Talk about irony

Supervisors save school board money by moving elections to November

Last week, registered voters in Butte County began receiving in their mailboxes this important notice from the county elections office: “Dear Voter: Please be advised that at the request of the Butte County Board of Education, the Board of Supervisors has approved moving the County Board of Education trustee elections from June to November in even-numbered years.”

The request to shift the election was made by county schools Superintendent Don McNelis, based on a resolution passed last February by the trustees themselves.

That move, of course, is the opposite direction the folks behind Measure A hope to swing for the Chico City Council elections. Because of their referendum efforts, this June 7 Chico voters will be asked via a special election to shift the vote for councilmembers from November to June.

The county clerk has said the move will increase the cost of the election for the city by more than $70,000. And guess what? Money is the main reason the county school board wanted to move its election.

“For many years our board elections have taken place at the primary election, which currently takes place in June,” explained McNelis. “And because there are fewer things on the ballot typically in a primary election than the regular general election in November, the cost of having things on a primary-election ballot tend to be more expensive.”

He said the county Elections Office indicated the school board stands to save between $30,000 and $40,000 per election cycle with the move. That’s because consolidating the board’s election with the statewide general election defrays the cost.

“The sole reason for doing it is because the costs for having the ballot in November are less expensive, and that just makes sense to us,” McNelis said.

The language of the resolution includes this reason for the move as well: “Whereas, generally voter turnout is greater for statewide general elections than statewide primary elections.”

The supervisors approved the request at their April 12 meeting as part of the consent agenda, which is a collection of matters deemed noncontroversial or that have already been discussed and are ready for a vote. The election move was one of 33 issues on the consent agenda and was approved unanimously by the board, which includes Supervisor Larry Wahl.

And that is fairly significant: The woman spearheading Measure A is Stephanie Taber, who works as an executive assistant for Wahl. This week Taber answered a phone call to Wahl’s office. When asked about the Board of Education’s granted request to move its election and Wahl’s involvement in that move, Taber politely explained: “He and I did not discuss it at all because it’s a county thing. We did not talk about it, other than I mentioned it was on the agenda.”

Taber wrote the official argument in favor of Measure A, which says moving the council election from November to June will establish “accountability.” She argues that all county office elections are held in June—well, currently they are—and as such Chico voters will be given the “chance to consider [c]ounty governance issues without being overwhelmed by the multimillion-dollar hyper-partisan state and national campaigns that dominate our media in the November [e]lections.”

The rebuttal to Taber’s argument for Measure A begins: “Measure A has nothing to do with accountability. In fact, this measure would result in elections with fewer votes and greater cost.”

The rebuttal was signed by Chico Mayor Ann Schwab, Vice Mayor Jim Walker, Councilman Scott Gruendl and local businessmen Bob Linscheid and Peter Tichinin.

When asked how she will answer those who point to the county’s election move from June to November for financial reasons and greater voter participation, Taber remained upbeat.

“I’ll say ‘That’s not what we are talking about. We’re talking about Chico, not the county.’ ”