BY PERRY SMITH AND LEON WORDEN
The county’s Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan is asking Los Angeles County supervisors to deny a request from every school board in the Santa Clarita Valley and the Newhall County Water Board, which are seeking to change elections to even years.
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Over the last six weeks, each local board has sought county approval to move elections. A vote on whether the move will get approval from the county’s Board of Supervisors is slated for Tuesday.
Hart district, Saugus Union, Newhall, Sulphur Springs and Castaic school districts, as well as the Santa Clarita Community College District that oversees College of the Canyons want to move elections from odd years to even years so they’d be on the same ballot as governor or president, and ostensibly, improve voter participation.
Newhall County Water District officials are seeking the change for the same reason.
The change of dates would also save the boards money, because the county would pick up a majority of the tab for the bigger ballot.
The Hart district, for example, could save more than $100,000 with the move, according to district figures.
This was the first local agency to make the move, and the other school boards quickly followed suit.
Several officials, including Hart board member Gloria Mercado-Fortine and Saugus Union board President Judy Umeck, have also expressed concern about the California Voter Rights Act.
A court decision regarding the 2001 law prompted legal action in the Antelope Valley, where Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris is suing the city of Palmdale, which has a school that bears his name, over the California Voters Rights Act.
All local school and water board members are elected at large (instead of each board seat representing a unique geographic area), and the Voting Rights Act prohibits an at-large election if it “impairs the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of its choice or its ability to influence the outcome of an election.”
The local agencies hired a consultant to study the local demographics. The agencies say that according to the study, dividing board seats geographically wouldn’t “necessarily actually increase minority voting power.”
But there is “ample evidence,” the agencies said, “that moving to even-year elections would substantially increase voting power in each of the districts.”
The county’s registrar-recorder said the county’s decades-old balloting system is not equipped to handle a massive influx of elections.
The move also gives all elected officials an automatic one-year extension of their current terms. In the Saugus Union district, for example, Umeck, Paul De La Cerda and Doug Bryce would be up for election in 2014 instead of 2013; Stephen Winkler and Rose Koscielny would be up for election in 2016.
“The InkaVote Plus voting system uses a ballot that is a modified version of old IBM punch cards, introduced in Los Angeles County during the 1968 elections,” Logan said in a report to the supervisors. “While these ballots are compact and facilitate speedy tabulation, they also offer very limited ballot capacity.”
“The ballot cards have only 312 vote positions,” Logan said. “A significant share of the county is using 75 percent or more ballot capacity in November even-year elections.”
Complicating matters, Logan said, new state legislation moved all state ballot measures to the November election. No more state propositions on the June primary ballot – further limiting the capacity of the county’s November ballots.
“The 88 cities, 85 school districts and numerous other jurisdictions within the county cannot all be accommodated on even-year election dates,” Logan said.
“Your board’s policy since 1981,” he told the supervisors, “has been to deny requests for consolidation of local elections with statewide primary or general elections.”
The city of Santa Clarita was formed in 1987, and holds its elections in April of even years.
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Source: Santa Clarita News