Sacramento – Senator Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) today introduced legislation – Senate Bill 967– that would require the state to reimburse counties for the cost of holding special elections to fill the vacancy of a member of the state Legislature or Congress.
“When state and federal politicians leave office early, county taxpayers shouldn’t get stuck with the bill,” said Vidak. “Unexpected special election costs cut into vital local services, like police, fire, health and education.”
Under current law, counties must bear the cost of special elections. As a result, affected counties must allocate funds away from essential services to pay for the election.
According to the California Secretary of State, in the last 20-plus years, there have been over 120 special primary and general elections to fill vacant seats in the Assembly, Senate and Congress in California.
A special election to be held in a few months to fill the Assembly seat, which Henry Perea vacated, will cost Fresno County more than $500,000. Special Elections for the past six years have cost Los Angeles County more than $20 million.
While all counties are negatively affected, smaller counties are hurt the most. With their smaller tax base, many small counties must divert a greater share of their funds towards a special election from their already strained budgets.
Until Jan. 1, 2008, the state covered special election costs to fill a vacancy in the Assembly, Senate and Congress. Without good reason, the law was changed in 2008 to leave counties holding the bag for the cost of special elections.
SB 967 would amend the Elections Code to require the state to reimburse counties for the costs incurred from holding special elections for state Senate, state Assembly or U.S. House of Representatives beginning Jan. 1, 2008 to Dec. 31, 2016.