Despite Santa Clarita Valley governing boards’ approval of election changes in response to California Voting Rights Act concerns, an outdated county system won’t be able to handle the changes for at least another four years, officials said.
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“Our current voting system both the devices we use at the polls and, more importantly, the tabulations system we use… can not run a cumulative voting system,” said Efrain Escobedo, governmental and legislative affairs manager for the Los Angeles County’s Registrar-Recorder’s Office.
“It’s just the limitations of the technology,” he said, referring to a voting system created in the late 1960s.
And there’s no statewide precedent for how cumulative voting — a system that would allow a voter to cast up to three votes for one candidate in a three-seat race — is to appear on the ballot.
“There’s also no voting system currently approved for use in California that can actually do that, either,” he said.
California’s secretary of state approved the Hart Intercivic’s 6.2.1 System, which includes a cumulative method for balloting, according to information from FairVote.
The concern is something Santa Clarita Valley governing boards are watching because two — the city and the Santa Clarita Community College District — have already sought a move to cumulative voting, which isn’t something the county can handle.
Several lawsuit settlements seeking to correct CVRA violations in Santa Clarita Valley elections were approved earlier this year, and for the city, the settlement included a move to cumulative voting and a move to line up the city’s election with the general ballot in November.
The county could not handle either change, which puts the responsibility on the city to hold its own “concurrent” elections.
This shouldn’t be a problem for the city, school boards or any other publicly elected race, according to an attorney involved in the CVRA lawsuits.
“(The county’s outdated system) does nothing at all to stop the city of Santa Clarita or the Santa Clarita Community College District or any other jurisdiction from running concurrent elections and not relying on the outdated election machinery of Los Angeles County,” said Kevin Shenkman, the attorney for the plaintiffs in three Santa Clarita Valley CVRA lawsuits.
A city official said Friday that there has been no look into the cost of creating a cumulative ballot or holding a concurrent election.
In fact, city attorneys recently filed a brief in their CVRA lawsuit that questions whether they have the right to make the agreed-upon changes in their approved settlement.
“We are currently looking at what’s going on in the suit because our voting system does not accommodate that type of voting,” he said.
It’s also been a longstanding policy for the county not to allow local municipal elections — which are often consolidated into a November ballot in odd-numbered years — to even-numbered years when they would line up with the general election ballots, Escobedo said.
Shenkman said such a policy would be a violation of California Elections Code Section 10402.5, which states such a policy could be in place on a case-by-case basis.
Local school officials sought to move their elections last May ahead of the lawsuits, but the move was rebuffed by a 2-2-1 county vote.
The issue with the system is one of capacity, he said.
The county’s registrar, who came to Los Angeles County after a series of controversies in Washington, according to a Seattle Post-Intelligencer report, is working on a new system expected to transform what voters will see at the polls.
But county officials are still unsure of what the new system will look like or when it would be ready, Escobedo said.
“We’re currently looking at it as a whole in the county, modernizing our voting system and trying to look at expanding capacity,” Escobedo said, adding the process began in 2009 and presents a number of very unique challenges because the county caters to one of the largest voting blocs in the country.
“Right now, it’s hard to pinpoint a specific implementation date (for a new system),” Escobedo said, “but right now, we know the earliest would be 2018 or even 2020.”
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Source: Santa Clarita News