Voters enter and exit San Diego County Registrar of Voters Office in Kearny Mesa. Photo by Ken Stone

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors Tuesday rejected a proposal to establish four satellite voting offices, after some members characterized it as an unfunded mandate.

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

The proposal stemmed in part from new state legislation, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, because it allows Californians to register to vote on election day.

In advance of the March primary election, the county would have had to pay:

  • nearly $1 million for four satellite offices
  • $350,000 for salaries and benefits, and
  • $550,000 for services and supplies

According to county documents, the federal and state governments would have provided partial reimbursement.

County Registrar Michael Vu said if supervisors didn’t move forward with opening satellite offices, it could result in longer lines. In addition, the county might be at risk for not certifying the next election within 30 days.

That could lead the county to seeking extension through the courts, Vu added.

Chairwoman Dianne Jacob voted in favor of the proposal. But she said 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 feasibility study on vote centers. The vote center model allows those registered to cast a ballot at any site within their county.

The study also covered the feasibility of pilot vote center locations, along with 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 audit of the voter registration list.

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

“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 he understands the need, but the county shouldn’t have to pay for them.

Gaspar said San Diego County is one of the top two for turnout in California, and it’s easy to register to vote. She cited the Department of Motor Vehicles as an example.

Supervisor Greg Cox said that as much as people like to have polling places near their homes, “that’s going to be a thing of the past” because of the popularity of mail-in ballots.

– City News Service

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