San Diego has seen a litany of special elections recently, from the mayor’s race to City Council District 4 to state senate and assembly races. In each election, many of the votes were cast by mail. Now, state Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez is proposing a bill that would allow counties and cities to conduct special elections entirely by mail. Gonzalez said in special elections, the majority of voters cast ballots by mail, so it’s a waste of money to keep polling stations staffed for 13 hours on Election Day. “In the Senate 40 district, we had one polling place where only one person showed up to vote,” she told KPBS Midday Edition. “So the cost per vote at the polling place is over $100, where the cost per vote for the mail in is less than $10.” She said in that election, the cost per voter who went to a polling place was $221.43, while each mail ballot cost $8.73.
In another recent special election to fill San Diego City Council District 4, voter turnout was just under 20 percent. And about two thirds of the people who did vote cast their ballots voted by mail. After that low turnout election, San Diego County Registrar of Voters Michael Vu suggested to KPBS that special elections be vote by mail.
Vu now supports Gonzalez’s bill because it would save the county money. The San Diego City Clerk’s office estimates that the two recent special elections for San Diego mayor cost the city more than $8 million. San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts also told KPBS the Board of Supervisors supports the idea.