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County clerks brace for an enigmatic election 

There’s going to be a California special election in May. Or possibly June. No one knows exactly what will be on the ballot, but there will be a ballot.

“All we really know in the trenches is the rumor that there’s going to be one,” County Clerk Julie Rodewald said. “There definitely will be one. We just don’t know when it is or what will be on it.”

Meanwhile, county clerks throughout the state are essentially sitting on their hands and waiting for officials to trickle down more details.

There are no specifics about what will be on the ballot, Rodewald said. The initiatives will probably all be fixes to the state budget that require voter approval. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plan to sell about $5 billion of the state lottery to investors, also called “lottery modernization and securitization,” is one of the more likely items, the county clerk explained.

No matter what actually ends up on the ballot, the cost will be high for county governments. Rodewald said the local price tag would probably hit somewhere around $560,000 for the special election. That’s more than her office can afford right now, so the remaining money will have to come from the SLO County general fund.

State officials have pledged to repay counties for the special election, but while the state budget crisis continues, local officials aren’t holding their breath. Rodewald said the county probably wouldn’t be reimbursed for a few years.

But SLO County and other small and medium counties throughout the state are asking to cut local costs by using only mail-in ballots for the election. Rodewald estimated that an all-mail option would save the county about $100,000. About 45 percent of SLO County’s registered voters are already registered as permanent mail-ins.

In the absence of any specifics, Rodewald said her office is telling poll workers they may be called in for an election in May or June. At the very least, it will certainly be on a Tuesday.

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