The Santa Monica City Council will consider a change to election rules at next week’s meetings that would charge candidates for City Council, SMC Board and Rent Control Board a fee to offset the costs of printing and mailing candidate statements to voters (Agenda, Item 10A). The cost of the Supplemental Sample Ballot had traditionally been borne by the city, however the two-year city budget approved last July assumes these fees will be in place.

Council and Rent Control Board candidates would pay $1,100, while School and College Board candidates would pay $1,200. $200 fees would be required for notices of intent to recall an elected official and ballot initiatives. The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District is not governed by city charter so the city cannot change filing fees for candidates for the Board of Education.

This may seem like a simple clerical change as the Council already voted for a budget that assumes these changes, but an article in the Santa Monica Lookout notes that this issue has been fraught in the past. Among those who opposed a similar change when it was last brought up in 2020 was Oscar de la Torre, then a candidate now a Councilmember.

Opposition to the fee in 2020 was based around an equity argument. Should their be an upfront fee to run for office and have your candidate statement set to voters, it creates a barrier for grassroots candidates to run for elected office.

The fee for posting the notice of intent to recall will be reimbursed if the petition receives enough signatures to be certified. If the city collects more in fees from candidates than it costs to print and mail the election guide, it will reimburse candidates proportionately to what they paid.

The staff report prepared for the Council does not propose any alternatives to a candidate fee should the Council decide that a candidate fee is not the best path forward.

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