A three-judge federal panel Monday postponed next month’s election because it would involve the use of outdated and unreliable punch card ballots by almost half the state’s voters.
The three justices from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said their ruling would not go into effect until Monday of next week, pending a possible appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, and their ruling on the Oct. 7 election won’t have any immediate effect on people running the voting process in the city of Berkeley or Alameda County.
The effect on taxpayers and on the people running the various voting campaigns is another matter.
Assistant Alameda County Registrar of Voters Elaine Ginnold said the county stands to lose all but approximately $80,000 of the $675,000 already spent on the election.
Ginnold said that most of the expenditures were for the printing of ballots and voter pamphlets, mailings to voters, and staff overtime costs, none of which can be carried over to a new election. Ginnold said if the election is postponed, all of the costs will have to be absorbed by the county, and will not be passed on to city governments.
Another spokesperson for Ginnold’s office—who declined to be identified—said, “It’s business as usual. We have early voting, and people are still voting.”
Berkeley City Clerk Sherry Kelly also said nothing has yet changed for the Oct. 7 election.
“I’ve talked to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters, and he has requested that all city clerks who are conducting early voting continue with early voting. It’s his understanding that there’s going to be an appeal filed and there’s going to be no action for at least seven days.
“There was quite a flow of people coming in (to Berkeley City Hall) to vote this morning. We will continue to accept people for voting for this election until we hear different from the county registrar, who will probably not do anything different until he hears something different from the secretary of State.”
While people operating the voting booths were not affected by the uncertainty over the postponement, people running the campaigns clearly were. The main concerns appeared to be guarding against both a letdown and a loss of focus on the campaigns.
“It makes it very difficult on all sides to plan any kind of campaign with this kind of a decision,” said Diane Schaehterle, state coordinator for the Yes On Prop 54 campaign. “But we’re not going to expend too much energy on (figuring what to do about) this until the appeal is complete.
“We’re going forward. We still have a bunch of speakers and forums to meet at. We just hope that it’s resolved very quickly.”
Asked if Prop 54 proponents would prefer an Oct. 7 election or a postponement until next March, Schaeterle said with a small laugh, “That’s the kind of energy I’m not going to expend on this. When they make the decision, then we’ll deal with it.” Schaeterle said she felt the uncertainty of the postponement was equally bad for people on both sides of the issue.
That sentiment was echoed by the Defeat 54 campaign, which called on its campaign supporters to keep on working in a prepared statement on its Web site entitled “The election is STILL ON for October 7th.”
“Given the uncertainty in this situation,” the statement read, “we must not relax our efforts... If the Supreme Court decides to allow the election to proceed, we will (then) only have two weeks (more) to get our voters to the polls...”
A debate between UC Regent Ward Connerly, the author of Proposition 54, and Eva Jefferson Paterson, director of the Equal Justice Society and a Prop 54 opponent, was scheduled to go forward at Booth Auditorium in Boalt Hall at UC Berkeley at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday evening.
At the same time, gubernatorial candidate Arianna Huffington delayed the filing of what she called a Clean Money Initiative because of the ruling. The filing of the Huffington initiative had been originally scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 16 in Sacramento.