Measure Q (Changes County Charter timeframe for filling supervisor vacancies)

Q.  Shall section 203 of the El Dorado County Charter, be amended in part, to allow the Board of Supervisors to consolidate the date set for an election to fill a vacancy on the Board of Supervisors with a scheduled primary, general, or special election, involving the district where the vacancy occurs, when the vacancy occurs more than 90 days but less than 180 days before the scheduled primary, general, or special election?

Change maximum time a Supervisor’s Seat may remain vacant

Argument Against Measure Q

 

Edward L. Knapp County Counsel, Impartial Analysis

 

Cris Alarcon, Past Chairman of the El Dorado County Charter Review Committee.

 

The County of El Dorado operates under a County charter that was ratified by the voters on November 8, 1994. The California Constitution provides that a county may adopt a charter to govern itself in regard to specific matters that are identified in Article XI section 4. Voters may amend the charter by a majority vote. On July 29, 2014, the Board of Supervisors of the County of El Dorado (Board) placed this measure on the ballot to seek voter approval to amend El Dorado County Charter section 203.

 

Measure Q proposes to amend Charter section 203, which currently requires the Board to set an election to fill an unexpired term in the office of supervisor between 90 and 120 days after a vacancy occurs. The amendment would allow the Board more time to set an election to fill a vacancy in the office of supervisor, between 90 and 180 days (instead of 120 days) after a vacancy occurs.

 

 The amendment would also extend the current timeframe for the Board to consolidate a special election with a scheduled primary, general or special election in the district where the vacancy occurs, if a vacancy occurs more than 90 days but less than 180 days (instead of 120 days) before the scheduled election.

 

Recently, the Board was required to set a special election to fill a vacancy in the office of supervisor and the vacancy occurred 151 days before the next scheduled election in November. So under the current version of Charter section 203, the special election could not be consolidated with the already scheduled general election. County taxpayers would have saved many thousands of dollars if the special election could have been consolidated with the general election. Measure Q would allow a special election to be consolidated with a general election within 180 days of the vacancy.

 

A "yes" vote is a vote in favor of amending the El Dorado County Charter to delete the current time period of 90 to 120 days and to replace it with a new time period of 90 and 180 days, for the Board of Supervisors to set a special election to fill an unexpired term on the Board of Supervisors, and to allow the special election to be consolidated with an already scheduled primary, general, or special election, involving the district in which the vacancy occurs, more than 90 days but less than 180 after the vacancy occurs.

 

A no vote is a vote against amending current Charter section 203.

 

Prior to El Dorado County becoming a Charter county, a vacancy in a Supervisor's seat resulted in the vacancy being filled by the Governor.  This happened about 30 years ago and there was a great unhappiness with the citizens as they did not feel the appointed Supervisor had the best interest of the voters and they believed they would have selected a different Supervisor if they had a choice.

 

This was one of the impedances to becoming a Charter county.  As a Charter county we can write our own rules about some things, including how we replace a vacated Supervisor's seat.

 

The state law already provides for elections for vacated offices if they fall within certain timeframes to allow the voters to get to know the candidate prior to Election Day.  If the vacancy is more than 90 days, but less than 121 days to a regular election date, the office is filled during that election.

 

If it is too far from the Election Day than the office is filled by gubernatorial appointment.  But we have altered that so that El Dorado County voters choose the Supervisor, if not by a regular election, then by a Special Election.  A Special Election is an expensive event but the voters adopted the Charter understanding this and understanding that the ability to choose our own Supervisor would cost taxpayers a couple of dollars when it happened.  It happens rarely but it did happen this year.  The cost to taxpayers is estimated to have been about $2 per resident.

 

A Supervisor’s seat being vacated has only happened twice in the last 20 years and only once has it triggered a Special Election.

 

This rare occurrence of a vacated office leaves the office without representation and leaves the BOS with a potential tie vote on important issues like the County Budget.  This year people complained about the extended time that the office was without representation to the voters.

 

Because it takes time to inform the voters, a minimum of 90 days is required for large elections in California, and the standard maximum time the office is allowed to remain vacant is 120 days, or 4 month.  6 months is a long time for the office to be vacant and the voters to be unrepresented, but this is somewhat unavoidable.  What can be avoided is prolonging the time the office is unrepresented and no tie-breaking vote exist.

 

It is understandable that this rare occurrence of the Supervisor's office being vacated caused a Special Election because it was too far away from a regular election, but leaving the office vacated for 6months is too long and cannot be justified to save some money.  Democracy cost money and what is the limit we set on the cost?

 

If we feel a Special Election is too costly, then we should let the Governor fill the vacancy in a timely manner.  If not, we should leave the Charter as it is.  We should not vote on anything that will prolong the vacancy of the critical office of county Supervisor.  6 months is just too long to deprive the voters of representation or to allow a potential deadlock to continue.