701 OCEAN ST., ROOM 210
831-454-2060 / FAX: 831-454-2445
Toll Free 1-866-282-5900

May 12, 2009
Contact: Gail L. Pellerin, County Clerk
831-359-3628 (mobile)

Voting Changes will Save Money

The May 19 Special Statewide Election has presented challenges and unique opportunities to county elections officials in California.

The Governor has made a promise to reimburse counties for the costs associated with conducting the special election; however, given today’s budget crisis, it is uncertain when the State will make good on that promise.

The mission of the Santa Cruz County Clerk/Elections Department is to conduct professional, accurate, secure, and transparent elections and to encourage every registered voter to get out and vote.

Fortunately, the laws governing special elections in California give us some helpful tools to accomplish our goals at reduced costs. In Santa Cruz County, my office is taking full advantage of this flexibility to save taxpayer dollars.

Some of the changes voters will see in this election include:

More voters assigned to fewer polling places

In November 2008, we assigned voters to 147 polling places. In May, we have reduced that number to 95 polling places. The reason is the law allows us to assign more voters to one location when it is a special election.

Fewer polling places were also necessary because many of our regular facilities were not available. Typically we book facilities a year in advance of a scheduled election, but since the Governor and Legislature called this election with just 88 days notice, many of the facilities we normally use as polling places were previously booked and unavailable for May 19.

The County also has more than 50,000 voters who are voting by mail, thereby reducing the number of voters who plan to vote at the polls. The deadline to request a vote-by-mail ballot is May 12. Applications are on the back cover of the county Sample Ballot booklet and online at

Vote-by-Mail Voters received just one mailing rather than two

The 52,700 voters who are signed up to vote by mail or who are assigned to an all mail ballot precinct for this election were mailed their ballot along with an insert containing the Voter Information Pamphlet. In the past, we mailed this pamphlet separately. However, in an effort so save money, we combined the two into one mailing.

We mailed the remaining 94,200 voters a Sample Ballot and Voter Information Pamphlet. The pamphlet informs voters where they are assigned to vote, and provides a vote-by-mail ballot application in the event that the voters opt to vote by mail.

The Secretary of State has mailed every voter household the State Voter Information Guide that is printed on newsprint paper and contains the analyses, text, and arguments for and against each of the six state propositions on the ballot.

If anyone has not received these materials, please contact our office at 831-454-2060 or e-mail us at These materials are also available online at

We will count ballots at the elections office

To further save costs, we will not deploy the paper ballot scanners that count ballots at each polling place as we have done since November 2006. Instead, we have developed plans for poll workers to securely transport voted paper ballots back to the Elections Department at 701 Ocean Street, Room 210, in Santa Cruz, and we will count ballots in our office on a high-speed ballot counting scanner.

This change will save taxpayers the cost of testing, securing, and delivering this equipment to each polling site. However, without the scanners that will reject a ballot that has more choices marked than allowed, voters need to be well educated on how to mark their paper ballots so they will be counted as intended.

Simply drawing one line with a blue or black ball-point ink pen connecting the head and tail of the arrow pointing to the word "Yes" or "No" for each proposition is all that is needed to cast a vote on each contest. Moreover, voting is not a test. Leaving a contest blank will not impact votes cast on other measures.

If voters make a mistake in marking their ballot, they may obtain a second ballot. If you are at the polls, ask the elections official for another ballot. If you are voting by mail, you may call the department at 831-454-2060 or send an e-mail to

As usual, we will deploy one touchscreen unit to each polling place that allows voters with disabilities to vote independently and privately in accordance with state and federal laws.

Overall savings and what voters can do to help

We anticipate that these efforts will save local taxpayers approximately $75,000 to $100,000. We believe that these cost-saving measures will not adversely impact the quality of voter services people have come to depend on from my office.

Voters can help save costs by:

registering or re-registering to vote at their current address by the deadline of Monday, May 4;

returning their vote-by-mail ballots before Election Day; and

voting at the polling place where they are assigned to vote.

As the Santa Cruz County Clerk, I am very proud of our dedicated staff and poll workers who are committed to the elections process and are working diligently to ensure a successful Election Day. For more information, please visit us online at, call us at 831-454-2060, or visit us at 701 Ocean St., Room 210, in Santa Cruz.

Finally, the most important contribution voters can make to this election is to be informed, cast a ballot in the May 19 Special Statewide Election, and encourage friends and family to do the same.