Monday, October 19, 2009

Will The Voters Mail It In?

Now, let's get this straight.

Any questions?

Yes, for the City of Santa Barbara, this is a vote by mail election. And it's going on right now.

Do most people know that? I doubt it. Heck, most people don't know that it's illegal to hold a cell phone next to your ear while driving and that law has been on the books for nearly a year and a half! So why should we expect people to have gotten the word about voting by mail?

According to at least one precinct walker I spoke to, most voters she contacted over the weekend seemed a little foggy about the particulars of the upcoming election including the fact that they are expected to vote by mail.

Not that people bother to vote anymore. In a city with a population of 92,325 only about 44,000 people are registered to vote. In the last city election, two years ago, only 16,000 of the voters bothered to exercise that right. That's a turnout of 37 percent. Two-thirds of the people who deigned to vote, voted by mail.

At least one campaign consultant who is working for a city council candidate in the upcoming election expects the voter turnout in this election to be even lower than two years ago.

Voting in this election has been underway for two weeks, and reportedly, if the pace that ballots are being returned by voters doesn't pick up, we won't crack the 40 percent turnout mark.

That means five candidates for mayor and 13 candidates for city council are scrapping for a mere 16,000, or fewer, votes.

A mere plurality of votes is all it will take to win the mayor's race.

So, how many votes will it take to win a council seat? Three council seats are up for grabs, but if either sitting council members Helene Schnieder or Dale Francisco are elected mayor, that means the fourth place finisher for council will become a "lucky loser" and get the council seat vacated by the new mayor.

To find the situation most comparable to this year's election you'd have to go back to 2001, when there were 12 candidates running for council and voter turnout was only 35 percent. A fourth seat opened up when sitting council member Marty Blum was elected mayor. The "lucky loser" was Babatunde Folayemi who had 14 percent of the vote with 6755 ballots cast for him.

Two years later when he had to run for reelection (remember he was only filling out the two years remaining on Blum's unexpired term) Folayemi actually got more votes (6933) than he did in 2001, but finished fourth and out of the running with only nine candidates on the ballot.

And, I know it's a "nonpartisan" election, but it's worth noting that since 1999, candidates who identify themselves as "Republican" have never finished higher than third in the race for city council: Rusty Fairly (1999), Dan Secord (2001), Dale Francisco (2007). And of course there hasn't been a mayor who has identified herself (or himself) as "Republican" since I don't know when.

So that doesn't bode well for council candidates Frank Hotchkiss, Michael Self or Justin Tevis, or Francisco who is trying to move up to mayor.

(You can take a look at the numbers I'm referencing here.)

Today, (October 19) is the last day you can register to vote in this election. November 3 is the last day the City Clerk’s Office can receive vote-by-mail ballots. If you don't want to drop your ballot in the mailbox, and there's no reason not to since postage is prepaid, there will be seven locations set up around the city on November 3rd where you can show up in person and drop them off.

* * *

Mayor Marty Blum is being honored this Saturday, October 24, at a brunch to benefit Endowment for Youth Committee's after school tutoring programs.

The champagne brunch features both silent and live auctions and runs from 11 am to 2 pm. Location is Hotel Mar Monte (Cabrillo Room) 1111 East Cabrillo. Tickets are $75 each and you can reserve a seat by calling (805) 730-3347.

And yes, I will be there.
© 2009 by Craig Smith and