At the risk of competing with an organization that owns a barrel of ink, I will respond to the editorial “What is this, Florida?” published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on Sept. 27, 2002.
Respectfully, I take exception to the parody on geography, question its knowledge of California election law, repudiate the advice to voters and challenge its unctuous lessons in civics.
Santa Barbara County’s relationship with the Sunshine State is as close as “chad.” Florida’s election mess was a mixture of bad management, poor ballot design, untrained staff, partisan administrators and raw politics at the judicial level.
In California, neither state nor local election officials design the ballot layout. This is the responsibility of the state legislature. I take no creative license with this important responsibility. I strictly follow the Elections Code.
The recall ballot measure contains pretty straightforward writing. No rocket science or political double-speak resides within its simply written issues. The Election Code does not permit any notice or advisement to be printed on the official ballot regarding the recall question.
I submit that voters are clear-minded and intelligent when reading the recall question.
Instructions and explanations are contained in the sample ballot mailed to each and every registered voter. In fact, the recall instructions are prominently printed in bold, black capital letters on the inside front cover of the sample ballot.
Other than the ballot itself, the sample ballot is the most important document a voter will ever receive. The sample ballot informs the voter of who and what are on the ballot. It contains candidates’ statements of qualification as well as analyses and arguments pertaining to local measures. It notifies the voter of the location of his or her polling place and whether the place is accessible to the disabled. It posts important election dates and deadlines.
The editorial states that “…We’re in the printing business and don’t buy an argument that there’s not enough time … to print fair ballots…” This single statement best illustrates the editorial’s profound ignorance of election law and administration.
The newspaper itself prints newspapers overnight and sometimes by itself. It has but one version and its layout is influenced by events, accountants and editors.
Election printers are certified by the Secretary of State under strict guidelines. Ballot printing is calibrated to very tight tolerances in order to tabulate accurately the voters’ choice simultaneously on three columns both front and back, either head or feet first, before the ballot hits the bottom of the box.
More than a dozen counties, comprising millions of voters, compete for our printer’s services. Being on time means the voter is adequately and timely informed. Santa Barbara County elections’ printing and delivery is for 200,000 voters countywide. What is your circulation?
The editorial’s reference to elections administration here in Santa Barbara County as being akin to Third World nations is both insulting to this county and to Third World nations. Never has any election in this county been corrupted or reversed based upon the malfeasance of any public official or candidate.
I welcome observers to our election processes. Free and open elections must be transparent, secure, professional, accurate, secret, timely, accountable and equitable.
Upon invitation, past county grand juries observed our processes. Political parties and campaigners fervently observe election activities before, on and after election day. All were as favorably impressed as I was with the dedication, honesty and commitment of our elections staff and the more than 1,200 polling place workers.
Katherine Harris and I have one thing in common: We are both registered voters. That’s more than can be said for William Fleet, the News-Press publisher or Travis Armstrong, the editorial page editor.
If you wish to write, consult with Shakespeare. If you wish to make music, listen to Bach. If you desire courage, be like Helen Keller.
If you practice democracy, be a registered voter.
Kenneth Pettit is the Santa Barbara County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor.