04/25/2016 by Ed Coghlan

Website lets Californians explore the costs of running an election


San Mateo voting machines (Photo Credit: Joe Hall/Flickr)

It isn’t the topic that is top of mind when you talk about elections in California. But the cost of elections and who pays for them play an important role in how our democracy functions.

That’s why this news from the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials (CACEO) is worth sharing. The group has launched an election costs website, thanks to a grant from the James Irvine Foundation.

"Election costs vary from county to county and this new website is designed to assist the public in understanding election costs throughout California," said Neal Kelley, president of CACEO and the Registrar of Voters for Orange County.

From polling places to poll workers and ballot production to multilingual support, users will be able to explore and compare costs dating back to 2004. CACEO will continue to collect costs from counties for the 2016 Primary and General elections and updates will be posted in 2017.

"We are very happy to share the results of many months of work collecting and analyzing the costs data from California counties," added Cathy Darling Allen, Shasta County Clerk/Registrar of Voters. "Our hope is that, with Irvine's support, as this project grows over time, this information helps to illuminate the larger discussions about election reform both within California, and nationally."

With the question of funding on many minds, California Forward (CA Fwd) has been conducting surveys of election officials to explore ways to more sustainably fund election administration. The Election Funding Project—also financed by the Irvine Foundation--has set out to gathering information on the different ways elections are funded in California and in other states with the goal of creating a ‘menu of options’ for state and local governments to finance elections.

“We found that counties believe funding is inadequate for new laws and regulations, complying with mandates, purchasing voting systems and conducting special elections,” said Caitlin Maple, research analyst for CA Fwd. "It is imperative that the state and counties find adequate, reliable and equitable funding solutions for elections, so we don’t find ourselves having the same conversations a decade from now.”

CA Fwd surveyed the 58 county election officials in California and unearthed some interesting, if not unsurprising, results.

• Nearly all of who responded (96 percent) agree that California should adopt a different funding framework for elections

• 88 percent think there should be more collaboration among counties in providing election services and procuring voting equipment

• Our voting equipment is aging. 76 percent say they will need to replace their equipment within the next four years…nearly half of those needing replacement in the next year or two

• 81 percent want to explore alternative funding methods for elections

CA Fwd will release its report on election funding in May.

For a look at other stories from CA Fwd on the issue of who pays for elections, click here.

Categories: Democracy, Elections, Elections Funding Project, Elections

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