City OK’s elections by mail

SOLANA BEACH — City Council did some financial spring cleaning at the March 23 meeting, unanimously approving the first reading of one ordinance that will recoup new state fees on parking violations and another that allows all-mail ballot elections.
State legislation enacted in 2002 required all jurisdictions to pay $1.50 from every parking fine into
the Court Facilities Construction Fund, which is used to rebuild, restore and seismically retrofit many of California’s deteriorating and unsafe courthouses.
This January, Senate Bill 1407 raised the mandated fee to $4.50. Solana Beach, which last adjusted parking fines in 2000, is passing the increase onto motorists by adding $3 to the cost of all parking violations.
On March 4, San Diego County informed Solana Beach that fee collection began March 1. But because of the county’s delay in program implementation, the city is not responsible for additional penalties incurred during January and February, the staff report states. Neighboring Del Mar recently raised its parking fees by the same amount.
In another effort to potentially save money, council members amended the municipal code to allow all-mail ballot elections when permitted by state law. The move could also increase voter participation.
In an all-mail election, every voter receives an absentee ballot. According to the staff report, mail-only balloting in the United States has a fairly long and successful history in state and local elections.
While charter cities such as Del Mar, Carlsbad and Vista have considerable leeway to conduct mail-only elections, general law cities like Solana Beach must follow state laws, which only allow the practice under certain conditions — usually for local or special elections.
“Voter participation seems to increase with all-mail ballots,” the staff reports states, because they “eliminate obstructions that can prevent people from getting to the polls.”
They also remove concerns about voting machines functioning properly.
To avoid fraud, voter identification will be more closely scrutinized. A signature and address check would be conducted on all returned ballots. The new ordinance does not mean the city will conduct all-mail ballot elections, however, it does provide the flexibility to do so when deemed appropriate.
The only three instances in which an all-mail ballot election could be held are to approve a tax, to approve a property-related fee or charge and for any assessment ballot proceeding. Council would have to pass a resolution every time the city planned to conduct an all-mail election.
“This is just an opportunity to expand our election code to allow for mail ballots when they are applicable and acceptable,” City Clerk Angela Ivey said. “It can provide some cost savings and allow us to do elections at times of the year and in certain years when elections are not available to consolidate with statewide.”
According to the state election code, established main-ballot elections are held in May and August of each year and in March of even-numbered years.

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