Commentary: (How) Do You Vote?

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, November 16, 2007

Only about 18 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the historic election that merged four independent school districts in North Sacramento into one unified district. Significantly, fewer than half those went to the polls. 63 percent mailed in their ballots. Nonetheless, Sacramento voting officials were required to set up 38 polling stations at a cost of $2,000 a piece. At one polling station only 20 voters cast ballots all day. Yolo County had a similar experience. One polling station was visited by only six voters.

To save money, some county registrars advocate going to all mail elections. There’s a danger in that. Voter surveys consistently show that Latino, African American and low income voters overwhelmingly cast their votes at polling stations on Election Day.

Given that, any mail-in system must provide reasonable and convenient options for citizens who want to vote in person to do so. But it makes no sense for counties to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to set up polling stations that very few people use. As vote-by-mail becomes more popular, we should be open to some changes in election laws.


Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.