Thursday, March 10, 2011

Pew study looks at costs of mailing California voter information guides

A new study commissioned by the Pew Center on the States takes a look at how much money California counties spend on mailing ballot guides to voters and the amount of money counties could save if some voters received these guide electronically instead of through the mail. "The Cost of Delivering Voter Information: A Case Study of California" is a research brief based on a more in-depth publication called "Mailbox, Inbox, Ballot Box; Delivering Information to California Voters in the 21st Century" by Lauren Hengl of the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley.

Some key findings:
  • California counties spent 11 to 46 percent of their total election costs mailing paper sample ballots in the 2008 general election. Los Angeles, the state’s largest county, spent nearly $6 million on this mailing alone. 
  • By disseminating voter information through e-mail or the Web, counties could save up to nine percent of their election expenses if a portion of their voters agreed to cancel paper mailings.
  • San Francisco County could save more than $197,000, or two percent of its total election costs, if 15 percent of voters received only electronic mailings.
  •  Los Angeles County could save an estimated $1.19 million if 20 percent of its voters opted out of paper information.
  • Counties could see further savings if they also mailed one copy of voting information to each registered household—instead of sending individual copies to multiple voters even if they live in one home.
Another way California government could save money is if the ballot guides produced and mailed by the state and by counties could be consolidated into one guide.  Administratively that might be difficult to pull off, but it would sure be a lot less confusing to voters, who are often stumped as to why they receive two different ballot guides, one from the Secretary of State and another from their county election office.

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