The state’s budget problems have reached your mailbox and it could hamper your right to vote by mail in years to come. Central Coast counties are making sure you still get your ballot, but it will cost you.
“It’s very frustrating because voters are caught up in the budget process,” said Monterey County head of elections Linda Tulet. She said that’s because this past June the state eliminated the funding counties receive for the permanent vote by mail option. To understand why you should care, I need to take you back several years. State law used to allow only certain people to permanently vote by mail. For example: people with a disability or active military.
But in 2002, California changed the law to allow anyone to sign-up for a permanent vote by mail ballot and the state footed the bill for the cost to vote by mail. Now, because of budget cuts each county must decide whether to foot the bill for you to get your mail-in ballot come June 2012. “Now 63% of our voters are signed up to receive a ballot in the mail,” said Tulet.
Monterey County has the highest vote by mail percentage on the Central Coast at 63%, 50% of San Benito County voters and 40% of voters in Santa Cruz County are signed up for permanent vote by mail. Santa Cruz County said in last year’s election mail-in ballots exceeded people voting at the polls.
“If you mail a ballot to people, they have a higher chance of returning it than if they have to decide to go vote on election day…This will effect that turn out absolutely,” said Tulet.
Now, Tullet stands near the empty boxes where the elections department organizes the mail in ballots, saying, that knowing 101,000 people will be expecting their ballot in the mail, she would feel like she was violating voter rights if the county didn’t offer it.