Sabrina Brennan, a Moss Beach activist and one-time San Mateo County Harbor District board hopeful, is recommending that the district switch from at-large elections to electing candidates that represent smaller subsets of the district.
Brennan, who has previously run for a seat on the board, believes that the switch would cut down costs for taxpayers and people interested in running for elected positions.
The Harbor District was billed $469,073.32 by the elections office for the November 2010 election. But $281,444 could have been saved had by-district elections been conducted, she said, drawing on data from the county elections office.
San Mateo County Elections Manager David Tom confirms that there are significant cost savings for by-district elections.
According to Brennan, lowering the cost would not only relieve the burden on taxpayers but also encourage more qualified candidates to run for board positions.
"I'm concerned about the fact that for people who want to run, like myself … it costs a lot of money," she said, citing it would cost $7,000 for a candidate to place an optional statement onto the voter pamphlet.
The recommendation follows the June 26 Satorre et al. v. San Mateo County Board of Supervisors lawsuit, which will go to court in August, investigating whether current at-large election practices across the county violate the California Voting Rights Act by inhibiting certain minority populations from electing officials of their choosing.
Brennan said the issue will surface on the November 2012 ballot, when voters will have the opportunity to decide whether to continue to elect San Mateo County Board of Supervisors in an at-large election or by districts.
"It's costly for these agencies to not (switch),” she said, adding that the change is good for everyone involved. “It's good for democracy.”
"I think it's worth looking into," said Harbor District Board President James Tucker, but he also said he suspects that Brennan is looking for issues to campaign on. "She's just focused on running things up the flagpole."
Brennan sent letters to four harbor commissioners seeking comment on her proposal. She says she is still waiting for responses from three of the four elected officials.