Placing items on ballot comes at a cost

ENCINITAS — As City Council recently grappled with whether to allow voters to decide the selection process for mayor, the cost of placing the question on the ballot was an issue for some members.According to Donna Fobar, a clerk at the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, the total cost of placing items on the ballot is a weighted average based on the number of items, the number of registered voters of a particular municipality and the number of participating entities.

The estimates given for the November 2012 election are based on the 2008 presidential election. The city of Encinitas has indicated it will place three council seats as well as a measure on the ballot. The measure costs between $17,000 and $23,000, while the council seats cost $14,000 to $20,000 each.

The price includes six pages for candidate statements in total and three explanatory pages for the measure. The estimate is slightly higher for this election cycle because of a new legislative requirement that the ballots also include Chinese translation. The other languages available include Vietnamese, Pilipino, Spanish and English.

The cost estimates are as of Dec. 31, 2011. The actual report for billing purposes will be generated after the final number of registered voters and total number of participating entities is calculated, according to Fobar.

There are 37,620 registered voters in the city of Encinitas. Because the November election draws more ballot initiatives and more participating entities than primary or special elections, Fobar said the estimates given are a good gauge of what it will cost the city. “We’re usually very accurate but there are always possible variations so that’s why we give a range (of cost),” Fobar said.

The costs of administering a local election are just part of democracy according to several local citizens. “The cost to the city to put something on the ballot is small potatoes,” said 87-year-old Dave Williams, a frequent Election Day volunteer. “We really should let the people decide what happens in this city and the whole country for that matter,” he said. “You see that our representatives don’t always make very good decisions.”

While Williams didn’t elaborate on which decisions he was referring to, his neighbor and fellow volunteer, Ruth Turner, was less hesitant. “It doesn’t matter what the question is, it should go to the people (to decide),” she said.

“I personally would like to vote for the mayor in this city but the City Council decided we shouldn’t have a say so now I’m stuck with whoever they decide to pick for a year.” The council recently changed the term of mayor to two years from one.

“I’m a taxpayer and it doesn’t bother me one bit to pay my share for an election,” Turner said. “I’m sure the county registrar’s office isn’t making a killing on charging to put something on the ballot.”

The city clerk’s office said it will have exact numbers for the cost of the November election after the ballots are printed.

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