Grand Jury should delve into the process

If the county registrar of voters had to make a million-dollar
mistake when he estimated the cost of the library’s special
election conducted by mail-in ballots, at least he overestimated
instead of underestimated the cost.
However, even an overestimate can have negative
consequences.
If the county registrar of voters had to make a million-dollar mistake when he estimated the cost of the library’s special election conducted by mail-in ballots, at least he overestimated instead of underestimated the cost.

However, even an overestimate can have negative consequences.

In this case, the overestimate meant the Santa Clara County Library’s Joint Powers Authority, which oversees the library system, took some unnecessary heat for the cost of the special election. It cast a pall over the ballot measure that might have prevented passage of the second tax that would have increased the library assessment and restored hours at area libraries. That measure failed by a mere 871 votes.

Registrar Jesse Durazo told the JPA the election would cost $1.8 million; the final bill amounted to less than $700,000, a difference of 61 percent.

Durazo deserves a little slack because mail-in elections are relatively new. However, a 61-percent, million-dollar difference is hard to completely overlook. And we shouldn’t.

Clearly, mail-in balloting is the wave of the future. Agencies need reliable numbers on election costs, so they can make sound decisions on whether an election is a wise investment. Voters need accurate estimates so they can fairly judge the decisions their elected officials are making. Bad estimates color the whole voting process. That’s a terrible way to jumpstart an election process that’s likely to become a staple in the lives of Santa Clara County residents.

That’s why we think a civil grand jury should look into how the county registrar’s office is preparing estimates for mail-in ballots. More and more agencies will likely be using this balloting method in the future. If there’s a problem in the processes being used or the information being offered to the community, the time to get to the bottom of it is right now.

The Grand Jury has the authority to demand records, to compel testimony, and issues a public report of its findings to which the agency must respond. It’s the ideal way to depoliticize the investigation, to find solutions to any problems, and to hold the registrar accountable to the community.

Let’s find and fix any problems with how the registrar estimates the cost of mail-in ballots now, before another election is tainted by grossly incorrect estimates.

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