It’s been an expensive few months for counties holding special elections to fill legislative and congressional seats. And it’s not over yet. San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties have had two special ballots already to replace former state Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, after her election to Congress in November. Now both counties will have to hold at least one, and probably two, special elections to replace Assemblywoman Norma Torres, who will be sworn in today as Negrete McLeod’s successor, in the 52nd Assembly District. Riverside, San Diego and Imperial counties had to put on a special election to replace former state Sen. Juan Vargas in the 40th Senate District. Fortunately for the counties’ coffers, then-Assemblyman Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, won the March 12 ballot outright, avoiding the need for a runoff. There are more special elections in the offing in San Diego, Los Angeles and the Central Valley. With each ballot costing around $1 million, counties are rallying around legislation sponsored by San Bernardino County that calls for state reimbursement of special election costs in 2012 and 2013.
The measure, Senate Bill 519 by state Sen. Bill Emmerson, R-Redlands, faces a key test today. The Senate Appropriations Committee will act on its large list of bills deemed to pose a cost to the state. SB 519 would cost $7.9 million, according to a committee analysis.
“The cost of a special election to fill vacancies is mostly unforeseen and if the special election cannot be consolidated with an already scheduled election, even more expensive,” Emmerson’s office wrote in support of the measure.
The state reimbursed counties for special elections from 1993 through 2007. Since then, there have been several unsuccessful legislative attempts to restore the practice.