Regional politics in LA County might lead to confusing multi-ballot November election

Regional political conflicts in LA County regarding a 0.5 percent increase in sales taxes for transportation might lead to a confusing multi-ballot election in LA County this November.

There are articles about the dispute, and the balloting issue, in the LA Daily News, “L.A. County board rails at proposed MTA tax”, as well as the LA Times, “L.A. County sales tax hike for transit hits roadblock.”

The LA Daily News story summarizes the issue:

Calling it a backroom deal by the MTA and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa that shortchanges regions including the San Fernando Valley, the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday rejected consolidating a 0.5 percent sales-tax increase for transportation on the November ballot.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board voted 9-2 last month to put the proposal on the ballot Nov. 4, and county supervisors’ action won’t change that. But now the MTA will have to spend up to $3 million to print the measure on a separate ballot.

The supervisors’ virtual slap at the MTA proposal caught the transportation agency’s officials off guard, and MTA Chief Executive Officer Roger Snoble vowed to ask a judge to force a consolidated ballot.

And from the same story, here is a bit about the response from LAC Registrar-Recorder, Dean Logan:

Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan has estimated that providing voters with two ballots would add as much as $3 million to the cost of a $7 million general election and pose problems.

“I have two primary concerns,” Logan said. “One is obviously that the November election is going to be one of the largest elections we’ve ever conducted, there is going to be high turnout, it’s going to be high-profile, and we don’t want to do anything that will jeopardize the administration of that election.

“I’m not as concerned at this point about voter confusion because I think we could potentially educate voters about that, but I am concerned about the mechanics of how we will tabulate and count election results for two simultaneous elections.”

I agree that it might be possible to educate voters about a complex dual-ballot process this fall, but the logistics of running this election are daunting. For example, those who vote by mail would have to receive two ballots (increasing the complexity for by-mail voters and for administering the process for by-mail voters), and of course this could really complicate the polling place experience for poll workers and voters alike. Not to mention the issues that Dean Logan raised in the quote above, about how they would tabulate and count the results for a dual-ballot election.

Hopefully a compromise can be worked out, because a dual-ballot election sounds like a problematic solution for this political fight.