Our Views: Is election help from the state on the way?

March 28, 2014 

BA Swearing In Lundrigan

Stanislaus County Registrar of Voters Lee Lundrigan

BART AH YOU — Modesto Bee

Elections, even primary elections like the one coming up June 3, require enormous effort to make certain they run smoothly. That includes coordinating dozens, if not hundreds, of poll workers to count thousands of ballots cast at the polls and by mail. Oh, and we all want the results five minutes ago, please.

State-mandated registration and vote-by-mail programs have made elections even tougher, especially after the state pulled the green rug out from under the feet of local election officers. By “green rug,” we mean money.

“After pressuring all counties to sign up voters as vote-by-mail, the state withdrew the mandate and stopped reimbursing counties (in 2011),” said Stanislaus County Registrar of Voters Lee Lundrigan. But it was too late; voters found they loved voting by mail.

Wealthier counties found ways around the cuts. But rural counties – squeezed by the recession – were left holding an empty bag. So they relied on shortcuts, or scaled back efforts. That meant voting procedures varied from county to county.

Hopefully, that will be remedied shortly. State Sen. Tom Berryhill worked to get $100 million put in the senate’s version of the budget specifically to pay for state-mandated programs. A committee of senators and Assembly members will work out the details, but it’s likely something will be included in the budget that goes to Gov. Jerry Brown.

“It was shocking,” said Berryhill communications director Eileen Ricker, that the money ever came out of the budget in the first place. Lundrigan called the state reimbursement “very important money to us,” amounting to anywhere from $250,000 to $800,000.

Speaking of elections, Lundrigan needs more poll workers. Volunteers will get a $95 stipend for working election day and taking a mandatory class, from May 13 to 24 in Modesto, Oakdale or Turlock. You must be a registered voter; bilingual workers are especially needed. Call (209) 525-5233 or go to www.stanvote.com and click on the “Polls, Precincts and Election Officers” button. Apply by April 9.

It’s not unheard of for a woman to finish first in a marathon that includes men, but it’s rare. That’s part of what made last Sunday’s Surgical Artistry Modesto Marathon so special. Berkeley’s Anna Bretan was the first of 720 marathoners to cross the finish line. Bretan has been the first woman in several marathons, but this was the first time she beat everyone. An Internet search came up with only one other woman to beat all comers in the past year, Danya Crawford in Utah. Crawford’s time was 2 hours, 46 minutes, 33 seconds, as she outran 1,300 others. Bretan’s time was nearly five minutes faster at 2:41.52. That’s not only a testament to her speed, but also to the flat-and-fast Modesto course. Congratulations to the runners but also those who helped make it such a great race.

Not all water news is bad. Not only did we get half an inch of rain this week, we also found out that South San Joaquin Irrigation District has determined it can leave enough water in Woodward Reservoir to give area residents a chance to cool off in June and July. The district stores irrigation water for farmers but also provides drinking water for Ripon, Manteca and other cities. SSJID had planned to repair some filters over period of several weeks. By replacing the filters, the time frame can be reduced – allowing county residents time to take a dip through the July 4 weekend. The district figures it will cost an additional $50,000. County staff plans to take a request to supervisors for that amount. When it gets hot, that might seem like a bargain.

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