BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    






               SENATE COMMITTEE ON ELECTIONS, REAPPORTIONMENT AND  
                           CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
                          Senator Loni Hancock, Chair


          BILL NO:   AB 787             HEARING DATE:7/7/09
          AUTHOR:    HILL               ANALYSIS BY: Frances Tibon  
          Estoista
          AMENDED:   6/1/09
          FISCAL:    YES
          
                                     SUBJECT
           
          Elections: vote by mail ballots

                                   DESCRIPTION  
          
           Existing law  provides that all vote by mail (VBM) ballots  
          must be voted on or before the day of the election and must  
          be received by either the elections official from whom it  
          came or the precinct board no later than the close of polls  
          on election day.

           Existing law  requires the elections official to deliver  
          voting materials to each qualified applicant for a VBM  
          ballot, including an identification envelope in which to  
          return the VBM ballot.  The identification envelope shall  
          contain the following:

             A declaration, under penalty of perjury, stating that  
             the voter resides within the precinct in which he or she  
             is voting and is the person whose name appears on the  
             envelope;
             The signature of the voter;
             The residence address of the voter as shown on the  
             affidavit of registration;
             The date of signing;
             A notice that the envelope contains an official ballot  
             and is to be opened only by the canvassing board;
             A warning plainly stamped or printed on it that the  
             voter must sign the envelope in his or her own  
             handwriting in order for the ballot to be counted;
             A statement that the voter has neither applied, nor  
             intends to apply, for a VBM ballot from any other  
             jurisdiction for the same election; and,
             The name and signature of the person, if any,  









             authorized to return the VBM ballot.

           This bill  requires the elections official, if he or she  
          determines that more than one first-class stamp or  
          equivalent postage is required to return a VBM ballot, to  
          provide a notification to the voter of how many first-class  
          stamps or equivalent postage is required.

           This bill  requires the elections official to use the most  
          cost-effective means available to notify the voter of the  
          need for additional postage.
                                    BACKGROUND  
          
          Information taken from an October 2006 letter to the  
          Governor and legislative leadership from then Secretary of  
          State Bruce McPherson indicated that vote-by-mail voters in  
          at least 24 California counties would be required to put  
          more than one first-class stamp on their vote-by-mail  
          ballot envelope in order to return their voted ballot for  
          the November 7, 2006 General Election.  It was later  
          determined that in at least one county, some voters had to  
          include more than 2 first-class stamps on their ballot to  
          return it by mail.

          Counties responded to this situation by individually  
          negotiating with the United States Postal Service (USPS) to  
          ensure that any vote-by-mail ballot with at least one stamp  
          was delivered to the county, even if postage was  
          insufficient.  The counties then agreed to pay the USPS for  
          the cost of the insufficient postage.  In addition, many  
          counties included a notification to the voters of the  
          amount of postage that would be required to return the  
          ballot.  However, some vote-by-mail ballots went out  
          without such a notification, while other counties simply  
          notified voters that "additional postage may be required"  
          in order for a voter to return his or her vote-by-mail  
          ballot, without notifying the voters whether additional  
          postage was required, and if so, how much additional  
          postage was required.

                                     COMMENTS  
          
            1. According to the author  :  The number of Californians  
             who vote by mail has swelled in recent years.  In the  
          AB 787 (HILL)                                          Page  
          2  
           








             November 2000 General Election, approximately 24% of the  
             11.1 million ballots were cast by mail rather than at  
             polling places. During the last presidential election  
             four years ago, 32.6% of the 12.6 million Californian  
             ballots came in by mail. In the primary elections in  
             February and June of this year, 41.7% and 58.7% of  
             ballots were cast by mail, respectively.

           As more voters cast their ballots by mail, stamps are  
             becoming an election issue. During the November race,  
             election blogs throughout California were busy with  
             questions from voters who were worried that their ballot  
             was going to be returned due to lack of proper postage.

           However, while local elections officials don't advertise  
             it, some counties in the state have arrangements with  
             the Postal Service to deliver ballots and other  
             election-related mail - even if it is short on stamps.   
             Despite this agreement, the idea is not to subsidize the  
             cost of a ballot.  AB 787 simply seeks to inform the  
             voter of the postage necessary for their ballot to be  
             delivered to the registrar's office and save local  
             governments money.

           2.   Prior Legislation  :  AB 984 (Price) of 2008, would have  
             required elections officials to notify VBM voters when  
             more than one first-class stamp was required to return  
             their VBM ballot, but was held on the Senate  
             Appropriations Committee's suspense file.



             AB 1167 (Nava) of 2007, which was vetoed by the  
             Governor, would have required county elections officials  
             to negotiate with the USPS to ensure that all VBM  
             ballots would be delivered regardless of whether  
             sufficient postage was provided and required elections  
             officials to provide a notice to VBM voters when more  
             than one first-class stamp was required to return their  
             VBM ballot.  In his veto message, the Governor indicated  
             that he was vetoing the bill because he "cannot support  
             the provision of this bill that requires local election  
             officials to negotiate with the USPS to ensure all  
             [vote-by-mail] ballots are delivered even if they have  
          AB 787 (HILL)                                          Page  
          3  
           








             insufficient postage."  The Governor expressed his  
             concern that such a provision was "unnecessary and  
             fail[ed] to appropriately recognize the responsibility  
             of [vote-by-mail] voters to use sufficient postage when  
             returning their ballot."

             However, the Governor also indicated in his veto message  
             that he thought that the requirement for election  
             officials to notify VBM voters if a ballot will require  
             more than one stamp to return in the mail was "a common  
             sense proposal that appropriately places shared  
             responsibility on all parties."

                                   PRIOR ACTION
           
          Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee:  7-0
          Assembly Appropriations Committee:       13-4
          Assembly Floor:                          74-1

                                    POSITIONS  
          
          Sponsor: Author

          Support: California Common Cause
                   California Teachers Association
                   Secretary of State

          Oppose:  Department of Finance














          AB 787 (HILL)                                          Page  
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