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Election Study: Switching from Paper to Online Could Save CA Counties Millions

May 6, 2011

Sending less paper and more e-mail could save California counties loads of money come election time.

A new study on California elections finds that money could be saved if counties made better use of technology and reduced printing and mailing paper voter guides and sample ballots. Doug Chapin, Pew Center on the States' director of election initiatives, says a state law that took effect Jan. 1 makes this possible.

"I think as more and more Americans and Californians get online and use electronic devices, their use of and reliance on paper declines appropriately."

California counties spent up to 46 percent of their total election costs mailing paper sample ballots in the 2008 general election, with Los Angeles alone spending nearly $6 million. The study found that counties still could save money even if a portion of voters chose online election materials. For example, San Francisco County could save nearly $200,000 if just 15 percent of voters received only electronic mailings.

Counties which still want to print and mail election materials could save money by mailing just one copy of information per household, Chapin says. A county as small as Amador could save $10,000, he says, while Los Angeles could save more than $2 million.

"There's some serious money to be saved simply by not sending duplicative pieces of mail to voters all in the same household."

The Pew study is online at pewcenteronthestates.org.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA