BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ó



                                                                      



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          |SENATE RULES COMMITTEE            |                   AB 503|
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                                 THIRD READING


          Bill No:  AB 503
          Author:   Block (D)
          Amended:  5/27/11 in Assembly
          Vote:     21

           
           SENATE ELECTIONS & CONST. AMEND. COMMITTEE  :  3-2, 6/21/11
          AYES:  Correa, De León, Lieu
          NOES:  La Malfa, Gaines
           
          ASSEMBLY FLOOR  :  53-23, 6/1/11 - See last page for vote


           SUBJECT  :    Processing write-in votes

           SOURCE  :     Secretary of State


           DIGEST  :    This bill requires an elections official, upon 
          the request of a qualified write-in candidate, to hand 
          tally the votes for the write-in candidate, as specified.  
          If an elections official conducts a hand tally, this bill 
          requires the elections official to include the results in 
          the official canvass of the election.

           ANALYSIS  :    Existing law provides every voter the right to 
          write the name of any candidate for any public office on 
          the ballot of any election.  Existing law provides, for 
          voting systems in which write-in spaces appear directly 
          below the list of candidates for that office and provide a 
          voting space, no write-in vote shall be counted unless the 
          voting space next to the write-in space is marked or 
          slotted as directed in the voting instructions.  Existing 
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          law provides for voting systems in which write-in spaces 
          appear separately from the list of candidates for that 
          office and do not provide a voting space, the name of the 
          write-in candidate, if otherwise qualified, shall be 
          counted if it is written in a manner described in the 
          voting instructions.

          This bill permits the elections official to stop the hand 
          tally when the official determines that the conditions set 
          forth above are no longer applicable, or when all of the 
          undervotes for the office have been examined.

          This bill requires 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.

          This bill requires the elections official to include the 
          results of the hand tally in the official canvass of the 
          election.

          This bill provides that the requirement of the elections 
          official to hand tally undervotes only applies 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.

          After tallying all eligible votes but prior to completion 
          of the official canvass and the issuance of the certified 
          statement of the results, this bill provides that the 
          elections official may hand tally the remaining undervotes, 
          if a request for examination of undervotes 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 if any of the following is 
          applicable:

          1.   In the case of a primary election or a special 
             election, the sum of the total number of votes cast for 
             the write-in candidate and the total number of 
             undervotes cast for the office but not examined pursuant 
             to a hand tally is equal to or greater than the total 
             number of votes cast for the candidate receiving the 

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             second highest number of voters for that office.

          2.   In the case of a general election or special runoff 
             election, the sum of the total number of votes cast for 
             the write-in candidate and the total number of 
             undervotes cast for the office but not examined pursuant 
             to a hand tally is equal to or greater than the total 
             number of votes cast for the candidate receiving the 
             highest number of votes for that office.

          3.   In the case of an office for which a voter may vote 
             for more than one candidate, the sum of the total number 
             of votes cast for the write-in candidate and the total 
             number of undervotes cast for the office but not 
             examined pursuant to a hand tally is equal to or greater 
             than the total number of votes cast for the candidate 
             receiving the least number of votes that would be 
             sufficient in order to be elected.

          This bill 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.

          This bill provides that a qualified write-in candidate is 
          not responsible for the costs of a hand tally requested 
          pursuant to this bill.

          This bill does not prohibit a request for a recount.

           Related/Prior Legislation
           
          AB 461 (Bonilla), 2011-12 Session, provides that during a 
          recount, a valid- write-in vote will be counted whether or 
          not the voter filled in the corresponding "bubble".  (AB 
          461 is on the Senate Floor)

          SB 439 (Calderon), 2007-08 Session, would have required, in 
          the event of a manual recount, provisions of law governing 
          the counting of write-in votes to be liberally construed to 
          ensure that each ballot is counted if the intent of the 
          voter can be determined, regardless of whether the voter 
          had literally complied with the voting instructions.  SB 

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          439 was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger, who stated in 
          relevant part:  "The bill does not specify how the voter's 
          intent could be determined.  If enacted this bill would 
          introduce subjectivity into the electoral process without 
          providing any direction or guidance to the elections 
          officials?Requiring that a voter fill in the corresponding 
          bubble for a write-in candidate is necessary for the 
          efficient administration of the vote count, and imposes a 
          very small burden on a voter."

          SB 1050 (Bowen), 2005-06 Session, would have required a 
          hand tally of all ballots at the request of a write-in 
          candidate, if specified conditions were met.  SB 1050 was 
          vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger, who stated in his veto 
          message:  "This process will expand the number of manual 
          hand recounts, which will lead to an unnecessary delay in 
          completing the canvass and certifying election results.  It 
          will require county elections officials to review every 
          mark on ballots even in situations where it is virtually 
          impossible for the candidate challenging the vote to 
          prevail."

          AB 43 (Vargas), 2005-06 Session, which was substantially 
          similar to SB 439, was approved by the Assembly, but was 
          never heard in the Senate Elections and Constitutional 
          Amendments Committee.

           FISCAL EFFECT  :    Appropriation:  No   Fiscal Com.:  No   
          Local:  No

           SUPPORT :   (Verified  6/22/11)

          Secretary of State (source)
          California Aware
          California Common Cause
          California National Organization for Women
          Environmental Health Coalition
          League of Women Voters of California

           OPPOSITION  :    (Verified  6/22/11)

          California Association of Clerks and Election Officials

           ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT  :    According to the author:  

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            "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.  By law, voters 
            are permitted to write in the name of a candidate they 
            wish to vote for if they do not want to vote for a 
            candidate listed on the ballot.  However, for voting 
            systems in which write-in spaces appear below a list of 
            candidates and include a bubble or similar voting space, 
            state law requires the voter to perform the additional 
            step of marking that bubble or voting space.  This bill 
            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 voting space next to the write-in space on 
            a ballot.  The provisions of this bill would only be in 
            effect when the number of ballots where no vote for a 
            particular office was recorded during the electronic 
            tabulation process combined with the tallied votes for 
            the write-in candidate could mathematically change the 
            outcome of that election.  This measure will ensure that 
            the intent of voters, who write-in candidates, is carried 
            out when their vote could change the outcome of the 
            election."

           ARGUMENTS IN OPPOSITION  :    The California Association of 
          Clerks and Election Officials indicates, "The request is 
          submitted after the elections official has completed 
          tallying all eligible votes, however, prior to completing 
          all required steps of the official 28-day canvass 
          certifying the election.  Recent trends reflect an increase 
          in the number of vote by mail voters who wait until 
          Election Day to return their ballot.  Election officials 
          are spending more time processing ballots after Election 
          Day, using a major portion of the 28-day canvass that is 
          necessary to finalize other mandated requirements of the 
          official canvass, including the 1% manual tally of paper 
          and 100% tally of electronic votes.  Larger counties will 
          be unable to determine whether a request for recount of 
          undervotes is acceptable as they will still be processing 
          vote by mail and provisional ballots.  The April 12, 2011 
          Assembly Analysis acknowledges the pressure to expedite the 

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          canvass this bill will put on election officials, risking 
          the accuracy and integrity of the election results when 
          additional processes must be completed within the same 
          deadlines."


           ASSEMBLY FLOOR  :  53-23, 6/1/11
          AYES:  Alejo, Allen, Ammiano, Atkins, Beall, Block, 
            Blumenfield, Bonilla, Bradford, Brownley, Buchanan, 
            Butler, Charles Calderon, Campos, Carter, Cedillo, 
            Chesbro, Davis, Dickinson, Eng, Feuer, Fletcher, Fong, 
            Fuentes, Furutani, Galgiani, Gatto, Gordon, Hall, 
            Hayashi, Roger Hernández, Hill, Huber, Hueso, Huffman, 
            Lara, Bonnie Lowenthal, Ma, Mendoza, Mitchell, Monning, 
            Norby, Pan, Perea, Portantino, Skinner, Solorio, Swanson, 
            Torres, Wieckowski, Williams, Yamada, John A. Pérez
          NOES:  Achadjian, Bill Berryhill, Conway, Cook, Donnelly, 
            Beth Gaines, Grove, Hagman, Halderman, Harkey, Jones, 
            Knight, Logue, Mansoor, Miller, Morrell, Nestande, 
            Nielsen, Olsen, Silva, Smyth, Valadao, Wagner
          NO VOTE RECORDED:  Garrick, Gorell, Jeffries, V. Manuel 
            Pérez


          DLW:kc  6/23/11   Senate Floor Analyses 

                         SUPPORT/OPPOSITION:  SEE ABOVE

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