The state will not reimburse Butte County and other county election offices to send out vote-by-mail ballots for the next year, a service half the county’s registered voters use rather than lining up at the polls.
Butte County Registrar of Voters Candace Grubbs plans to report the issue to the Board of Supervisors and its effects at their Tuesday meeting. Of 116,493 registered voters in Butte County as of Friday, 58,048 checked the box to receive ballots in the mail, according to the Butte County Registrar of Voters Office.
“County elections officials have the option of providing vote-by-mail ballots to any voter who requests one for any reason, but if they do, they will not be reimbursed for the cost of doing so in the 2011-12 fiscal year,” wrote Lowell Finley, deputy secretary of state, in a memo to all county registrar of voters.
The budget eliminates about $30 million in funding to send out vote-by-mail ballots and process voter registrations received by mail, according to a report by California Watch. The items were hundreds of pages into the legislation Gov. Jerry Brown signed this month.
If the state doesn’t pay for election services, the money comes out of the county general fund. Butte County has a $3 million to $4 million imbalance between revenue and expenses that was covered this year with surplus from previous years. Grubbs was at an election conference Wednesday and did not give details on the possible effects to Butte County.
“While the state does not plan to pay to send out ballots, the budget does not suspend the regulation requiring counties to allow voters to sign up as a permanent vote-by-mail voter,” Finley said.
“While the secretary of state cannot require county election officials to … mail a vote-by-mail ballot to any voter who is registered as a permanent vote-by-mail voter, doing so will provide a benefit to voters and will likely save county elections officials money in the current and future fiscal years,” Finley said.