Yolo County may soon become a model for a new means of voting.
Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada is sponsoring AB 1228, a bill that would establish a pilot project of all-mail ballot voting in Yolo County, with the hopes of spreading it throughout California.
“Yolo County is a perfect fit for this pilot program,” Yamada said in a written statement. “With four cities, a large university and a diverse set of rural communities, the potential for gathering useful information about all-mail balloting can help guide the future of elections in California.”
The administration and cost of poll voting has become increasingly troublesome for local districts, Yamada said. Also, with each election, more voters are choosing to exercise their right to vote by mail.
AB 1228 will allow for up to three local elections to be conducted using mail ballots as the primary voting system, she said. The ballots would be distributed with the normal voting information and would include prepaid postage.
Officials agree that Yolo County is an optimal location to test this project.
“I am an activist clerk, I’m always looking for ways to tweak the process,” said Freddie Oakley, Yolo County clerk-recorder. “I’m always looking for ways to make voting more reliable or more cost efficient.”
One of the considerations for AB 1228 is that it will ultimately be more cost efficient, she said.
With an all-mail election, individuals will not have to drive to their polling places, nor will the trucks driving polling place equipment, Oakley added. This will decrease cost as well as gas emissions.
While it may seem like all-mail ballots waste paper, Yolo County already produces an excess number of paper ballots for each registered voter, she said. Yolo County does not use electronic balloting so the amount of paper produced will remain the same.
“In terms of public response, the electorate really falls into two camps – the people who already vote absentee are all for the idea,” Oakley said. “The other camp is the people who actually go to the polling place, and enjoy that tradition.“
While she believes that the all-mail system would be more efficient, Oakley sympathizes with voters who would prefer to go to the polling place.
“I love going to the polling place, I love that we have polling places in school – so that children can see people voting on election day,” she said.
Local voters have been generally receptive to the idea of the pilot project.
“In my experience [voters] have been very receptive,” said Jean Canary, president of the Davis League of Women Voters. “I think they realize how terribly economically affected we are by these downturns, and this would save a lot of money.”
The state of Oregon has been very active in enacting a similar project of all-postal ballot voting, she said. In Oregon, there was not fraud as they expected, and it ultimately saved the state money.
Similarly to California, Oregon’s population is very fluid, people are moving frequently, she said. This indicates that an all-postal voting system might have similar success.
One of the reasons absentee ballots might be problematic in Davis is because of the high student population, Canary said. If students register to vote in their hometowns, they are often unaware that they cannot turn in their ballots at a Davis polling place.
“One of the things we are thinking of doing is looking at trying to do an education program for students,” she said. “Probably the biggest problem with absentee voting is when many people in the community are not from the community they are voting in.”
However, with this pilot project will hopefully come some educational programs so students also know what it takes to vote via absentee ballot, she said.
More information on AB 1228 is available at yoloelections.org.
CAITLIN COBB can be reached at email@example.com.