Analysis

Sonoma County, California, Reduces Elections Mailings, Saves Money and Paper

In May 2013, the Sonoma County registrar’s office began a “going green” initiative that encourages registered voters to participate in environmentally friendly election efforts. For many years, California counties were required to mail voter information pamphlets and sample ballots to all registered voters. In 2011, state law was changed to allow voters to opt out of these mailings and instead receive the information by email or online, saving postage and reducing the use of paper. 

Sonoma County is also urging voters to use online voter registration and mail voting. The cost for the county to print and mail sample ballots and pamphlets is about 75 cents per mailing. As of May, 24,000 voters, almost 10 percent of those registered in the county, had opted out, saving at least $18,000 for the June primary.

Previous research found that Los Angeles County spent approximately $6 million on its mailings for the 2008 general election. If the new law had been in effect at that time and just 20 percent of registered voters had chosen electronic over paper-based election information, the county would have saved nearly $1.2 million. 

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