February 21, 2010 - Carmel banks on private vote
Paper: Monterey County Herald, The (CA)
Title: Carmel banks on private vote
Date: February 21, 2010
Author: Laith Agha
Cutting municipal costs is sure to be a promise of every mayoral and City Council candidate in Carmel's April election. But before the final ballot is counted and the new council settles in, the city expects to have already saved a bundle. Sort of.
The city hired an Orange County-based company, Martin & Chapman, to run the upcoming election instead of the county elections office, citing a major cost saving. Martin & Chapman, which has conducted elections for more than 50 years in Southern California, runs elections for about 60 cities in Los Angeles County.
Carmel may save up to $33,000, based on Martin & Chapman's $23,000 proposal and the county Registrar of Voters' estimate, which ranges from $40,000 to $56,620, depending on several variables.
But the Martin & Chapman quote does not include the cost of duties handled by city employees, said Monterey County Registrar of Voters Linda Tullet. While the county elections office generally handles all responsibilities when it runs an election, Carmel will handle much of the process, such as setting up the polling places and answering voters' phone inquiries.
"It's a hybrid system," said Martin & Chapman spokesman Ben Horwich. "Normally when the county does it, the county does it all."
The estimates also do not factor in the inflated expense of Carmel not consolidating its election with the county's other cities. Tullet said that if Carmel were to hold its election in November with the other cities, the County Elections office would charge about $5 per registered voter. A June election would cost about 50 cents more, but an April election would cost at least $14 per registered voter, based on the county's quote.
Martin & Chapman's estimated cost is $8 per registered voter, not including the city's expenses.
Carmel, which has 2,831 registered voters, opts to hold its election in April to keep with tradition, city officials said.
Regardless of who is running the election, the process is expected to be the same as in past Carmel elections.
"What we're planning is for it to be seamless for the voters," said City Manager Rich Guillen.
Absentee voters will receive their ballots and voting information around the same time they usually do — the first ones will be mailed out March 15 — and poll voters will still go to Sunset Center to cast their ballots.
"Essentially, it will be the same," Guillen said.
The two challengers in the mayoral and council races, Jason Burnett and Adam Moniz, said they are not concerned about any mishaps as Carmel holds its first election run by a private company.
"I have not spent a lot of time worrying about that," said Burnett, 33, who is challenging Paula Hazdovac and Gerard Rose for a seat on the council. "There are others in the community focused on that. I'm focused on my campaign."
Moniz, 33, who is challenging longtime mayor Sue McCloud, said that if there were to be any goof-ups, they would happen during this election because it is the first time a private firm will handle the process in Carmel. But he is not anticipating any problems.
"This is their business, they've been running elections for a long time," Moniz said. "I have to imagine they're competent."
One noticeable change, Guillen said, regards election volunteers. The Carmel Lions Club will provide volunteers to staff the polls, rather than residents selected by the county elections office.
That change won't be noticed by too many voters, since most Carmel residents vote absentee. Of the 1,373 people who voted in the April 2008 election — the last time mayoral and council seats were on the ballot — 329 of them voted at the booths.
The ballots will be slightly different than what Carmel voters are used to. Instead of drawing lines to fill in an arrow, Martin & Chapman will provide ballots with ovals to be filled in, company spokesman Horwich said. Both ballot styles are counted by optical scanners, Horwich said.
Local election costs have gone up in recent years. In 2006, Carmel paid the elections office $8,500 to run its election. Costs jumped to $38,500 in 2008. About $20,000 of that went to the elections office. The rest went toward expenses directly covered by the city, which was cheaper than outsourcing the entire election process to the county, Guillen said.
According to Martin & Chapman's estimate, the single biggest cost comes from renting the ballot counter for $5,000. The 10-page sample ballot pamphlets cost the city nearly $3,700. The ballots cost about $1,000. Other costs are incurred by postage, mailing labels, a vote-by-mail tracking system, and delivery services.
Guillen said that consolidating Carmel's election with a June or November election at some point is a consideration.
"It would be cheaper if we consolidated our elections with everybody else," Guillen said.
Section: Top Story_1
Record Number: 18047358
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