Our View: Pricey tab for Nielsen's election
In case you hadn't noticed (and many of us in Yuba-Sutter hadn't), we have a new state senator.
We congratulate Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, on his victory last week in the special election for the 4th District seat in the state Senate. The veteran politician beat frequent Democratic candidate Mickey Harrington for the seat representing a sprawling district that includes a dozen counties from Del Norte to a portion of Placer.
That election came about because then-state Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, stepped down from the seat at the end of the 2012 legislative session to run for (and win) California's 1st Congressional District, a seat previously held by Wally Herger, who retired.
A special election to succeed LaMalfa coincided with the Nov. 6 regular election, and six people signed up to run, though two ultimately decided not to campaign. Their names still appeared on the ballot, however, and on Nov. 6, no candidate received a majority, forcing the special run-off election between the top two vote -getters.
The results came through and Nielsen has already been sworn in. Still, last week's election received very little attention, but cost quite a lot: It was estimated that it took $1.7 million districtwide to do the balloting.
Earlier, local officials projected election costs of about $100,000 in Yuba County and between $55,000 and $75,000 in Sutter County — enough to raise some eyebrows.
Nielsen, the heavy favorite, apparently felt no need to campaign — at least in Yuba-Sutter. There were no public debates or forums, no parade of campaign signs along streets, and on election day itself the local Republican Party headquarters appeared to be closed up tight (though we know there were diligent volunteers working to get out the vote).
As it turned out, Republicans and Nielsen did not suffer from overconfidence, gaining more than 60 percent of the vote in an easy victory.
Sadly, in Yuba County, 856 voters turned out at the polls and 4,791 cast mail ballots for a total of 5,647 — a turnout of about 19 percent. In Sutter County, only 836 voted at polling places and 3,112 by mail for a turnout of about 20 percent.
We shouldn't do anything to upset the democratic system, but have to wonder whether there could be a cheaper way to run elections for which nobody needs to campaign; most everybody knows the outcome in advance and the vast majority of voters don't participate.
Maybe the state could limit such elections to mail ballots, eliminating the cost of setting up polling precincts. Maybe we should go with a top vote-getter in such races, instead of requiring a majority of voters.
Or maybe we shouldn't worry about pinching pennies on the processes involved with democracy ... still, it was a pricey election: About $18 per ballot in Yuba County and somewhat less in Sutter County, by our calculations.