How do you vote when casting your ballot in a local, primary or general election in Ventura County? If you’re like almost half of all Ventura County voters, you choose what is popularly known as an absentee ballot, or what we now mostly call VBM — Vote By Mail.
Here’s another question: Would it surprise you to know that the recent state budget deal enacted in Sacramento may kill your opportunity to vote by mail in the next county election? This is the shocking result of a sly move buried on page 620 of the $85.9 billion state budget. It was little noted at the time, but I believe it could be long remembered, and for very unfortunate reasons.
Here’s the situation: As our state officials searched for ways to deal with our protracted budget deficit, they slashed one area of funding that’s been in place for decades: Reimbursement to all 58 California counties for the costs incurred in conducting regular elections and making specific arrangements for voters requiring special assistance when exercising their right to participate in our democracy.
This means Ventura County voters and all Californians are closer than ever to seeing the following services disappear:
n Permanent and temporary absentee ballots access,
n Handicapped-voter access information,
n Fifteen-day close of voter registration, and
n Tabulation of ballot by precinct.
Technically, what the state did is suspend a mandate on the counties to provide for these and other voting services, for which Sacramento has always provided reimbursements. Now that the mandate has been lifted, the state proudly boasts that it has “saved” $33 million out of a deficit of $26 billion and a state budget more than three times that amount.