Skip to comments.CA: Early presidential primary would cost counties plenty
Posted on 03/07/2007 12:41:41 PM PST by NormsRevenge
SACRAMENTO - Riverside and San Bernardino counties are likely to hold four major elections within 12 months if a bill that moves up next year's presidential primary from June to February is signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger.
The Assembly on Tuesday passed the bill on a party-line vote, 46 to 29, and sent it to the governor for his signature. Schwarzenegger has not taken a formal position on the bill, spokesman Aaron McLear said. But the governor has recently promoted the idea of holding an earlier primary.
Proponents, including the Legislature's majority Democrats, said the measure would give the state's nearly 16 million registered voters more of a voice in selecting next year's presidential nominees. In the past, presidential primary races have been all but over by the time Californians voted.
But opponents of SB 113, including Schwarzenegger's fellow Republicans in the Assembly, complained Tuesday that the measure fails to ensure that the Legislature will reimburse counties the estimated $60 million to $90 million it would cost to hold a presidential primary in February instead of June.
Also, some lawmakers derided the measure as a backdoor attempt to help legislators facing term limits stay in office.
The prospect of a February presidential primary ballot has Inland-area registrars nervously contemplating the extra expenses and additional poll workers that will be needed.
Riverside and San Bernardino counties are among 25 counties with major elections in November 2007 for city offices, school boards, and special districts.
"Certainly it's going to be challenging to prepare for another election right after November," said Riverside County Registrar of Voters Barbara Dunmore. She estimated that the early presidential primary would cost the county from $2.6 million to $3 million above what it would cost to hold it in June.
Under SB 113, the presidential primary would come Feb. 5 -- close on the heels of the Nov. 6 local elections. That would be followed by a June 3 primary for congressional and state legislative offices.
The official vote count for that election would be barely complete just as counties would need to ramp up for the Nov. 4, 2008, presidential ballot.
In San Bernardino County, Registrar Kari Verjil estimated that the early presidential primary election would cost her county about the same as it would Riverside County.
"The overlapping time frames are a major impact for our office," Verjil said.
Democrats promised to reimburse the counties at a later date after the election cost is known.
"I'm a county resident. I'm not going to allow my county to be strapped for money that we owe them," said Assemblywoman Wilmer Amina Carter, D-Rialto, who voted for the bill.
Last month, the Senate passed SB 113 on a bipartisan vote. Tuesday, though, Assembly Republicans opposed the measure and criticized Democrats for not ensuring it included money for the counties.
"The last time we did this it took an eleventh-hour battle to get this done," said Assemblyman John J. Benoit, R-Bermuda Dunes. He referred to a bill passed in the final hours of the 2005-06 session to reimburse counties for costs of the November 2005 special election.
Underlining the debate over moving the presidential primary are efforts to change voter-approved legislative term limits passed in 1990.
The law limits lawmakers to three two-year terms in the Assembly and two four-year terms in the Senate.
Last month, the California Teachers Association, the California Chamber of Commerce and other groups proposed a ballot initiative to reduce the total amount of time someone can spend in the Legislature from 14 years to 12 years, but to let lawmakers spend all of that time in one house.
If SB 113 becomes law and initiative backers collect the necessary number of signatures, the proposed initiative would be on the new February ballot. If the measure passes, lawmakers facing term limits would have enough time to run for re-election in the June 2008 primary.
If a term-limits measure instead passed on the June ballot, that would be three months too late for lawmakers facing term limits next year to file for re-election.
Inland lawmakers facing term limits this year are Benoit, Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia, R-Cathedral City, Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, R-Orange, and state Sen. Jim Battin, R-La Quinta.
Benoit, Garcia, and Spitzer voted against the presidential primary bill Tuesday. Battin supported it last month, saying he "didn't see anything wrong at all with having the voters of California having a loud and clear voice in who is going to be president."
Liberals don't ever care about the COST or impact of ANYTHING they do. That is the problem of the taxpayer, the infinite source of revenue for liberals.