Amended in Senate May 28, 2014

Amended in Senate September 6, 2013

Amended in Senate June 17, 2013

Amended in Assembly May 15, 2013

Amended in Assembly April 11, 2013

California Legislature—2013–14 Regular Session

Assembly BillNo. 280


Introduced by Assembly Member Alejo

February 11, 2013


An act to add Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 400) to Division 0.5 of the Elections Code, relating to elections.

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

AB 280, as amended, Alejo. Voting rights.

Existing law, the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, provides that a change in voting procedures may not take effect in a state or political subdivision that is covered by the preclearance requirements of the federal act until the change is approved by a specified federal authority. A state or political subdivision is covered by the preclearance requirements of the federal act if it maintained a specified test or device as a prerequisite to voting, and had low voter registration or turnout, in the 1960s and early 1970s.begin insert The federal act allows a state or political subdivision covered by the act to obtain an exemption from the preclearance requirements if it satisfies specified criteria.end insert The United States Supreme Court has held that the coverage formula of the federal act is unconstitutional and may not be used as a basis for requiring a jurisdiction to subject a proposed change in voting procedures to federal preclearance. Prior to that holding, thebegin delete countiesend deletebegin insert Countiesend insert of Kings, Monterey, and Yuba were covered jurisdictions subject to the federal preclearance requirements.

This bill would establish a state preclearance system applicable only to thebegin delete countiesend deletebegin insert Countiesend insert of Kings, Monterey, and Yuba. Under this system, if a county enacts or seeks to administer a voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or a standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting, that is different from that in force or effect on June 25, 2013, the county elections official would be required to submit the qualification, prerequisite, standard, practice, or procedure to the Attorney General for approval. This bill would require the Attorney General to approve the qualification, prerequisite, standard, practice, or procedure only if it neither has the purpose nor will have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account ofbegin delete race or colorend deletebegin insert membership in a protected class, as definedend insert. This bill would provide that the qualification, prerequisite, standard, practice, or procedure shall not take effect or be administered in the county until the county receives the approval of the Attorney General.begin insert The bill would allow the county to seek review of the Attorney General’s decision by means of an action filed in the Superior Court of Sacramento. The bill would allow a county to obtain an exemption from the state preclearance system if it satisfies specified criteria. The bill would repeal these provisions as of January 1, 2019.end insert By requiring specified counties to seek approval of the Attorney General for changes to voting procedures, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.

This bill would make legislative findings and declarations as to the necessity of a special statute for thebegin delete countiesend deletebegin insert Countiesend insert of Kings, Monterey, and Yuba.

The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.

This bill would provide that, if the Commission on State Mandates determines that the bill contains costs mandated by the state, reimbursement for those costs shall be made pursuant to these statutory provisions.

Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: yes. State-mandated local program: yes.

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:

P3    1

SECTION 1.  

The Legislature finds and declares all of the
2following:

3(a) The United States Congress enacted the federal Voting
4Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. Sec. 1971 et seq.) to address the
5numerous obstacles and barriers that had been erected by many
6states and local governments to prevent the free exercise of the
7right to vote and to participate on an equal basis in the electoral
8process by members of racial minorities.

9(b) Section 4 of the federal act provides a coverage formula
10identifying jurisdictions with histories of discriminatory voting
11practices. Under the coverage formula, a covered jurisdiction is a
12state or political subdivision that maintained a specified test or
13device as a prerequisite to voting, and had low voter registration
14or turnout, in the 1960s and early 1970s. Section 4 prohibits a
15covered jurisdiction from denying a person the right to vote because
16of his or her failure to comply with that test or device.

17(c) Section 5 of the federal act requires federal approval before
18a covered jurisdiction may enact or seek to administer any voting
19qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or
20procedure with respect to voting. This approval process is known
21as “preclearance.” A jurisdiction may obtain preclearance only by
22proving that the change has neither the purpose nor the effect of
23denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color.

24(d) In this state, thebegin delete countiesend deletebegin insert Countiesend insert of Kings, Monterey, and
25Yuba were each identified as a covered jurisdiction for purposes
26of federal preclearance, which required each county to receive
27federal approval for a proposed change to its voting procedures.

28(e) Sections 4 and 5 of the federal act have contributed to the
29immense progress in protecting and expanding the right to vote
30over the past few decades by ensuring that state and local election
31practices are just and fair.

32(f) Recently, in Shelby County v. Holder (2013) 133 S.Ct. 2612,
33the United States Supreme Court held that the coverage formula
34in Section 4 of the federal act is unconstitutional in violation of
35the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and can
36no longer be used as a basis for requiring jurisdictions to subject
37proposed changes in voting procedures to federal preclearance.
38As a result, a covered jurisdiction will no longer be required to
P4    1submit proposed changes to its voting procedures for federal
2preclearance, leaving states and political subdivisions that have
3histories of voter discrimination without safeguards to protect
4against discriminatory voting practices.

5(g) In an effort to remedy the abrupt ending to the federal
6preclearance safeguards against discriminatory voting practices,
7this bill establishes a state preclearance system, under which the
8begin delete countiesend deletebegin insert Countiesend insert of Kingsbegin insert,end insert Monterey, and Yuba must receive the
9approval of the state Attorney General before a change to voting
10procedures may take effect in that county.

begin insert

11(h) It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this act that the
12preclearance safeguards against discriminatory voting practices
13under the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. Sec. 1971
14et seq.) that existed before the ruling in Shelby County v. Holder
15remain in effect in the Counties of Kings, Monterey, and Yuba
16until the United States Congress updates the coverage formula of
17the federal act.

end insert
begin insert

18(i) This act shall not be construed to suggest that a county shall
19not be subject to a federal preclearance system enacted at a future
20date if the county is able to obtain an exemption from the state
21preclearance system pursuant to this act.

end insert
22

SEC. 2.  

Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 400) is added
23to Division 0.5 of the Elections Code, to read:

24 

25Chapter  5. State Preclearance
26

 

27

400.  

This chapter applies only to Kings County, Monterey
28County, and Yuba County.

begin insert
29

begin insert401.end insert  

For purposes of this chapter, the following terms have
30the following meanings:

31(a) “Minority” means a person who is a member of a protected
32class.

33(b) “Protected class” means a class of voters who are members
34of a race, color, or language minority group, as this class is
35referenced and defined in the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965
36(42 U.S.C. Sec. 1971 et seq.).

37(c) “Test or device” means any requirement that a person as a
38prerequisite for voting, or registration for voting, demonstrate the
39ability to read, write, understand, or interpret any matter,
40demonstrate any educational achievement or his or her knowledge
P5    1of any particular subject, possess good moral character, or prove
2his or her qualifications by the voucher of registered voters or
3members of any other class.

end insert
4

begin delete401.end delete
5begin insert402.end insert  

begin insert(a)end insertbegin insertend insert If a county enacts or seeks to administer a voting
6qualification or prerequisite to voting, or a standard, practice, or
7procedure with respect to voting, that is different from that in force
8or effect on June 25, 2013, the county elections official shall submit
9the qualification, prerequisite, standard, practice, or procedure to
10the Attorney General for approval. The Attorney General shall
11approve the qualification, prerequisite, standard, practice, or
12procedure only if it neither has the purpose nor will have the effect
13of denying or abridging the right to vote on account ofbegin delete race or
14colorend delete
begin insert membership in a protected classend insert. The qualification,
15prerequisite, standard, practice, or procedure shall not take effect
16or be administered in the county until the county receives the
17approval of the Attorney General.

begin insert

18(b) The Attorney General shall provide a written decision to
19the county within 60 days of a request to enact or administer a
20voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or a standard,
21practice, or procedure with respect to voting. If the Attorney
22General fails to provide a written decision within 60 days, the
23county may implement the qualification, prerequisite, standard,
24practice, or procedure. A county may make a written request for
25an expedited review of the qualification, prerequisite, standard,
26practice, or procedure if the county has a demonstrated need to
27implement the proposed change before the end of the 60-day review
28period. The written request shall describe the basis for the request
29in light of conditions in the county and specify the date by which
30a decision is needed. The Attorney General shall attempt to
31accommodate a reasonable request.

end insert
begin insert

32(c) The county shall have the burden of establishing, by objective
33and compelling evidence, that the qualification, prerequisite,
34standard, practice, or procedure has neither the purpose nor will
35have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account
36of membership in a protected class.

end insert
begin insert

37(d) If the Attorney General denies a request to enact or
38administer a qualification, prerequisite, standard, practice, or
39procedure, the county may seek review of the decision by means
40of an action filed in superior court.

end insert
begin insert

P6    1(e) The Attorney General may file suit to enjoin a county from
2implementing a qualification, prerequisite, standard, practice, or
3procedure in violation of this section.

end insert
begin insert

4(f) Venue for an action filed pursuant to subdivision (d) or (e)
5shall lie exclusively in the Superior Court of the County of
6Sacramento.

end insert
begin insert
7

begin insert403.end insert  

(a) Section 401 shall not apply to a county that obtains
8a declaratory judgment pursuant to this section from the Superior
9Court of the County of Sacramento.

10(b) To obtain a declaratory judgment pursuant to this section,
11a county shall demonstrate, by objective and compelling evidence,
12that during the 10 years preceding the filing of the action, and
13during the pendency of the action, the county has satisfied all of
14the following:

15(1) A test or device has not been used within the county for the
16purpose of, or with the effect of, denying or abridging the right to
17vote on account of membership in a protected class.

18(2) Any change by the county to a voting qualification or
19prerequisite to voting, or a standard, practice, or procedure with
20respect to voting, has been approved under Section 5 of the federal
21Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. Sec. 1971 et seq.) or Section
22401 of this code before its implementation.

23(3) A change by the county affecting a voting qualification or
24prerequisite to voting, or a standard, practice, or procedure with
25respect to voting, has not been the subject of an injunction obtained
26by the United States Attorney General or the state Attorney General
27or a denial of a declaratory judgment under Section 5 of the federal
28Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. Sec. 1971 et seq.) or this
29section.

30(4) There have been no judgments adverse to the county in
31lawsuits alleging voting discrimination on account of membership
32in a protected class.

33(5) There have been no consent decrees or settlement
34agreements that resulted in the abandonment by the county of a
35discriminatory voting practice on account of membership in a
36protected class.

37(6) There are no pending lawsuits against the county that allege
38voting discrimination on account of membership in a protected
39class.

P7    1(7) Federal examiners or observers have not been assigned in
2the county under the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C.
3Sec. 1971 et seq.).

4(8) There have been no violations by the county, as determined
5 by a court of law, of the Constitution or federal, state, or local
6laws with respect to discrimination in voting on account of
7membership in a protected class, unless the county establishes that
8the violation was trivial, promptly corrected, and not repeated.

9 (9) Voting procedures and methods of election in the county
10that inhibit or dilute equal access to the electoral process have
11been eliminated.

12(10) Constructive efforts have been made by the county to
13eliminate intimidation and harassment of persons seeking to
14register and vote, to expand opportunities for voter participation,
15including, but not limited to, opportunities for registration and
16voting, and to appoint minority officials throughout the county
17and at all levels and stages of the electoral process.

18(c) To assist the court in determining whether to issue a
19declaratory judgment under this section, the county shall present
20evidence of minority participation, including evidence of the levels
21of minority group registration and voting, changes in the levels
22over time, and disparities between minority-group and
23non-minority-group participation.

24(d) A county seeking a declaratory judgment under this section
25shall publicize the intended commencement and any proposed
26settlement of the action in the media serving the county and in the
27United States post offices located in the county.

28(e) A county seeking a declaratory judgment under this section
29shall establish that every city, town, school district, or other
30political subdivision within its boundaries has satisfied the
31requirements of this section.

32(f) Any aggrieved party may as of right intervene at any stage
33in an action under this section. An appeal from an action under
34this section shall be made directly to the California Supreme Court.

35(g) This section shall not prohibit the Attorney General from
36consenting to entry of a declaratory judgment if, based upon a
37showing of objective and compelling evidence by the county, and
38upon investigation, the Attorney General is satisfied that the county
39has complied with the requirements of this section.

end insert
begin insert
P8    1

begin insert404.end insert  

This chapter shall remain in effect only until January 1,
22019, and as of that date is repealed.

end insert
3

SEC. 3.  

The Legislature finds and declares that a special law
4is necessary and that a general law cannot be made applicable
5within the meaning of Section 16 of Article IV of the California
6Constitution because of thebegin delete unique historiesend deletebegin insert historyend insert of
7discriminatory voting practices in thebegin delete countiesend deletebegin insert Countiesend insert of Kings,
8Monterey, and Yuba.

9

SEC. 4.  

If the Commission on State Mandates determines that
10this act contains costs mandated by the state, reimbursement to
11local agencies and school districts for those costs shall be made
12pursuant to Part 7 (commencing with Section 17500) of Division
134 of Title 2 of the Government Code.



O

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