Voter Information Guide timing causes some concern as ballots begin arriving in SB County
SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - Ballots began arriving in Santa Barbara County mailboxes this week, with voting set to officially begin on Monday, October 5. Those who want to vote before then can mail in their ballots or visit a County Elections Office.
The Santa Barbara Department of County Elections is mailing the County Voter Information Guide--which is included in a sample ballot--to voters beginning Wednesday and Thursday, according to Santa Barbara County Registrar of Voters Joe Holland.
Multiple local candidates have expressed concern with that timing, however. They say ballots should not arrive in the mail before the Voter Information Guide, and that this situation allows voters to fill out their choices on their ballot before reading about the candidates in the Information Guide.
Some of the concern comes from candidates who are challenging incumbents that in many cases already have widespread recognition in the county.
Those who do not wish to wait for the Voter Information Guide in the mail can access it online now. At SBCvote.com, voters can click on 'Elections' and then 'Sample Ballot & Polling Place Lookup.' After finding their zip code and address, voters can click on 'Sample Ballot' in the column on the right side to find information about candidates running in their area.
Holland says the ballot-printing vendor was able to print them earlier than expected, while the vendor printing the Voter Information Guide was not able to do so until two days later. He also says that the priority was to get ballots out as early as possible this year, with a flood of mail-in ballots expected to come in across the state in the coming weeks.
“We wanted to make sure that we were ahead of the game in terms of getting our vote by mail ballots in the system,” he said Wednesday. “So we weren’t gonna be backed up behind all the other counties trying to get their vote by mail ballots in the system.”
Last year, the California State Legislature passed the California Voter Protection Act, which changed the timeframe for county election officials to mail ballots from “beginning 29 days before the day of the election” to “no later than 29 days before an election," thus allowing ballots to be sent out earlier than in previous elections.
Legally, the Guide is not being sent out late. Mailing of the Voter Information Guides is required to be completed "no later than 21 days before the election for those voters who registered on or before the 60th day before the election," according to the California Legislative Elections Code.
“We’re well within the law,” Holland said. “The law contemplates that that indeed may happen: that you get your ballots out before the Voter Information Guide.”
Carpinteria City Council candidate Mark McIntire is among those concerned by the Information Guide timing. He called for a state investigation of Holland in a YouTube video posted Wednesday afternoon.
"I call upon the California Secretary of State, Mr. Alex Padilla, to suspend the Santa Barbara County Elections Officer, County Clerk Recorder, pending an investigation into the exact circumstances surrounding the Santa Barbara County voters receiving their 2020 ballots before they received the candidates' ballots statements, which the candidates paid a fee for a timely printing, for a timely mailing," McIntire said in the video.
Holland responded to the video reiterating that the mailing this week has been "well within the law."
We have reached out to the Secretary of State's office and are waiting to hear back.