The Committee on Chicano Rights President asks if National City is ‘chopped liver’
By Barbara Zaragoza
On November 3rd, Herman Baca, President of the Committee on Chicano Rights (CCR), wrote a letter to Michael Vu at the San Diego County Registrar of Voters asking: Why doesn’t National City have a Mail Ballot Drop-Off Location?
Imperial Beach has a population of 26,324 and offers one drop-off location. Meanwhile, National City—with a population of 58,582—has none. Baca explained that National City has a 63% hispanic population and a media household income of $38,849. (By comparison, Imperial Beach’s median household income is $52,148.) What’s more, National City has one of the highest sales tax rates in the county—at 9%.
According to Herman Baca, when he called the Registrar of Voters, a representative initially said National City had several drop-off locations. However, checking again, she admitted she had made an error. She said there were indeed no mail ballot drop off locations. When Baca asked why, the representative said, “No one in National City wanted to take the responsibility of being the drop off point.”
Baca asks Union Tribune if National City issues are “newsworthy”
Baca sent his letter to several political figures as well as news media outlets. When the Union Tribune did not respond, Baca wrote to the newspaper directly. He asked whether the Union Tribune did not run the story because an issue involving National City voters was not “newsworthy.”
Michael Vu Responds
By November 6th, Michael Vu responded to Baca. In a letter, Vu explained the mail ballot drop-off location program is relatively new. This will be the third time the service has been provided in a countywide election. He went on to say:
It is meant to enhance, not supplant, the existing ways mail ballot voters are able to return their ballot. Those existing methods include mailing it through the United States Post Office; delivering it to any voting precinct on Election Day (there are 17 within National City for the upcoming election); or dropping it off at the Registrar of Voters’ office.
Please know the selection of mail ballot drop off locations was not based on city, but a variety of other criteria, including geographic distance. By using geographic distance, it allows us to maximize the overall coverage of the county and provide a degree of equipoise for voters within the county — not giving preference to any one city, community or area. In this way, it also maximizes the resources we have to serve the nearly 1.12 million registered voters who were issued a mail ballot. As you know from looking at the list of locations, there were several other cities (i.e. Del Mar and Spring Valley) and unincorporated areas within the county that do not have a drop off site.
In front of National City Hall
Baca wrote a return letter, re-iterating that he had received a large number of phone call complaints from National City voters asking where they could find drop off locations.
In front of National City Hall at noon today, he said:
ACLU, Councilmember and Council Candidate All Weigh In
In addition, an activist wrote to the ACLU of California, fearing voter suppression. The Voting Rights Director responded in an email, saying that the drop off site was only piloted by the County in 2014 at a handful of libraries. Libraries must meet several pre-requisites to serve as a drop off location. However, the Director assured that she would meet with Baca and also help find out why National City libraries did not qualify.
The San Diego Free Press also contacted National City council members and candidates. Councilmember Mona Rios immediately responded. She said she was working with the City Staff as well as the Registrar of Voters to assure that, moving forward, designated Ballot Drop Off sites during the next election would be available in National City.
Jose Rodriguez, candidate for National City Council, wrote in to say the following: “The only way our Democracy works is if we ALL participate in the process. And it is the job of our elected officials and Registrar of Voters to make it as convenient as possible for our Citizens to vote. These are the reasons I am running. We need fresh legs and new blood to help organize our communities and involve as many residents as possible in decision making within our City. I urge an investigation regarding this matter and hold people accountable for this act of voter suppression.”
All these people running in national city it is a shocked that none of elected officials caught this what are they all doing I dropped ours off at the MalcolmX library
Fredi Avalos says
Thank you Barbara Zaragoza and the San Diego Free Press for shedding light on this serious concern when other news outlets turned a blind eye. We need to remain ever vigilant when it comes to protecting the voting rights of all our citizens no mater what part of the county they may reside!
Drop off points are critical in all communities, but in poor communities many do not have the time, money or transportation to go sites outside their neighborhoods. Also for some who must work at more than than one job and use public transportation, it may not be possible to submit their ballots on the day of the election. The ability to drop of ballots early at drop off locations near them may make the difference between voting and not being able to exercise this basic right. I am glad that the ACLU will investigate the situation and hopefully ensure that this will not happen again.