Santa Barbara County could face more than $2 million in election costs if a recall effort against Gov. Gavin Newsom receives enough petitioned support, a leading official from the county’s Clerk-Recorder office said Friday.
During a Board of Supervisors budget meeting Friday, Joseph Holland, the county clerk, recorder, assessor and registrar of voters, said his department is still processing the recall petitions against the governor. He added the effort “looks like it will pass” based on what he’s seen in recent media reports.
He said if there is enough support for a recall vote, members of the election community are considering either Nov. 23 or Dec. 7.
But if the recall effort prevails, the vote would not come without cost to the county.
“We anticipate that to conduct this governor recall for Santa Barbara County, it may cost up to $2.5 million,” Mr. Holland told the board.
Should a recall vote take place, Mr. Holland said the election would look different than other elections in the past due to recent legislation passed by the state. For this year only, the legislature ruled that all elections will be completed by mail-in voting. Therefore, if a recall vote is mandated, all registered California voters would receive their ballot in the mail instead of trekking to in-person polling places.
This form of voting could become more prevalent in future elections, especially as local election officials are aiming to enact the Voter’s Choice Act. The VCA is a state-championed effort to mail every registered voter a ballot, expand in-person early voting and allow voters to cast their ballot at any election center in their county.
Fifteen counties in California have already adopted the VCA, and Clerk-Recorder officials are proposing a budget expansion for fiscal year 2021-22 that would add Santa Barbara County to the list.
Mr. Holland proposed an expansion of about $1.9 million to implement the VCA in the county, $1.1 million of which would become an annual part of the budget.
Numerous supervisors voiced support for the adoption of the VCA in the county. Fourth District Supervisor and Board Chair Bob Nelson praised the Clerk-Recorder’s department for its efforts to ensure the 2020 Presidential Election was reported accurately.
“I really encourage the public that likes to throw rocks to come and watch,” Mr. Nelson said. “Come show up. Elections are transparent, you can be an observer.”
He continued, “I went down to watch the counting, and I think I’m one of 10 people in the county that did that … I think it helps people understand that it’s not a backroom where all this is happening, it’s really a thoughtful process. Election officials are professionals and this is their life’s work, and they take it very seriously.”
Mr. Holland reported a record-breaking turnout during the November presidential election, telling supervisors that more than 203,000 ballots were cast. This amounts to 86.6% of registered voters in the county, he added.
“We had an extremely successful, safe and secure election,” Mr. Holland said.
During Friday’s meeting, supervisors also heard from other departments within the county’s General Support Services Functional Group.
Officials from the Treasurer-Tax Collector and Auditor-Controller departments presented their budgets to the supervisors.
Harry Hagen, the county’s treasurer-tax collector, proposed a budget of $8,462,900, of which the General Fund contributes $3,974,900.
Betsy Shaffer, the county’s auditor-controller, also presented on Friday, proposing a budget of $9.4 million for the Auditor-Controller department. General Fund contributions account for 90% of that department’s budget.