Electronic voter guides one step closer to San Francisco inboxes 

click to enlarge Pricey paper: In 2010, each voter guide cost 74 cents to print and 19 cents to mail. (AP file photo) - PRICEY PAPER: IN 2010, EACH VOTER GUIDE COST 74 CENTS TO PRINT AND 19 CENTS TO MAIL. (AP FILE PHOTO)
  • Pricey paper: In 2010, each voter guide cost 74 cents to print and 19 cents to mail. (AP file photo)
  • Pricey paper: In 2010, each voter guide cost 74 cents to print and 19 cents to mail. (AP file photo)

San Francisco’s paperless movement took another step forward Tuesday with the adoption of an opt-out option for voter information pamphlets.

Local governments throughout California are starting to allow voters to receive election guides electronically instead of in hard-copy form under a state law passed last year that took effect at the beginning of this year.

San Francisco became the most recent county — San Mateo County offers the option and the state has a program as well — to allow paperless voter guides when the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved legislation Tuesday that was introduced by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi.

“This is just a common-sense law that tries to walk our green proclamations in making The City more cost-conscious and more green-sensitive,” Mirkarimi said.

The Department of Elections sends out voter guides to registered voters each election. The guides have both an environmental and monetary cost. In the November 2010 election, a voter pamphlet cost 74 cents to print and 19 cents to mail. As of Aug. 15, San Francisco had 462,913 registered voters.

Elections Department Director John Arntz said the program would be in place for the Nov. 8 election, but the timing of its adoption will leave some voters with only the paper option this year. Arntz expects the number of voters choosing to opt out to increase over time.

Once the program is officially set up, voters are expected to be able to go online, call the department, fax or mail in their opt-out preference. They will then start receiving the pamphlets by email.

One drawback is that voters’ email addresses will be obtainable by campaigners, just as phone numbers are, if they enroll in the program, which could result in lots of political emails.

The board will take a second and final vote on the law next week. Then the mayor will have 10 days to sign it into law.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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