BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    






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


          BILL NO:   AB 2369           HEARING DATE: 6/29/10
          AUTHOR:    BLOCK             ANALYSIS BY:  Frances Tibon  
          Estoista
          AMENDED:   AS INTRODUCED
          FISCAL:    YES
          
                                     SUBJECT
           
          Elections: ballots

                                   DESCRIPTION  
          
           Existing law  defines a "special absentee voter" as an  
          elector who is any of the following:

          a)   A member of the Armed Forces of the U.S. or any  
          auxiliary branch thereof;

          b)   A citizen of the U.S. temporarily living outside of  
          the territorial limits of the
                U.S. or the District of Columbia;

          c)   Serving on a merchant vessel documented under the laws  
          of the U.S.; or,

           d) A spouse or dependent of a member of the Armed Forces  
             or any auxiliary branch thereof.

           Existing law  permits a special absentee voter who is  
          temporarily living outside the territorial limits of the  
          U.S. or the District of Columbia to return his or her  
          ballot by facsimile transmission at any election until  
          January 1, 2011.

           Existing law  provides that a ballot returned by facsimile  
          transmission must be received by the elections official no  
          later than the closing of the polls on Election Day.

           Existing law  requires any ballot returned by facsimile  
          transmission to contain an "identification envelope"  
          containing all the information required on the vote by mail  









          identification envelope.

           Existing law  requires any ballot returned by facsimile  
          transmission to contain an oath of voter declaration that  
          requires the voter to waive his or her right to have his or  
          her ballot kept secret.

           Existing law  requires the county elections official to  
          adopt appropriate procedures to protect the secrecy of  
          ballots returned by facsimile transmission.

           Existing law  required the Secretary of State (SOS) to  
          report by December 31, 2008, on the number of ballots  
          returned by fax pursuant to state law and on any benefits  
          and problems derived from allowing ballots to be returned  
          by fax.

           This bill  removes the sunset clauses associated with the  
          provisions allowing ballots to be transmitted by fax to and  
          from those voters who are temporarily living outside the  
          United States or those who have been called to military  
          service.  

                                    BACKGROUND  
          
           Secretary of State's Report on Military and Overseas Faxed  
          Ballots  :  In 2004, the Legislature approved and the  
          Governor signed AB 2941 (Bates), Chapter 821, Statutes of  
          2004, which permits a special absentee voter who is  
          temporarily living outside the U.S. to return his or her  
          ballot by facsimile transmission.  AB 2941 required the SOS  
          to report by December 31, 2008 on the benefits and problems  
          of allowing voters to return ballots by fax and on the  
          number of ballots returned by fax pursuant to AB 2941.  The  
          SOS writes in their report:

          The Secretary of State surveyed elections officials in each  
          of California's 58 counties in December 2008 regarding the  
          number of voted ballots returned by facsimile transmission  
          in the categories of military voters (domestic and  
          overseas) and non-military overseas voters for the November  
          4, 2008, General Election.  This breakdown was patterned  
          after the categories requested by the federal Election  
          Assistance Commission in the Uniformed and Overseas  
          AB 2369 (BLOCK)                                        Page  
          2  
           








          Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) portion of its 2008  
          Election Day Survey for consistency and ease of completion.  
           It should be noted that seven counties did not  
          differentiate military from non-military overseas voters.

          The Secretary of State survey also asked each county to  
          provide the number of facsimile ballots counted and the  
          number rejected or not counted.  Finally, the survey  
          solicited comments and recommendations regarding any  
          benefits or problems counties experienced with the receipt  
          of facsimile ballots.

          None of the counties recommended discontinuing the practice  
          of accepting facsimile special absentee ballots.  County  
          elections officials believe that military and overseas  
          voters should continue to be allowed to send their  
          completed ballots in by facsimile, especially because these  
          votes may be disadvantaged by having to rely on traditional  
          means to return ballots before the polls close on Election  
          Day.

          During the November 4, 2008, General Election, county  
          officials were able to resolve most problems, such as the  
          failure to return the signed oath of voter with the faxed  
          ballot, by contacting the voter and obtaining all required  
          forms.

          According to the 58 counties that responded to the survey,  
          11,997 ballots were returned by fax for the November 4,  
          2008, General Election.  Of those, 875 faxed ballots were  
          rejected and were not counted.  The most common reasons for  
          rejection were the failure on the part of the voter to  
          forward or sign the oath of voter and poor facsimile  
          quality.

          Sixteen counties reported having received incomplete or  
          illegible ballot packages, i.e., the oath of voter was not  
          faxed with the ballot, there were missing pages, or  
          portions of the ballot did not come through clearly.  In  
          most cases, county elections officials were able to contact  
          the voter to correct the deficiency by sending them  
          additional documents.

          Ten counties experienced a substantial increase in the  
          AB 2369 (BLOCK)                                        Page  
          3  
           








          number of special absentee voters and two of those counties  
          reported that additional processing time was necessary for  
          duplicating ballots due the quality of the facsimile  
          transmissions.  However, only one of the 58 counties, Santa  
          Clara County indicated the process actually delayed the  
          counting of the ballots because every faxed ballot required  
          duplication.

          Notably, the three counties that experienced the highest  
          volume of facsimile ballots (Los Angeles, Orange, and San  
          Diego counties) each expressed support for continuing the  
          program.  Many military members were reportedly grateful  
          that this method of voting was available and expressed  
          their appreciation to county election officials.
                                         
                                    COMMENTS  
          
            1. According to the author  :  Established by AB 2941(Bates)  
             in 2004 and extended by AB 2786 (Salas) in 2008, current  
             law allows a voter who is temporarily living outside of  
             the territorial limits of the United States, the  
             District of Columbia, or is called to military service,  
             to return his or her vote by mail ballot by facsimile  
             transmission to the elections official.  The ballot has  
             to be received by the close of the Election Day polls  
             and accompanied by an identification envelope and an  
             oath of voter declaration in a prescribed form.

           The statutes that protect the voting rights of men and  
             women in uniform serving outside the United States will  
             expire in 2011.  Faxed voting ballots are a proven and  
             effective means of voting by service members and others  
             living temporarily overseas (In the 2008 General  
             Election over 8,000 members of the Armed Services cast  
             their votes with a faxed ballot).  AB 2369 will ensure  
             that a permanent protection for service members' voting  
             rights is established.

                                   PRIOR ACTION
           
          Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee:  7-0
          Assembly Appropriations Committee:        15-0
          Assembly Floor:                           74-0
                                         
          AB 2369 (BLOCK)                                        Page  
          4
           










                                   POSITIONS  

          Sponsor: Author

           Support: California Association of Clerks and Election  
                   Officials
                    County of San Diego

           Oppose:  None received































          AB 2369 (BLOCK)                                        Page  
          5