I was sitting in shock when I read that Jerry had moved the voting time for new citizens from seven to 15 days before an election.
I remember the time when Ernie Hawkins and I would guide new citizens who had just become citizens – within five days of the election – to go to the registrar and register and vote in person.
It was one of the proudest moments of their lives – to become Americans who could participate in Democracy. Now the Governor has put off the opportunity to 15 days before the election.
Vote-By-Mail In California
You may recall, I was the sponsor of the bill to open up voting as an Absentee to all – no reason required. It was a hard fight. The mail consultant community was strongly opposed to the bill, as were the powers that be (PTB). It was a “Steven J. Ybarra JD thing,” said the then vice chair of the California Democratic Party. In my mind it was a “working class people” thing. [You know the taxpayers that actually have real jobs that may occasionally keep them from the polls on Election Day.] Ernie Hawkins, then Sacramento County Registrar of Voters, did too. Ernie is and still is one of the foremost experts in elections in the universe.
Ernie then used the approved measure to send out postcards to all voters with a note that stated if they wanted to become permanent absentee ballot (AB) voters they could simply sign and return their postcard. The number of permanent AB voters went up to 40% in a heartbeat. The mail consultants went crazy.
The next bill I sponsored changed the name from Permanent Absentee Ballot to “Mail” Ballot. The mail political potentates again went crazy. The bill got support from Latino legislators and even smart Republican rural assembly members who, like me, were tired of explaining to voters that you did not have to be absent from the county to vote by mail. Today, in some counties, there are 80% of all the voters voting by mail ballot!
Up until last year, the numbers were growing dramatically in the use of mail ballots. Then the political mail potentates saw a chance to kill mail ballots. They put into the budget that counties could no longer require voters to vote by mail even though this is a real cost-saving method of voting. Thank you Debra Bowen! Nevertheless, three counties in California are going to try to move to mail ballot-only systems to save precious financial resources. The logic to block mail ballot systems is inescapable, the cost of the ballots that came in without a stamp was purportedly too high and a cost to the state. Horse Manure!
Here is the question of the day, what is Jerry doing?
Jerry bought this pile of manure instead of consulting with the counties who wanted the authority to do any election by all mail ballot with a vote of the county board of supervisors. This would have saved the state one hundred million dollars! I forgot he is allowing a test project in three counties! Wowoowowoo!
In addition, the counties wanted to end the 15-day limit and make Election Day registration a reality just like seven other states have. This would have saved the state and counties between $20 and $50 million. That is a lot of cops no?
Finally, the counties wanted to end the process of having to host the election of county central committees on their ballots a savings of $50 million to the counties. I mean, why am I paying for the election of the Republicants to their county central committees? That is a lot of roads and water! What did Brown do in the face of these requests? Nothing! Instead of taking the opportunity to make real structural change, Jerry seems to be in the corner letting someone else make the usual 10 to 40% cuts.
An opportunity to save $200 million real dollars with no harm to anyone would have been an old Jerry Brown statement.
So what do we have now – politics as usual. I am sad. New citizens and Latinos may have to again face the Orange County fascists with their voter intimidation methods because of a lack of spine in the Governor’s office. In addition, we lost $200 million of real money.
Steven J. Ybarra JD is a retired civil rights attorney who operates a consultant company in California. He is a member of the California Democratic State Party and is Chair of the Chicano Latino Caucus Voting Rights Committee and a long time political activist. Contact Steven at: [email protected],