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Sharp concerns over crowded ballot

Voters in Ventura County cast ballots during a recent election. (Photo: Spirit of America, Shutterstock)

California’s clogged, high-stakes November ballot is riveting voters’ attention – and raising fears among those who have to count the votes.

It’s a perfect storm: Intense interest in the presidential general election, a deluge of six dozen ballot initiatives cleared for circulation, labor-intensive signature-verification requirements and the likelihood that the potential initiatives will be submitted in a tight time window, thus further straining resources.

“This is the first presidential election cycle where the shift of state measures from the primary to the general election has occurred.”

Added to that are predictions of an unusually high voter turnout.

The state’s top elections officer, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, has asked for $32 million to allow the counties to hire additional, temporary workers to handle the expanded workload. The counties’ elections officials, who do the heavy lifting in verifying signatures and counting votes, have joined him.

The ballot initiatives present the biggest problem.

“This is the first presidential election cycle where the shift of state measures from the primary to the general election has occurred,” Dean Logan, the Los Angeles County registrar told a joint legislative committee on April 14. L.A. County has 4.8 million registered voters.

At least 72 measures have been cleared to circulate petitions to capture voters’ signatures, and another 41 failed to qualify.

“That volume (of ballot initiatives) alone is unprecedented, but the impact of checking the petitions in parallel to administering the presidential primary will put a strain on county resources that simply was not anticipated when the laws changing the date for state measures were passed and when counties adopted their 2015-16 budgets” he said. “The petition-checking process and the administration of the primary election intersect  — they cannot really be viewed as exclusive of one another.”

Thus far, at least four statewide ballot initiatives have officially qualified for the Nov. 8 general election, and four more have collected sufficient signatures and are awaiting placement. The measures deal with education funding, marijuana legalization, safe-sex for porn actors, a referendum on the plastic bag ban, infrastructure funding, stricter limits on revenue bond financing, and more.

A ninth measure, which would increase the minimum wage to $15, is expected to be pulled from the ballot following the passage of similar legislation signed by the governor.

But as of Tuesday, at least 72 measures have been cleared to circulate petitions to capture voters’ signatures, and another 41 failed to qualify.

Fifteen proposed ballot initiatives, all circulating, have received at least 25 percent of the signatures to meet the threshold to qualify – about 365,880 signatures for a statute and 585,407 to amend the constitution.

Based on past experience, most proposed initiatives won’t make the ballot. But some will, and observers are expecting to see 15 propositions on the statewide ballot, and probably more. Some even see 20 or 25 measures on the ballot.

California has 17.26 million registered voters, about 70.2 percent of the total pool of those who are eligible to vote, about 24.6 million.

Statewide, according to the latest state report, current voter registration is nearly 2 percent less than in 2012, when it was 72.1 percent. But the latest voter registration numbers are almost certain to rise as the elections near and the major parties launch get-out-the-vote efforts.

 


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