After a dismal voter turnout in the June 5 primary election and allegations of delayed ballot results, a county Board of Supervisors ad hoc committee on elections is preparing to meet the week of August 6-10 with the aim to adopt improvements.
Formation of the group was suggested by District 4 Supervisor Ryan Kelley at the board's July 10 meeting and approved at the July 17 meeting after members of the public complained heartily.
"The community expects accurate and updated information," said Kelley. "The election office complies with all requirements of the election code but we recognize more can be done for the electorate."
Members were still being recruited as of Aug. 1, Kelley noted in an email. The committee will consist of 16 members: one named by each of the five supervisors from their district, one named by each of the county’s seven city councils, one county elected official, one county supervisor, Registrar of Voters Debra Porter and the county Public Information Officer Linsey Dale.
Since city councils meet every two weeks the county gave them a chance to make their appointments before calling the first meeting, Kelley explained.
Others named so far are Kelley; Rusty Garcia, board member of the Brawley Union High School District; and Eric Reyes a Brawley civic advocate.
However, Porter said in a phone interview she had not yet been notified of the first meeting.
Of the expected results once meetings are held, Kelley explained, "We hope to improve voter participation with communication and information. Our hope is to gather ideas from the representatives and incorporate some improvements for the next election cycle (Nov. 6)."
Added Porter, "With education voters will have a better turnout--that's what the committee is for--provide suggestions to improve voter turnout."
She also repeated a comment from last month that the 28.5-percent primary turnout was typical of mid-term elections. The best turnout ever with 69.64 percent was in the 2016 presidential election that saw political novice Donald Trump elected president.
Outreach through the Internet before and during election campaigns could improve turnout but will not necessarily solve the turn-out problem, she added.
"Online is not the absolute answer, but an answer," said Porter. "It's helpful for those with Internet access but a lot still do not have access."
In a prior interview Porter indicated people need to be better informed of important dates in the election cycle such as the deadline to register to vote. Several demographic categories need to be reminded they are eligible to vote, including new citizens, students from other areas attending school in the county and military personnel stationed in the county.
Porter also reminded critics of delayed election results that the law allows mail-in ballots three days after the election date and that those who sent mail-in ballots lacking a signature are notified and have eight days after the election to return a signed affidavit for their vote to count.
Garcia explained he and Reyes accepted invitations to participate in the ad hoc committee but have not heard further regarding an agenda. Garcia admits there has been a drop off in voter turnout and among some people it is a matter of apathy.
"They tell me, ‘Why should I go out there and vote? It's not going to make a difference’,” he said. "We make phone calls to remind people but they lose interest. Some people on social media like to complain and complain. Still, a lot say they don't trust the system."
Garcia stressed the importance of casting a ballot and believes the process needs tweaking. He advocates that candidates running for election need to remind all people their vote is important and not just their campaign supporters.
"A lot of people don't seem to care as much about voting when there's no friends or family involved," he said. "But we've got to continue to remind people to vote, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, TV or radio. They've got to come out and vote."