"Failure is Impossible" - Susan B. Anthony, 1906
"Light a candle, curse the glare" - Jerry Garcia, 1982
(after Adlai Stevenson's remark that Eleanor Roosevelt "would rather light a candle than curse the darkness") ... Click here to see a YouTube video about Eleanor Roosevelt and the League!
The question of the moment is "Why three???" Why does the administration of voting in one city election require the active involvement of three separate elections offices in three separate levels of government?-- David A. Holtzman, League President
Our League's spruced-up and redesigned website prompted that question. For the upcoming City of Los Angeles election, the website's attractive home page provides links for (1) registering to vote, (2) verifying that you are registered to vote in the election, and (3) preparing for the election with information such as who and what will be on the ballot.
So we have online voter registration now! Yay!! (It's for people whose signature is on file with the Dept. of Motor Vehicles [DMV].) The state government -- the California Secretary of State (SOS)'s office -- runs the online voter registration.
But for the city election, the county government -- the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk's office -- maintains the official lists of who is registered where. So you click over to a Los Angeles County website if you want to verify your registration.
The city government -- the City Clerk's office, Election Division -- will distribute the official ballot materials and actual ballots. So that's who you contact for a vote-by-mail ballot, for example. Got it?
Why three levels of government? Checks and balances? I don't think so. You rarely hear of one elections office auditing another. Turf war? Maybe.
How about cost savings? In some ways, yes. Since the DMV is a state government department, it makes sense to have a state government office (the SOS's office) obtain signatures from the DMV for voter registration records. (It's beside the point that the DMV doesn't have a great history of cost control in creating computer systems.)
In other ways, no. The Los Angeles County elections office is perfectly capable of running large elections. For some reason, the City of Los Angeles chooses to rent a lot of polling place equipment from the County, pay the County for rosters of voters, develop its own relationships with polling place owners and pollworkers, own and maintain a separate set of ballot handling and counting machines, and operate a separate elections administration office, complete with office space and overhead, rather than paying the county a reasonable fee to handle everything. The City Clerk's Election Division office space is usually largely empty, by the way.
I'm not an economist, but I know about economies of scale. Sharing things should be less expensive than duplicating them.
Unless the City of L.A. starts having different types of elections that require different types of ballots -- and LWVLA advocates switching to "instant runoff" elections, with ballots that provide for ranked-choice voting -- I can't come up with a good reason for the city to keep its own elections apparatus, except for the fact that I like the people who work full-time in the Election Division.
Elections consist of some basic pieces: game, campaign, and vote. The game, basically, consists of the rules about what it takes to qualify for the ballot, who can vote and how, and the fraction of votes it takes to win. The campaign consists mainly of candidates and organizations playing the game by communicating. The vote is the casting and counting of ballots. I'm focusing on the vote piece here. Involving three levels of government complicates that simple piece.
Election day in L.A. is coming up rapidly. If you can, please help LWVLA help voters and the community know what they should know about the early March election. Contact the office for volunteer opportunities. (213-368-1616 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
If you'd rather not volunteer ... how about a donation to support the League's mission during this busy time of many elections? Thank you, and a happy election season to all!