August 8, 2006 - Official urges county to seek reimbursement for election cost
Co Paper: Chico Enterprise-Record ( Chico, CA)
Title: Official urges county to seek reimbursement for election cost
Date: August 8, 2006
Even before California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson came to Butte County Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors acted on his call to demand the Legislature pay for last November's special election.
McPherson visited Chico Tuesday to attend a Rotary Club meeting, meet with reporters and editors for the Enterprise-Record and later confer with city and county officials.
The secretary, who by law oversees elections in the state, has urged the supervisors in all 58 California counties to contact their legislators seeking reimbursement of the $38 million it cost to run the special election.
In Butte County, according to McPherson's figures, that could mean the return of $422,575 to the general fund.
During Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting in Oroville, Star Brown, the county's assistant chief administrator, asked the panel's permission to write such letters.
"It's a lot of money that rightfully ought to come back to our general fund," Brown told the board.
"It's a bill that they (the Legislature) must pay," said Chico Supervisor Jane Dolan.
While McPherson didn't appear at the supervisors' meeting, while visiting the E-R he said he has asked all of the boards of supervisors and all of the county registrars of votes to endorse Assembly Bill 1634, which would authorize the reimbursement.
McPherson said the special election, which was called by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, "should not be the responsibility of local government."
McPherson, a Republican, was appointed to the secretary of state's job by Schwarzenegger in February 2005 to replace Democrat Kevin Shelley, who resigned in the face of charges he misused federal funds and abused his staff.
Besides discussing the election funding reimbursement, McPherson said the June primary showed how successful the state's election system had become.
When he came into office, according to the secretary, the federal government had embargoed $169 million in election funding.
He said California was, at that time, a year behind preparing for the June primary, but the money was released when he established what he said were the "strictest standards" in the nation for voting machines.
Eventually he certified six different voting systems, including the Diebold touch-screen system used in Butte County.
"This is the biggest change in the election system process in the history of the nation," McPherson said.
The former state senator, assemblyman and newspaper editor from Santa Cruz predicted the voting system "will be an improvement in November from what we saw in June."
He claimed about "1 percent" of the people in California "don't trust" the voting systems currently in place.
He said where there were problems in the June election that came from situations like in one county where the data collection cards in the touch-screen machines were not cleared after a previous election.
"It's human glitches, you might say," he continued.
He said there are things changing in both voters and voting in the state.
He there is a steady rise in the people voting by absentee ballot, a trend he expects to continue.
McPherson also said the number of people not registering with any party, called "declined to state" voters, is climbing sharply.
It used to be about 10 percent of the electorate was declined to state, but in the June election that number climbed to 18.5 percent.
"It is growing as I speak," he said.
In November, McPherson will face Democratic candidate Debra Bowen in his first race for the secretary of state job.
Bowen is also a former state senator from Redondo Beach.
Staff writer Roger H. Aylworth can be reached at 896-7762 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: ROGER H. AYLWORTH - Staff Writer
(c) 2006 Chico Enterprise-Record. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Media NewsGroup, Inc. by NewsBank, Inc.