BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  AB 503
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          ASSEMBLY THIRD READING
          AB 503 (Block)
          As Amended  May 27, 2011
          Majority vote 

           ELECTIONS           5-2         APPROPRIATIONS      12-5        
           
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 
          |Ayes:|Fong, Bonilla, Hall,      |Ayes:|Fuentes, Blumenfield,     |
          |     |Mendoza, Swanson          |     |Bradford, Charles         |
          |     |                          |     |Calderon, Campos, Davis,  |
          |     |                          |     |Gatto, Hall, Hill, Lara,  |
          |     |                          |     |Mitchell, Solorio         |
          |     |                          |     |                          |
          |-----+--------------------------+-----+--------------------------|
          |Nays:|Logue, Valadao            |Nays:|Harkey, Donnelly,         |
          |     |                          |     |Nielsen, Norby, Wagner    |
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 

           SUMMARY  :  Permits an elections official, upon the request of a 
          qualified write-in candidate, to hand tally the votes for the 
          write-in candidate, as specified, and to count each ballot if 
          the intent of the voter can be determined.  Specifically,  this 
          bill  :  

          1)Defines "undervote," for the purposes of this bill, as a 
            ballot on which a voter failed to cast any vote for a specific 
            office or failed to cast the maximum number of votes 
            permitted, as detected by an electronic, mechanical, or other 
            vote-tabulating device.

          2)Permits an elections official, after tallying all eligible 
            votes but prior to completion of the official canvass and the 
            issuance of the certified statement of the results, to hand 
            tally undervotes if any of certain specified conditions apply.

          3)Permits the elections official to stop the hand tally upon 
            determining that the conditions are no longer applicable or 
            when all of the undervotes for the office have been examined. 

          4)Permits the elections official, while conducting the hand 
            tally, to count each vote for the office if the intent of the 
            voter can be determined, regardless of whether the voter has 
            complied with the voting instructions.  








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          5)Provides that the ability of the elections official to hand 
            tally undervotes only applies:

             a)   If a request is received within five days of completion 
               of the semi-official canvass from a qualified write-in 
               candidate for an office being voted on in that election for 
               an examination of undervotes; and, 

             b)   In an election that was conducted using a voting system 
               in which write-in spaces appear directly below the list of 
               candidates for that office and provide a voting space.

          6)Provides that a qualified write-in candidate is not 
            responsible for the costs of a hand tally requested pursuant 
            to this bill.
           
           FISCAL EFFECT  :  Keyed non-fiscal by the Legislative Counsel.

           COMMENTS  :  According to the author, "AB 503 ensures that votes 
          for qualified write-in candidates will be counted in certain 
          circumstances if the intent of the voter can be determined, even 
          if the voter did not mark the bubble or similar voting space 
          next to the write-in space on the ballot."

          The premise for this bill stems out a local race in the City of 
          San Diego during the November 2004 general election.  When the 
          official canvass of election results was completed, Donna Frye, 
          a qualified write-in candidate for mayor, showed to have 
          finished second to incumbent mayor Dick Murphy by 2,108 votes.  
          A recount, requested by five media organizations and two Frye 
          supporters, uncovered a total of 5,551 ballots in which a voter 
          wrote-in Frye's name on the ballot in the correct location, but 
          did not darken the oval next to the write-in space.  Had those 
          ballots been counted for Frye, she would have won the election 
          by 3,443 votes.  However, the Registrar of Voters in San Diego 
          County refused to count those votes, citing state law that 
          requires the oval to be darkened in order for a write-in vote to 
          count.  A subsequent lawsuit challenging the registrar's 
          decision was rejected by the court.

          This bill permits an elections official, upon making a specific 
          finding and at the request of a qualified write-in candidate, to 
          hand tally the votes for the write-in candidate for that office, 








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          and to count each vote for the office if the intent of the voter 
          can be determined, regardless of whether the voter has complied 
          with the voting instructions.  

          Current law allows any person to request a manual recount after 
          the results of an election have been certified.  The cost of the 
          manual recount is the responsibility of the requestor, unless 
          the recount changes the outcome of the election.  This bill 
          provides that a qualified write-in candidate is not responsible 
          for the costs of the hand tally, regardless of the outcome of 
          the hand tally.  However, the circumstances in which this bill 
          would be applicable are limited to situations where the 
          elections official chooses to conduct the hand-tally, as 
          described above, and if the number of undervotes is significant 
          enough to potentially change the outcome.  
           
           Please see the policy committee analysis for a full discussion 
          of this bill.


          Analysis Prepared by  :    Maria Garcia / E. & R. / (916) 319-2094


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