Santa Barbara’s upcoming November Election Night just lost a lot of its suspense.
The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to work with the county of Los Angeles to run the Nov. 5 election. It could cost the city up to $374,000, but the final amount has not been determined, city staff said.
The change means that Election Night results would only include vote-by-mail ballots cast through the end of the week before Election Day, with the possibility of some day-before-Election-Day results included as well, according to the city.
Vote totals including ballots cast on Election Day would not be available until three days later, on Nov. 8.
The city, which is unique in running odd-year elections for its City Council races, traditionally managed its own election, and contracted with outside vendors for help with the election process.
Vendors provided ballot design, printing and mailing; reviewing signatures on vote by mail ballots; and vote tabulation and canvassing. City staff would oversee the candidate nomination process and contact members of the public who submitted vote by mail ballots without signatures, or with signatures that do not match their voter registration.
But the companies that the city previously used have gone out of business.
City staff asked the Santa Barbara County Elections Office, but the county declined to run the city’s election, during an off-year. Santa Barbara staff members contacted the election officials for Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties, and both of those agencies also declined.
“The County of Los Angeles should be a reliable vendor, with incomparable experience, that can provide effective election results for a reasonable amount,”Councilman Jason Dominguez said.
“This is a mail-only election and delay would occur only in a close election and regardless of which agency processes the ballots.”
Councilwoman Meagan Harmon said the county doesn’t have the capacity to hold the election this year.
“The contract with LA is borne of necessity, but I think it is a great option for us in 2019,” Harmon said. “LA runs a reliable, secure and affordable operation — exactly what voters deserve and expect when it comes to our elections in Santa Barbara.
“Obviously, the delayed results will make election night a bit less exciting, but I think folks will be comfortable with the wait because the process is a good one. Looking to the future, my first choice is always to keep elections local to Santa Barbara County. I believe that’s what we intend to do moving forward, but I’m glad we’re exploring this option for 2019. I encourage everyone to make their voices heard in November and vote.”
On the November ballot will be District 1 (Eastside), District 2 (Mesa), District 3 (Westside), and District 6 (downtown) seats for the seven-member City Council.
Voters last year approved the switch to even-year city elections. The City Council members elected in 2019 and 2021 will serve five-year terms instead of four-year terms, and even-year elections will start in 2024.
Santa Barbara is the only city in the county to hold odd-year elections for its City Council members and turnout in those odd years has been “at least 25 percent less than the average voter turnout in the city for the previous four statewide general elections,” according to City Attorney Ariel Calonne’s analysis for the November 2018 ballot measure.