offices, the county shouldn't have to pay for them. Desmond added that he was glad the proposal didsn't take away regional polling places.

Gaspar said San Diego County is one of the top two for turnout in California, and it's easy to register to vote, including via the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Supervisor Greg Cox said that as much as people like to have polling places in a neighborhood garage or living room, "that's going to be a thing of the past'' as mail-in ballots become even more popular.


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