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County Elections Could Undergo Changes Under Proposed State Senate Bill

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In California, it can be hard to keep track of county level elections because not all races require runoffs and the timing of when elections happen varies. KVCR’s Megan Jamerson reports that a proposed state senate bill aims to reduce confusion for voters across the state including here in the inland region.

Senate Bill 286 would standardize both a primary and runoff election for elected county positions, and those runoff elections would be a part of the statewide general election ballot.

Since more voters typically turnout for general elections, it could mean more people having a say on county leadership. Leadership that makes decisions on things like public health and the Inland Empire’s growing warehouse industry said Sheheryar Kaoosji, executive director of the non-partisan Warehouse Workers Resource Center.

“When we have more working people, when we have more communities of color who are voting, they’ll have more of an opportunity to weigh in," said Kaoosji. "That’s kind of the most important thing.”

Sara Sadhwani, an assistant professor of politics at Pomona College said it’s reasonable to think this bill would boost voter turnout. Her research includes the effects of changes to election law in California on voting behavior and outcomes.  

“In general what we’ve seen in California is greater participation across a variety of racial and ethnic minority groups [and] particularly for groups that have been historically excluded," said Sadhwani. "And we’ve seen an increase in the number of people of color being elected to office. So I think that’s a reasonable hope to have when we are talking about making elections more easy to access for the average voter.”

Sadhwani said California has been a leader in expanding voter participation over the past ten years, and this bill is another example of making democracy even more inclusive. Despite that history, she said it can be difficult to pass this kind of legislation.

"We see this also at the national level, that when groups have access to power already, they rarely want to give it up," said Sadhwani. "So, there will be some who might feel that they are losing out by making this change. There could be current elected officials for example who will have a harder time winning re-election. They might be opposed to these kinds of measures.”

The senate’s next hearing on the bill will be Monday, April 12.