It is becoming a sad commentary for Shafter residents to see their city ignored when it comes to services in Kern County. I received a few phone calls from residents who were not happy with Shafter being passed over for a ballot location when the sites were recently announced. There are more than a dozen locations throughout Kern County in each community it seems, except for Shafter and McFarland.
These ballot locations make it possible for residents to turn in their ballots without having to put them in the mail. A large number of Kern County residents want to drop their ballots off themselves, not leaving their fate in someone else’s hands.
I called the Elections Department of Kern County and was transferred to their media liaison, Laura Cantu. There was no answer and I left a detailed message for her and awaited a response. I ended up leaving Cantu four messages with not one response. It was déjà vu all over again. I looked at the locations that were announced that would be available, including one in Wasco, Delano, Ridgecrest, Lake Isabella, Taft and couple in Bakersfield. All of the locations on the list were libraries dotted throughout the county, libraries that the county had deemed worthy to reopen recently.
This announcement was surprising, considering that Shafter, being one of the smallest branches in the county of the 24 libraries, was always ranked near the top when it comes to participation and foot traffic. Even the Wasco branch, which is a very nice library, was reopened even though it doesn’t come close to the numbers put up by the Shafter branch.
After several failed attempts of trying to contact Cantu, I called and was told that Cantu was very busy and they could not tell her who to respond to and who not to. I finally emailed [email protected] and received a reply from Mary Bedard of the Kern County Auditor-Controller’s Office within an hour. I was told that the drop-off locations were determined in conjunction with the libraries, and which branches were open and could accommodate it. She also said that since there were two locations in Bakersfield and one in Wasco, that they needed to allocate their scarce resources to areas of the county where voters would have to go much greater distances to drop off their ballots.
This makes no sense to me because a person living in Bakersfield can use public transportation to get to the drop-off location, even if there was just one location in the city. But, a resident of Shafter will have to find a way to Wasco to drop off their ballot, which would be the closest location for them. This is a burden for a lot of residents and is just another slap in the face in addition to the remaining closure of its library branch, which seems to be the reason we were not deemed worthy of a drop-off location. Hopefully, Shafter will show those officials how they feel by the way they vote in this election. Yes, kick us while we are already down. Thank God that there is a possibility of a partnership with Bakersfield College that might mean a bright future for our library. We might just keep thriving in spite of the no confidence vote we seem to be getting from our beloved county leaders.