Local Elections

Sacramento County seeks review of elections office

“When we’re hearing that there’s dissatisfaction, it’s important for us to find out why that is,” said Phil Serna, chairman of the Board of Supervisors.
“When we’re hearing that there’s dissatisfaction, it’s important for us to find out why that is,” said Phil Serna, chairman of the Board of Supervisors.

Sacramento County plans to hire a consultant to review its elections office following complaints from city clerks about the handling of last year’s elections.

As reported by The Sacramento Bee last month, current and former clerks in Sacramento, Galt and Rancho Cordova said the elections office had become less reliable in the past 18 months. The office published inaccurate information about contests in Sacramento and Rancho Cordova in sample ballot guides and provided Galt’s clerk with wrong information about the ballot order of council races, among other things.

The complaints are one reason Sacramento County Chief Deputy Executive Paul Lake is asking for a review of the office. As head of the Countywide Services agency, Lake oversees the office and its chief, Registrar of Voters Jill LaVine.

“We want to see what we can do to improve,” he said. “We want to have good customer service.”

The county also wants to make sure the office is working effectively by next year’s presidential election, Lake said. LaVine declined to comment on the proposed review of her office, but Lake said she supports the effort and the opportunity to improve.

The county issued a request for consultant proposals on Aug. 31 and expects to receive them by Sept. 28. The consultant is expected to give a report to the county by Dec. 31 and make a presentation to the Board of Supervisors the following month.

Because the contract will cost less than $175,000, Lake said he does not need board support for the expenditure.

Longtime Sacramento City Clerk Shirley Concolino, one of several clerks who complained about the office, said the review is a step in the right direction.

“It hasn’t been done in a really long time, from what I understand,” she said. “Things change, and you need to keep up. This is a good opportunity to improve.”

However, Concolino said she is not waiting for the review to make changes. She said she recently met with LaVine and Lake to go over a new agreement for how the county will run city elections. The draft agreement is being reviewed by attorneys for the city and the county and will clarify that the county is to handle elections and communications about them at the direction of the city, she said.

She said her frustrations about LaVine came to a head during last year’s review of signatures on a petition to force a public vote on government subsidies for professional sports stadiums. Concolino said LaVine improperly counted signatures, yet kept making public statements about her results, adding fuel to an already heated debate.

LaVine was appointed by the Board of Supervisors in 2003. County Executive Brad Hudson has the authority to appoint a registrar, subject to the board’s approval.

Concolino and other clerks said problems in the office coincided with LaVine’s January 2014 decision to reassign her longtime campaign services manager to a different division.

Phil Serna, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said he’s looking forward to getting the results of the review.

“When we’re hearing that there’s dissatisfaction, it’s important for us to find out why that is,” he said.

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