By Karen Billing
On the verge of two community-wide votes in Rancho Santa Fe, many residents are questioning the voter registration process itself. Residents are wondering why they have to register at all and why it isn’t an automatic right once they become a member of the Covenant.
The Rancho Santa Fe Association board discussed the topic at its March 20 meeting, along with other confusing registration details, such as voting rights of trusts and LLCs, spouses, and owners of more than one Covenant parcel.
Several members spoke up that they belong to several Associations (some of them smaller than Rancho Santa Fe’s) and they have never had to register.
“It should be automatic,” said longtime resident Scott DeGoler, who has lived in the Covenant 10 years and only recently discovered that his vote didn’t count. “It needs to be changed, it’s ridiculous we have to do this, it’s antiquated and needs to be cleared up. For 10 years I’ve been paying Association dues and I’m not registered to vote…Essentially it’s taxation without representation.”
DeGoler, who made it clear he loves the community and that he and his wife are very involved, said he thinks it might even be illegal that members aren’t automatically registered.
The requirement to register to vote 60 days in advance of an election was established in the Association bylaws in 1980 to address problems with determining who was actually authorized to vote, especially in cases where the title is held by a corporation, trust, partnership or where multiple properties are owned by the same individual. Acting RSF Association Manager Ivan Holler said an entity such as a corporation, partnership or trust cannot be a member of the Association, which means it does not have a vote. Once a member has registered to vote, their registration remains until they no longer own the required interest in the “building site,” per the bylaws.
RSF resident Bill Strong said that when he served on the board it was even more complicated to register: there were five forms to fill out to register to vote. Strong said his board was able to whittle it down to one,
“I encourage you to look at a more simplified, easy process,” Strong said, noting that there is still room for improvement.
RSF Association Director Ann Boon suggested the board look into a bylaw change to find a permanent remedy to make participation in governance easier for residents. The board agreed to direct the Association’s attorney, Alan Zuckerman, to come back with a recommendation regarding whether the Association’s current process is legal, whether voting registration can be made automatic and whether it can be changed to one vote per parcel.
As more people have become aware about the need to register, the Association has seen a boost in registration over the last two weeks, with 50 new voters. RSF Association Director Philip Wilkinson said their goal is to have 100 percent of the residents registered to vote.
The last day to register to vote for the election of the new RSF Association board members is April 25. There are currently five candidates for two seats (alphabetical order): Dominick Addario, incumbent Ann Boon, Daniel Bunn, Susan Callahan and Kim Eggleston. Ballots will be mailed on May 8 after the annual meeting and the election will close June 9.