In four days, Inyo County residents who haven’t already voted by mail will be heading to the polls to help decide the fate of political offices from the City of Bishop to the White House.
Local voters will also be weighing in on 11 state ballot propositions – and helping determine whether they pass or fail – that deal with a wide range of budgetary and quality-of-life issues.
In Inyo County school districts, the attention has been focused on Propositions 30 and 38. Prop 30 calls for a temporary, .25 percent increase in the sales tax for four years and higher income taxes for residents in the highest income brackets for seven years. The revenue would go primarily to K-12 schools and community colleges. Prop 38 calls for an increase in personal income tax rates on all but the lowest tax bracket – through 2024. The revenue would be divided among schools (85 percent) and early childhood development programs. The proposition with the most votes passes.
Superintendent of Schools Terry McAteer, and the Bishop School District Board of Trustees, have come out in recent weeks in support of Prop 30. Some school officials have further urged support of both measures, saying they are their only light at the end of a black, fiscal tunnel.
Publicly opposing the propositions has been the Inyo County Republican Central Committee in paid advertisements in this newspaper. No reasons for the opposition were cited.
Other ballot measures include:
• Prop 31, which would require state lawmakers to plan and approve a budget every two years instead of annually;
• Prop 32, which would prevent corporations, labor unions, government contractors and government employers from using payroll deductions for political purposes, and prevent these entities from making contributions to elected officials who have a role in awarding contracts;
• Prop 33, which would allow insurance companies to use drivers’ history of insurance coverage – specifically the amount of time a driver had coverage with a former insurer – as a reason for giving discounts or increasing prices;
• Prop 34, which seeks to end the death penalty in California, imposing life in prison with no parole instead;
• Prop 35, which would expand the definition of “trafficking” to include crimes related to distributing obscene materials depicting a child, would increase the prison sentence for these offenders and would require all sex offenders to provide information about their Internet activity;
• Prop 36, which effectively changes California’s Three Strikes Law to exempt some three-time offenders from spending life in prison if one or more conviction involved a non-violent, non-serious felony;
• Prop 37, which would require some food sold in stores throughout California to have labels indicating whether it contains genetically-engineered plants or animals;
• Prop 39, which would require multi-state businesses to pay income tax in California based on the percentage of sales here, and dedicate half of the revenue for the first five years to energy-efficiency and alternative-energy projects; and
• Prop 40, which, if passed, would approve the State Senate district maps created in 2011 and, if it fails, would reject those maps and require court-appointed officials to set temporary district boundaries for use in future elections.
All of Inyo County’s registered voters have the opportunity to help decide these propositions’ fate. Also appearing on ballots from Round Valley to Death Valley will be the following candidates:
• U.S. President: incumbent Barack Obama (D), Gov. Mitt Romney (R), Thomas Hoefling (AI), Jill Stein (G), Gary Johnson (L), Roseanne Barr (PF)
• U.S. Senate: incumbent Dianne Feinstein (D) and Elizabeth Emken (R) • U.S. Congress District 8: Paul Cook (R) and Gregg Imus (R)
• California Assembly District 26: incumbent Connie Conway (R) and Jonathon Louis Sosa (D)
From here, the ballots break down further for voters with district-specific races – elections being held only in their supervisorial or school districts.
Such is the case for District 5, which includes the towns and communities of Lone Pine, Olancha, Cartago, Keeler, Little Lake, Pearsonville, Sandy Valley, Trona, Dunmovin, Death Valley, Death Valley Junction, Shoshone, Charleston View, Tecopa and Panamint Valley.
All of District 5’s registered voters will be asked to weigh in on the supervisorial race between Jim Gentry and Matt Kingsley – both newcomers who beat out incumbent Richard Cervantes in the June Primary to secure spots on Tuesday’s ballot.
District 5 voters who live specifically within the Trona Unified School District are additionally being asked to vote on the four-man race for two Board of Trustees seats: incumbent Bob Wilhelm versus challengers Sandra Kay Sprouse, Samantha MacClean and Karen Siegle.
Three different local elections will show up on ballots in District 4, which includes the towns and communities of Wilkerson, Keough’s Hot Springs, Deep Springs, Big Pine, Aberdeen and Independence.
All District 4 voters are asked to choose their man in Fourth District 4 Inyo County Supervisor race between incumbent Marty Fortney and challenger Mark Tillemans (fellow challengers Nina Weisman and Chris Dangwillow were knocked out in the Primary).
District 4 voters who are also residents within the Owens Valley School District (Independence) are being asked to decide the three-person race for two seats on the Board of Trustees: incumbents Sandra Anderson and Aldene Felton versus challenger April Zrelak.
Voters in the Big Pine Unified School District are likewise asked to fill three seats on the Board of Trustees from a field of four candidates: incumbents Danelle Carrington, Carla R. Bacoch and Sandra Lund and challenger Robert C. Vance.
In District 2, which includes Laws and the City of Bishop, voters within city limits will have two additional races on their ballots: the uncontested race for incumbent Robert Kimball’s City Treasurer post; and the five-way contest for three seats on the Bishop City Council involving incumbents Susan Cullen, Laura Smith and David Stottlemyre and challengers Patricia Gardner and Keith Glidewell.
District 1 (Mustang Mesa, Dixon Lane-Meadowcreek, Highlands, Rocking K, Red Hill and Aspendell) and District 3 (West Bishop, Bishop Paiute Indian Reservation and Manor Market/McLaren Lane Area) do not have any local elections happening at this time.
There are 9,940 Inyo County residents registered to participate in Tuesday’s General Election – a slight increase over the 9,495 poised to weigh in during the June Primary, when 5,100 local voters ended up casting ballots.
According to Inyo County’s Elections Office, the current voter registration total has the majority of residents registered as Republicans, followed closely by Democrats.
No Party Preference: 1,893
American Independent: 408
Green Party: 86
Misc./Other Party: 45
Peace and Freedom: 28
According to Inyo County Clerk-Recorder Kammi Foote, of the 9,900-plus signed up to vote Nov. 6, more than half – a total of 6,187 – registered as absentee or vote-by-mail voters.
To date, of these mail-in voters, 3,689 have already turned in their ballots, equating to a 37 percent voter turnout. For comparison, the voter turnout for the entire state of California – by mail and at the polls – during the June Primary was 31 percent, what Foote characterized as a “dismal” showing.
According to Foote, however, the early and strong vote-by-mail turnout is not necessarily an indication of participation at the polls on Tuesday. “We always get a higher turnout with vote-by-mail ballots” than at the polls, she explained. “But I can say, historically, presidential elections have the highest voter turnouts for Inyo County. The last one, in 2008, had an 84 percent voter turnout.”
The results of ballots already sent in by mail will be available starting at 8 p.m. on election night.
WHERE AND WHEN
Many precincts in Inyo County’s five districts are designated as permanent vote-by-mail precincts, meaning there are no polling stations on Election Day. Secure drop boxes have been established in these communities, and absentee and vote-by-mail ballots may be dropped off at any polling place on Election Day beginning at 7 a.m. and prior to 8 p.m., regardless of where the voter lives.
Those polling places include:
• District 1: Tri-County Fairgrounds Home Economics Building
• District 2: Tri-County Fairgrounds Home Economics Building
• District 3: Tri-County Fairgrounds; Paiute Professional Building
• District 4: Big Pine Town Hall; Inyo County Courthouse; and Tri-County Fairgrounds
• District 5: Statham Hall