RANCHO MIRAGE – There has been a great deal of misinformation dished out to voters this election cycle, including that this is the “first time ever” voters have the single option of voting by mail.
That is not true.
Conspiracy theorists speculated that voting by mail was a ploy to cater to the elderly and in turn favor the three incumbents, all of whom are in their 70s and 80s.
That is also not true.
On Nov. 5, 2009, nearly 10 years ago, the City Council adopted Ordinance No. 982 and amended the municipal code to allow all-mail ballot elections, said City Clerk Kristie Ramos. Since 2010, all Rancho Mirage General Municipal Elections have been all-mail ballot elections.
The unanimous decision was made to reduce election costs and increase voter participation, according to the ordinance. Councilors at the time were G. Dana Hobart, Richard Kite, Ron Meepos, Alan Seman and Gordon Moller.
In the April 2008 Election, the City had 9,533 registered voters with a total of 2,843 ballots cast for a 29.82 percent voter turnout. A total of 2,501 residents, or 88 percent, cast their ballots by mail. A total of 342 residents, 12.3 percent, voted at the three polling locations.
An all-mail ballot election is less expensive to conduct when compared to a precinct election, according to a staff report prepared at the time by Cynthia Scott, then-interim city clerk. There are no polling locations to set up or recruitment and training of precinct officers. At the time, Scott said other cities conducting all-mail ballot elections have realized savings of about 10 percent of the cost of a precinct election. She estimated that the cost for an all-mail ballot election would be $60,000.
Ramos said this current election will cost the city about $30,000, about half of what was originally projected, based on the number of registered voters.
As of April 2, the most current data available from the Riverside County Registrar of Voters, there are 9,941 registered voters in Rancho Mirage. That is a net gain of 55 from Dec. 12, when Ramos first released the number of registered voters.
As of April 3, again the most current data available, 9,984 ballots had been issued. Some 4,485 have been returned.
Mail balloting has several advantages over traditional polling. First, it is cost effective. Second, it has resulted in increased participation among voters. Third, it is easier for election officials to conduct. Fourth, it allows for a more accurate picture of eligible voters, by keeping voting lists up-to-date. Fifth, it gives voters a longer opportunity to study the ballot and find answers to their questions.
Every statistic shows that voting by mail is more convenient for voters and that it increases turnout. For example, by examining the turnout before and after seven Washington State counties conducted mail balloting in 1994, you get a good picture.
In the 1990 state primary in these counties, they had a combined average turnout of 38 percent. After those counties went to an all-mail-in ballot, the combined average turnout for the same counties was 53 percent. That is an increase of 15 percent, or, nearly 40 percent more people came to the polls. One county saw its turnout increase to 68 percent, another county’s turnout – in a primary – increased to nearly 72 percent.
Voting by mail was first tried in Monterey, Calif., n 1977. Since that time, hundreds of elections have been held by mail – from local ballot initiatives all the way up to some contests for federal office.
The curtain will soon fall on this contentious Rancho Mirage election. Voters’ ballots will be counted on Tuesday and the top three vote-getters will be thrust into office.
The Registrar of Voters Office will release a preliminary count shortly after polls close at 8 p.m. on April 10.The official canvas of election returns will commence on April 12, 2018, and a certified statement of election results will be provided to the city no later than May 4, 2018.