BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ó




                   Senate Appropriations Committee Fiscal Summary
                            Senator Kevin de León, Chair


          AB 280 (Alejo) - Voting Rights: Preclearance
          
          Amended: June 18, 2014          Policy Vote: E&CA 3-1
          Urgency: No                     Mandate: Yes
          Hearing Date: August 4, 2014                            
          Consultant: Maureen Ortiz       
          
          This bill meets the criteria for referral to the Suspense File.
          
          
          Bill Summary:  AB 280 provides that if a political subdivision  
          enacts or seeks to administer a voting related law, regulation,  
          or policy as specified, it must first obtain approval from the  
          Secretary of State (SOS).

          Fiscal Impact: 

              Approximately $2.1 million annually to the SOS (General  
              Fund)

              Potential costs of $16.8 million after every U. S. Census  
              to SOS (General Fund)

              Potentially tens of millions of dollars in state  
              reimbursable mandate costs for county expenses - see below  
              (General Fund)

          The Secretary of State's Office indicates the need for 7 PYs (5  
          attorney positions) to review the changes submitted for  
          preclearance by local jurisdictions resulting in costs of about  
          $2.1 million annually.  Costs could be higher if the SOS were  
          required to contract out for legal reviews during peak periods.   
          In addition, the SOS would incur costs of approximately $1  
          million annually to conduct statistical analyses of an estimated  
          1,000 voting location changes per year assuming costs of $1,000  
          each.

          The U. S. Census triggers redistricting which would result in  
          requests for preclearance of an estimated 3,362 districts that  
          would require statistical analyses.  Assuming a cost of $5,000  
          for a review of each district, costs every ten years would be an  
          additional $16.8 million to the Secretary of State.








          AB 280 (Alejo)
          Page 1




          The county elections officials have indicated significant  
          reimbursable state mandate costs as follows:  1)  up to $700,000  
          to link precincts to census lines; 2) up to $24 million to mail  
          sample ballots first class if the polling places were not  
          approved in sufficient time to use bulk postage rates; 3) up to  
          $14 million in rush printing costs; 4) up to $3 million in  
          administrative costs for submitting requests to SOS for  
          approval; and 5) up to $2 million for other administrative  
          expenses.

          Background:  The federal Voting Rights Act (VRA) was enacted in  
          1965 and, among other provisions, prohibits any voting  
          qualification or pre-requisite to voting or standard, practice,  
          or procedure from being imposed by any state or political  
          subdivision in a manner which results in a denial or abridgement  
          of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on  
          account of race or color.

          Section 2 of the VRA is a nationwide prohibition against voting  
          practices and procedures, including redistricting plans and  
          at-large election systems, poll worker hiring, and voting  
          registration procedures, that discriminate on the basis of race,  
          color, or membership in a language minority group.  Section 2  
          allows the U.S. Attorney General, as well as affected private  
          citizens, to bring lawsuits in federal court to challenge  
          practices that may violate the VRA.  Section 4 of the VRA sets  
          the criteria for determining whether a jurisdiction is covered  
          under certain provisions of the VRA, including the requirement  
          for review of changes affecting voting under Section 5.  

          Section 5 of the VRA requires certain states and covered  
          jurisdictions to receive approval for any changes to law and  
          practices affecting voting from the U.S. Department of Justice  
          (DOJ) or the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia to  
          ensure that the changes do not have the purpose or effect of  
          "denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or  
          color."  The requirement to obtain approval under Section 5 is  
          commonly referred to as a "preclearance" requirement.  

          On June 25, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court, in  Shelby County v.  
          Holder  , held that the coverage formula in Section 4(b) of the  
          VRA is unconstitutional and can no longer be used as a basis for  








          AB 280 (Alejo)
          Page 2



          subjecting jurisdictions to preclearance under Section 5 of the  
          VRA.  The Court stated that although the formula was rational  
          and necessary at the time of its enactment, it is no longer  
          responsive to current conditions.  The Court, however, did not  
          strike down Section 5, which contains the preclearance  
          conditions.  Without Section 4(b), however, no jurisdiction will  
          be subject to Section 5 preclearance unless Congress enacts a  
          new coverage formula.  

          All or specific portions of the following states were required  
          to have their voting changes pre-cleared before the U.S. Supreme  
          Court decision in  Shelby  :  Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida,  
          Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New  
          York, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and  
          Virginia.  Also included were the California counties of Kings,  
          Monterey, and Yuba.  These California counties were included  
          because of compliance with certain state laws in effect at the  
          time (including English-only ballots) and less than 50% of  
          eligible voters were registered or voted for President.  The  
          counties failed to meet the voter participation thresholds  
          because of large military populations who were treated as  
          eligible to vote in the counties.  

          Proposed Law:  AB 280 provides that if a political subdivision  
          seeks to change any of the following voting related laws,  
          regulations, or policies, it must first obtain approval from the  
          Secretary of State:

          1)  A change to an at-large method of election that adds offices  
          elected at-large or converts offices elected by single-member  
          districts to one or more at-large or multi-member districts.

          2)  A change to the boundaries of an electoral jurisdiction or a  
          series of changes within a year to the boundaries of an  
          electoral jurisdiction that reduces the size of the citizen  
          voting-age population of a protected class by 3 or more percent.

          3)  A change through redistricting that alters the boundaries of  
          an electoral jurisdiction in which a protected class has  
          experienced a population increase of at least 10,000 citizens or  
          20 percent of the citizen voting-age population over the  
          preceding decade, as determined by the five-year estimates of  
          the United States Census American Community Survey.








          AB 280 (Alejo)
          Page 3




          4)  A change to voting locations that reduces, consolidates, or  
          relocates one or more voting locations, including an early,  
          absentee, or election-day voting location, and results in a net  
          loss, on a per voter basis, of voting locations in 20 percent of  
          the total number of census tracts in a political subdivision  
          with the highest proportion of voters from a protected class, as  
          specified. 

          5)  A change to multilingual voting materials that reduces the  
          voting materials available in languages other than English, or  
          alters the manner in which the materials are provided or  
          distributed, if no similar reduction or alteration occurred in  
          materials provided in English.

          AB 280 requires the Secretary of State to provide a written  
          decision to the governing body of the political subdivision  
          within 60 days of a request to enact or administer a  
          voting-related law, regulation or policy described above; but  
          allows implementation if the SOS does not meet the 60 day  
          requirement.  

          AB 280 also authorizes the political subdivision to make a  
          written request for an expedited review if a need has been  
          demonstrated to implement the proposed change before the end of  
          the 60 day timeframe.

          The governing body of the political subdivision shall have the  
          burden of establishing, by objective and compelling evidence,  
          that the law, regulation or policy meets the following criteria:

             a)   It is not likely to result in a discriminatory effect on  
               the participation of voters from a protected class that  
               constitutes at least 20 percent of the political  
               subdivision's citizen voting-age population.

             b)   It is not motivated in whole or substantially in part by  
               the intent to reduce the participation of voters from a  
               protected class.

          AB 280 authorizes a political subdivision to seek a review of  
          the decision by means filed in superior court if the Secretary  
          of State denies a request; and authorizes the SOS to file suit  








          AB 280 (Alejo)
          Page 4



          to enjoin the governing body of a political subdivision from  
          implementing a law, regulation, or policy in violation of this  
          bill's provision.  The venue for either of these actions will be  
          exclusively in the Superior Court for the County of Sacramento.

          Additionally, this bill prohibits a political subdivision with  
          two or more protected classes that each represent 20 percent of  
          the citizen voting-age population from implementing a previously  
          enacted or adopted voting-related law, regulation, or policy  
          that has not yet been implemented unless it is approved by the  
          Secretary of State.

          Staff Comments:  AB 280 seeks to expand voting rights  
          protections by requiring political subdivisions in which racial  
          or ethnic groups represent 20% or more of the citizen voting age  
          population to have specified changes to their voting laws or  
          procedures approved by California's Secretary of State before  
          enactment-a process otherwise known as "preclearance". 

          According to census data, this bill would apply to 38 counties,  
          482 cities, and approximately 1,000 school districts.

          According to the California Association of Clerks and Election  
          Officials, obtaining pre-clearances of changes to voting  
          locations as provided in AB 280 is unachievable.  Current law  
          provides that polling locations be established no later than 29  
          days prior to an election.  Counties often face challenges to  
          locate sufficient poll sites that meet statutory requirements  
          for location and accessibility.  Preclearance of tens of  
          thousands of sites would not be achievable in a timely manner  
          and would result in tremendous costs to cities, counties and  
          districts.