Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown gives counties $16.3 million more for election costs

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Friday that directs $16.29 million to counties to help pay for expected high turnout in the June 7 presidential primary and to process a coming deluge of petitions from groups seeking to qualify November ballot measures, including one championed by the Democratic governor.

Assembly Bill 120’s signing comes a few weeks after Secretary of State Alex Padilla alerted Brown to a “surge” of voter interest in the June election because of the high-profile Republican presidential primary. As they plan for that, county election officials face the prospect of trying to verifying as many as 9.4 million petition signatures, Padilla wrote the governor.

Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley called the money “a huge help.”

“It absolutely goes a long way to assisting us in juggling this kind of perfect storm: the initiatives colliding at the same time we’re producing ballots and tallying ballots,” said Kelley, the president of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials.

The last day for any measure to qualify for the November ballot is June 30. The secretary of state’s office suggested that proponents turn in their petitions last Tuesday to ensure counties had enough time to verify them by the qualification deadline.

But proponents of several would-be fall measures remain on the streets gathering signatures. Among them are Brown and other backers of The Justice and Rehabilitation Act.

The money in AB 120 creates a financial incentive for counties to get the signature-checking work done more quickly – and give campaigns more time to gather signatures. Counties would be eligible for some of the $16 million only if they verified signatures turned in as late as May 20 by the June 30 qualification deadline.

Kelley said counties will use some of the money to hire more signature-counting workers.

Padilla originally asked Brown for $32 million in additional election money. About one-half of the request, though, involves costs related to the large November voter information guide. Lawmakers will consider the proposal during budget hearings for the fiscal year beginning July 1.