Not-so special election



On May 19, California voters will finalize the state’s hemorrhaging budget. The latest local voter registration numbers, however, don’t indicate much enthusiasm.

State legislators crafted the special election, as it’s been dubbed, in order to try to pass a list of new measures supporters say are needed to patch the budget deficit. On the ballot are measures that do everything from leveraging the state lottery to delaying payments to local programs for children and people with mental-health problems.

So far, the voter turnout seems likely to end up slimmer than usual.

“It’s a little dismal,” SLO County Clerk-Recorder Julie Rodewald said of the new voter registrations coming into her office. The last day to register is May 4.

One explanation could be the high voter turnout for the November 2008 general election. The other possibilities are that people just don’t care about this election or aren’t aware of it, Rodewald said.

Since the November 2008 election, about 500 people have registered, Rodewald said. But that’s a dull crawl of new registrations. Generally there are about 3,000 to 4,000 new registrations during the same amount of time. “I think there is, I don’t want to say a lack of interest, it’s just not a very exciting election.”

That worries Susan Hughes, executive director of the San Luis Obispo County First 5 Commission. First 5 is a statewide organization that funds local programs for children under the age of five. Proposition 1D, if approved, would redirect local First 5 money back to the state and limit the overall funding available statewide, Hughes said.

It’s a complicated ballot measure, she added, and she’s often met with blank stares when she speaks about it. “And I think it could be due to just voter lethargy.”

Most of the measures would shift money toward the state general fund and defer payments to local programs. Local officials fear social-service programs will be financially gutted if the measures pass. Conversely, if the measures don’t pass, they worry the state will just make cuts in the next round of budget negotiations.

“I think that these are complicated issues,” Hughes said. “They’re billed as budget reform, whatever that means.”

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