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Council Votes "No" On All-Mail Ballot for LB Council District 1 Special Election

Councilmember Kell indicates she might support an all-mail election in 5th district in the future

(November 22, 2000) At its November 21 meeting, the LB City Council voted 8-0 (Grabinski absent) to "receive and file" (i.e. effectively kill) a proposal by the City Clerk's office to use all-mail ballots for the upcoming special election in Council district 1. The April 2001 election will fill the Council seat held by 1st district Councilmember Jenny Oropeza, who was elected to the state Assembly.

The Clerk's proposal was to apply initially only to the special 1st district election but drew citywide Councilmanic and public response.

Some excerpts:


Councilmember Jenny Oropeza (1st district):

...I do feel that no price is too high for democracy and for providing for the opportunity to have people cast their vote...I just am concerned about experimenting with voting, particularly in a small special election...and while it may be expedient and cost effective, I don't think it is the wisest choice for us in this election and would strongly urge that we receive and file this request...(makes the motion).

Councilmember Jackie Kell (5th district):

...[Vote by mail] has been hugely successful in Oregon. I think it would be hugely successful if we tried it here. Maybe if the Councilperson of the district isn't crazy about the idea, maybe we could try it in the 5th [district] or have a combination thereof. But as you know, more and more people vote by mail anyway. The numbers go up year after year...So it's becoming a more common thing to vote by mail anyway. It is a savings...I for one hope that we do vote by mail at some point in the near future. Maybe we could start with a different kind of election or maybe in my district, we could have maybe a combination of mail and polls for those who need a transition period, but I would like to see it and of course if we can go electronically, that would be great. I'd like to see that also...

Vice Mayor Dan Baker (2d district):

I disagree 100% with Councilmember Kell's comments on this issue. Voting by mail might be efficient and expedient and that's something, if the Clerk wishes to pursue that, to encourage people to do that, I'm behind that 100% However, I strongly believe that by prohibiting people to go to the polling place, we will in fact decrease the voter turnout in our city eletcions...Oregon is a very homogeneous society. We in Long Beach are a very mixed society. We have a lot of first time voters, a lot of new immigrants, a lot of new citizens. I don't believe that the same issues that make the voter turnout successful in Oregon will at all be in play here in Long Beach, perhaps in small pockets of the city but certainly not citywide and certainly not in the 1st district. We have a very strong American tradition of going to the polling place and there are many, many people out there who look forward to that day and cherish the day where they can go in there and cast their ballots and I don't believe that that's anything we should be tinkering with. In fact, from my perspective, it interferes with a very basic, individual, fundamental right...I believe that the Clerk's office should follow the direction that we will pass this evening once again and drop this issue...

Councilmember Rob Webb (8th district):

...When we just changed people's regular polling places, we created a lot of havoc for a lot people and I heard it from a lot of people, so I don't want to be a part of eliminating that basic right that we all feel about walking down to your local school or wherever that location is and casting your vote...

Councilmember Frank Colonna (3d district):

...I do not support this...My concern is that when we just send out a flood of ballots to people's homes, the potential for manipulating votes, for having people gathering together and maybe not knowing necessarily what they're getting involved with but rather just looking at blocks of votes moving in one direction or another really concerns me...I think tradition is important. We are diluting so much of our society in terms of making things easy that voting, to me, coming from immigrant parents, was something that was just held in such high regard that going to the polls...I think is so important...If you want to vote by mail, you can request an absentee ballot...

Councilmember Laura Richardson-Batts (6th district):

...I'm very concerned and I don't personally feel that the vote by mail process is perfect and I think that people are entitled to vote in the way that they so choose, so I will not support this measure...

Councilmember Jerry Shultz (9th district):

In the interest of time, I will pass.

The public

Maria Norvell:

...I strongly oppose the proposal to have voting by mail in the 1st district or any other district for that matter...I don't really care how much money you would save. Try and save it somewhere else but leave this alone...

Bry Myown:

This issue makes me realize I've crossed the line into old-fuddy-duddy-ism. My memories of going with my parents to my neighborhood school to vote, well, they voted, I didn't, are very, very important. But I also have friends who grew up in areas where they were denied the right to vote at the polls, and I have friends who grew up in areas where ward heelers brought their ballots to their house and took the completed ballots away.

And I want to point out to those of you who aren't aware that the State of California, in our Assembly last year, came this close to giving campaign workers the right to pick up voted absentee ballots and return them to the polls, which I personally think was appalling but which for all practical purposes can now be done with absentee ballots...

I've talked to a great many people in Oregon, including the secretary of State's office, and the Secretary of State's office says their turnout has increased but that that is misleading. What they've really done is clean the deadwood from their rolls, which is another valuable function we could look at performing in Long Beach without going to this step.

People in Oregon are also the first to admit that what happens now is what you've seen happen for the last decade is, both political parties have encouraged absentee voting and that is they now have approximately a two-week period they have to peak and sustain for, so campaign costs are far, far higher.

I think it was really in Pete Wilson's first election that the Republican Party took great advantage of absentee votes. The Democrats followed suit the next year, and we have campaign workers taking absentee registrations door to door and it's not surprising that our campaign costs are skyrocketing.

So I want to point out that this upcoming 1st district election is a very special circumstance because it is exempt from Prop M which was the people's way of saying they wanted to limit campaign costs. And that would be one reason why this election, of all elections, should not be dedicated to a system that has been shown to increase campaign costs.

...The fact that in the same sentence we could even talk about touch-screen voting, and entirely vote by mail operations, is very confusing to me, because touch-screen voting happens at a polling place and vote by mail doesn't happen at a polling place.

Voting by mail may encourage high-propensity, literate, people who get all their information from reading, to do their voting in the convenience of their home. It will not make voting a compelling act for people who do not presently vote, and that should be the goal that we all want to accomplish is to bring new voters onto our rolls, not to make voting another piece of junk mail.

Joanne O'Byrne:

...[A]s a teacher of American history and American government, I was always concerned with the process, with the idea of encouraging people to vote. And yet somewhere along the line we have failed. If 21% of the people are voting in the city, somehow this wonderful feeling of warmth and warm fuzziness just doesn't extend to everybody who wants to go to a poll...In Oregon, as Ms. Powell mentioned, [voter turnout] has been high, as it has in Modesto and in Stanislaus County. And while I'm not sure that voting by mail is the absolute answer, I do think that we have a rare opportunity right now with this explore some alternative methods of voting...Let's give people alternative methods and choices to use because that's what voting is all about, isn't it? It's about choice.

Ann Cantrell:

...I have...worked as a polling worker for the last 25 years. My precinct this year in the 5th district had 200 out of the 900 registered voters apply for absentee ballots. And despite tat, we had 75% of the remaining voters show up at the polls. I think people do like to come to the polls. What I have noticed over the last 25 years is we've made things much more complicated for the poll workers and the City Clerk. We've added provisional ballots. It used to be you went to the polls and if your name wasn't on the roster, you didn't get to vote. Now we make all these exceptions, we allow the person to vote provisional ballot...The absentee ballots cause a tremendous amount of work for everyone. People forget about it, then they want to come in. They've lost their ballot. They didn't know they were supposed to bring it in. And they have to vote provisional because there's a possibility that they're voting twice. I have mixed feelings about this. I agree with the idea of touch-screen voting if this can be at all the polls so that everybody has a chance to vote near their home. I do not think that voting by mail is the answer.

Motion to receive and file (Oropeza): Passes 8-0. (Yes: Oropeza, Baker, Colonna, Carroll, Kell, Richardson-Batts, Webb, Shultz. Absent; Grabinski.) will be posting the above record in our Reference section, along with a history of the Council's 1995 votes which first narrowly approved (5-4), then reversed and declined to adopt, all-mail elections in LB.

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