Robert Cruickshank writes for the California Progress Report.

By now you all know that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has decided to schedule the SD-15 special election for June 22 and August 17. This comes despite pleas from county election officials to consolidate the runoff portion of the election with the November general election.

With those pleas ignored, the five counties that comprise SD-15 – Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara – must now struggle to find the $6.5 million it is estimated to cost to hold these two elections. The five counties will now be responsible for holding four different elections in 2010 – the two SD-15 votes, and the June and November statewide elections.

County election officials called the move thoughtless and said they’re not sure where to find the money or time to do it:

Linda Tulett, Monterey County registrar of voters, said not consolidating the vote for the state Senate’s 15th District with November’s general election will strain the county Elections Office, which already has two elections to run this year. Adding the special election and a possible primary forces the office to reach for resources it does not have, she said.

“I’m not in Sacramento, so I don’t know what is going on there,” Tulett said. “But I am here locally, and I do know what is going on here locally. And I know as an administrator in this office, that the money is not there and the time is not there.”…

Tulett said the August election will cost the county nearly $500,000 more than if the election was consolidated with the November ballot. But that is not the only drawback of a special election, she said.

The elections office will not have enough time to transition from the statewide June primary to a special election primary, nor will it have enough time to send out ballots to military and other overseas voters, Tulett said.

The governor’s decision came on the same day that the Monterey County Board of Supervisors debated laying off 43 county employees because of a multimillion dollar budget gap. Arnold’s scheduling decision will mean more nurses, teachers, and law enforcement officers will lose their jobs, all because Arnold wants to play political games with the election date.

It’s also a departure from standard practice. Over the last ten years at least, almost every special election that could be consolidated with a scheduled election had been. And just last November, when Republican John Benoit resigned to run for the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, what did Arnold do?

The governor still could have set a special general election to fill the seat as early as Tuesday, March 23. A special primary election would have been eight weeks earlier, Tuesday, Jan. 26.

But the governor consolidated the special general election with the June 8, 2010 statewide primary.That made the special primary election April 13. Assemblyman Bill Emmerson, the top vote-getter in the primary, is expected to win the three-way runoff June 8.

If there was any more evidence needed that Arnold chose the SD-15 dates out of political spite, there you have it. The public should remember how Arnold is willing to force counties to spend millions of dollars they don’t have to cater to his political whims later this year when he asks them to fire more teachers and cut back more on health services in the name of budget savings.