PALMDALE — In consideration of difficulties encountered with the March 3 primary election administered by Los Angeles County, some Palmdale officials wanted to explore the possibility of the city conducting its own election for city offices in November.
The issue arose during the City Council meeting on June 16, when the Council was asked to pass resolutions calling for the general election on Nov. 3 and consolidating it with the statewide election through Los Angeles County.
Councilmember Richard Loa, an appointed Council member whose seat will be open for a full four-year term in November, asked to have the items pulled for discussion from the consent calendar.
Ultimately, the Council voted to consolidate the election with the county, with Council members Juan Carrillo, Laura Bettencourt and Austin Bishop voting in favor of the system in place.
The March primary was the first election to use Los Angeles County’s new election system. Among the new features are fewer polling sites, but with the voting period extended beyond the single election day to 11 days at some locations.
Palmdale officials complained about how few voting centers were in Palmdale in March and how unevenly they were placed.
“In the future, is there going to be at least the appearance of some equitable distribution of these vote centers?” Hofbauer said, noting there was only one center in Palmdale west of the freeway. “This has been brought up by a lot of people.”
There are also questions regarding the prevalence of vote-by-mail, as Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all registered voters to receive a vote-by-mail ballot as part of accommodations during the COVID-19 pandemic, which may keep people from voting centers. The completed vote-by-mail ballots may be mailed, deposited in a drop box available at various locations or returned in person at a voting center.
Voters who so choose may visit polling places to vote in person.
Los Angeles County plans to use vote-by-mail and some voting centers in November, City Clerk Becky Smith said.
The city has budgeted $520,000 for the November election, which is more than the costs of elections under the previous model. It is not clear whether the heavily vote-by-mail system would decrease the costs, Smith said.
The election cost includes the costs for the new electronic voting systems themselves, spread among the various entities across the county, she said.
“We have an increased amount of money allocated for conducting the election, for fewer voting places,” Loa said. “I don’t understand why we’re going to be paying more for this election when we have less opportunity really for people to personally vote.”
Hofbauer requested a cost estimate and if it is even possible for the city to hold its own election.
Carrillo expressed his doubts the city would even have enough time to prepare for an election by November.
In November, Palmdale-specific races are for mayor and council members representing District 1 and District 2.
The incumbents in those races are Hofbauer, Loa and Bishop.
The filing period to run for office opens July 13 and closes on Aug. 7.