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What's bugging you? Small, costly elections

May 5, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
You might have missed it, but there is an election coming in Los Angeles County.

Los Angeles resident Barbara Moreno says she couldn't believe what she saw when she received the sample ballot.

The ballot for her area of Los Angeles has just one race, a community college board seat.

"How much does that cost the taxpayer? And how many people are going to go out and vote for that one item?" Moreno asked.

There is another race in Los Angeles County for the seat of Congresswoman Jane Harman, who abruptly resigned just a few months after being re-elected.

That race alone is costing taxpayers $1.7 million.

"Regardless of the number of officers on the ballot, we still have to build an entire election process," Los Angeles County Recorder Registrar Dean Logan said.

Logan said there was no choice because Gov. Jerry Brown picked a date for this special election, but the state won't pay for it.

Logan said there have been 22 special elections since 2005 and turnout is often so low it works out to about $40 to $50 per vote cast.

"County government is saddled with the cost of these special elections and here in Los Angeles County, it's become commonplace to have two, three, as many as five of these in a given year," Logan said.

Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine said there needs to be a better way to do this.

"What are we doing? What are we spending money on? We're going to open all these polling places, we're going to hire all these people and you're only going to vote for this person or that person and that's it?" Zine said.

"I hope the taxpayers out there are listening," Moreno said. "People need to know how our taxpayer money is being managed."

So what can taxpayers do? The only way to get the legislature to change election laws, Logan says, is by calling them and telling them to, even though it's not a high priority for them.