Sacramento County voters will cast a heftier-than-usual ballot to decide some weighty issues on Nov. 6, from Rancho Cordova cardroom taxes to the leader of the free world.
The ballot, flush with at least a dozen regional measures and 11 state propositions, along with U.S. presidential candidates, will fill two 19-inch-long cards.
Meanwhile, in the city of Sacramento, a third card was added just for a proposed city charter commission because it includes the names of 54 candidates. The top 15 vote-getters would make the commission if city residents approve it.
Elk Grove will vote in its first directly elected mayor's race, while voters in the city of Sacramento will decide on the future of yard waste pickup either by cans or "the Claw" and whether to increase the sales tax from 7.75 percent to 8.25 percent to pay for public safety, parks and libraries.
Two Sacramento City Council runoff contests the races for the north area's District 2 and for District 4 Land Park, the central city and part of South Natomas will also appear on the ballot.
There are school board races in the region, a contested judgeship in El Dorado County and a rare countywide library tax proposed for El Dorado.
Jill LaVine, Sacramento County registrar of voters, predicted the election will be marked by high voter turnout and a good amount of vote-by-mail returns, even though voters will be asked to place two postage stamps on their mail-in ballots because of the added weight.
LaVine said the county has cracked down on past fraudulent registration practices that changed voters' political parties. And unlike some other states that have been in the news for voter-registration photo-ID requirements, Californians should know those rules don't apply here, LaVine said.
Why is this ballot so long?
It's a November election and a presidential election. On November elections, we include local districts, such as water and school districts. Then you add 11 state propositions and local measures, local candidates and state representatives. Not all voters will see all of these, depending on where you live.
Why are you asking for two 45-cent postage stamps to be applied to mail-in ballots?
It weighs over an ounce. We barely squeaked by with one stamp for the June ballot. We understand people may get upset about this, so we are encouraging people to bring in ballots to one of our 14 drop-off sites.
We've increased the number of drop-off sites and extended the hours. People can bring in their ballots during the hours the office is open. The locations of the sites are listed in their sample ballot, or they can go to our website: www.elections.saccounty.net.
What are some noteworthy contests and issues in the election?
We have a lot of local tax measures, including a user tax in Citrus Heights to raise money for police and youth programs, a cardroom tax in Rancho Cordova for the general fund, and several bonds for school districts for classroom upgrades. In Sacramento city, voters will be deciding on a charter commission, and in Elk Grove, they are having their first directly elected mayor.
What is the last day for registering to vote for this election?
Oct. 22 is the last day to register in California. There are other states that allow registration on Election Day, but we are waiting for a statewide voter-registration system to kick in.
After the Florida situation in the 2000 election, with the chads and the ballots that were disqualified, Congress decided states needed to get their voter databases cleaned up. They passed the Help America Vote Act, which would help states create single computerized databases maintained by the state, instead of by local offices.
They have been working on one for California now for 10 years. Most states got on board within two to four years. I believe California is the last one to get one. They hope to have it by 2014, but it may be 2015.
So for this election, there is no Election Day registration. It must be postmarked by Oct. 22, or you can just go on online and register.
Have you been encountering any fraudulent registration practices that switch political parties of voters without their consent or knowledge?
We had some instances of that in the June election, but very few cases this time.
When people are paid by the piece for new registrations, they get extremely creative in what they do. We've found false names, false Social Security numbers, one employee even submitted her dead grandmother's name.
It happens on both sides (Republican or Democrat.) If someone doesn't check the box on their card for their political party, they fill in the party they are getting paid by.
What kind of voter turnout do you envision?
I can't make an official prediction yet, because the mail-in ballots haven't even been mailed out yet. I'm hoping for a huge turnout, though. We had 79 percent voter turnout in the last presidential election in November 2008.
Anything's better than June's election, when we had 36 percent. That was the lowest presidential primary turnout since we started keeping track in 1930.
How many vote-by-mail ballots are you mailing out, and when?
We are sending out 55 percent of our file, which means 360,000 vote-by-mail ballots will go out next week. That's a huge number and we're hoping for them to mail them back or drop them off early. If they drop them off at the polls on Election Day, we can't count them early. We start mailing them Tuesday, Oct. 9, and they have to be back in our hands by 8 p.m. on election night, Nov. 6.
What do registered voters need to bring with them to the polls to vote?
Nothing. I know there are lots of states that are requiring a photo ID, but in California, no ID is required.