BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                         SENATE COMMITTEE ON ELECTIONS 
                         AND CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
                           Senator Lou Correa, Chair

          BILL NO:   SB 589            HEARING DATE: 4/2/13
          AUTHOR:    HILL              ANALYSIS BY:  Frances Tibon  
          AMENDED:   4/1/13
          FISCAL:    YES
          Vote by mail ballots: sample ballots

           Existing law  outlines procedures for voting by mail and  
          establishes requirements for elections officials to compare  
          the signature on a vote by mail (VBM) ballot envelope with  
          that appearing on the affidavit of registration.  If the  
          ballot is rejected because the signatures do not compare,  
          the envelope shall not be opened and the ballot shall not  
          be counted.  The cause of the rejection must be written on  
          the face of the identification envelope.

           Existing law  requires elections officials to establish  
          procedures to track and confirm the receipt of VBM ballots  
          and to make this information available by means of online  
          access using the county's elections division Internet  
          website.  If the county does not have an elections division  
          Internet website, the elections official shall establish a  
          toll-free telephone number that may be used to confirm the  
          date a voted VBM ballot was received.

           Existing law  requires the Secretary of State (SOS) to  
          establish a free access system to allow any voter who casts  
          a  provisional  ballot to determine whether his or her  
          provisional ballot was counted and, if not, the reason why  
          it was not counted.

           Existing law  requires sample ballots be identical to  
          official ballots and that the sample ballots be printed on  
          paper of a different texture from the paper to be used for  
          the official ballot. 


           Existing law  provides that in order to facilitate the  
          timely production and distribution of sample ballots, the  
          county elections official may prepare a combined sample  
          ballot, which also contains the voter information guide  

           Existing law  requires every ballot contain all of the  

                 The title of each office.
                 The names of all qualified candidates.
                 The titles and summaries of measures submitted to  
               vote of the voters.
                 Instructions to voters.

           This bill  requires the elections officials to establish a  
          free access system that allows a VBM voter to learn whether  
          his or her VBM ballot was counted and, if not, the reason  
          why the ballot was not counted.  This bill also requires  
          for each election, the elections official to make the free  
          access system available to a VBM voter for at least 30 days  
          immediately following the completion of the official  

           This bill  provides that a county elections official may  
          elect not to mail a sample ballot to the following:

                   a permanent VBM voter,
                   a voter in an all-mail ballot election
                   a voter in an all-mail ballot precinct

           This bill  provides that a county elections official may  
          elect not to mail a sample ballot to one of these voters if  
          the elections official prepares and mails to each of them a  
          VIG containing all the information required to be included  
          in, and accompanied with all the election materials  
          required to accompany the sample ballot except the  

                   an application for a VBM ballot
                   a notice that a VBM application is enclosed

           This bill  removes an ambiguous reference to "residence  
          address" in a provision of the Elections Code that deals  
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          strictly with signature verification.

           VBM Voting in California  :  In the past few elections, the  
          number of voters choosing to vote using a VBM ballot has  
          increased significantly, particularly since the enactment  
          of AB 1520 (Shelley), Chapter 922, Statutes of 2001, which  
          allowed any voter to become a permanent VBM voter.

          Of the 13,202,158 California voters participating in the  
          2012 Presidential Election, about 6.8 million people, or  
          51%, cast their ballots by mail.  This continued, steady  
          increase suggests that the number of voters opting to vote  
          by VBM ballot will continue to grow.

           Reasons Why a VBM Ballot Might Not be Counted  :  Under  
          current law, there have been two primary reasons why a VBM  
          ballot that was completed and returned to the elections  
          officials may not be counted.  One of the most common  
          reasons is that many ballots are received by the elections  
          office after Election Day, and state law requires that VBM  
          ballots be received by the close of polls on Election Day  
          in order to be counted.  A voter who was under the  
          impression that his or her ballot would be counted as long  
          as the envelope was postmarked by Election Day could  
          repeatedly have his or her ballot not counted if that voter  
          regularly waited until Election Day to put their VBM ballot  
          in the mail.

          The other primary reason why a VBM ballot might not be  
          counted is that the signature on the identification  
          envelope is missing or does not match the one on the  
          voter's affidavit of registration.  Illness and age can be  
          factors that contribute to a signature changing over time.   
          For example, many older voters do not realize that the  
          signature on file with the registrar of voters no longer  
          matches their current signature and as a result their VBM  
          ballot may not be counted.

            1. According to the author  :  For the first time in  
             California's history, a majority of voters in a general  
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             election cast their ballots by mail in the November 6,  
             2012 election.  Unfortunately, over 59,000 vote-by-mail  
             ballots were rejected by county registrars throughout  
             the state.  Roughly 1% of vote-by-mail voters in  
             California submitted their ballots and thought they  
             voted, not knowing that their ballots were rejected.  SB  
             589 allows vote-by-mail voters to contact their local  
             registrar of voters to determine if their ballot was  
             counted.  If their ballot was rejected, the bill  
             requires the registrar to inform the vote-by-mail voter  
             why their ballot was rejected so they can remedy the  
             problem for future elections.  Under current law these  
             vote-by-mail voters have no way of knowing there's a  
             problem and don't know to fix the problem.

           The "free access system" requirement in the bill provides  
             county registrars with flexibility to determine how they  
             want to comply with the provisions of the bill.  County  
             registrars can comply with the bill by informing voters  
             on a walk-in basis, informing voters over the phone, or  
             informing voters online.

           SB 589 also provides county registrars with flexibility on  
              printing requirements  in order to reduce redundancy for  
             voters.  The bill allows county registrars to omit the  
             sample ballot language when they mail the voter  
             information guide to vote-by-mail voters.  This is a  
             reasonable option since vote-by-mail voters will receive  
             the actual ballot containing complete ballot language  
             for all measures shortly after the voter information  
             guide is delivered.  Instead of receiving the ballot  
             language twice, vote-by-mail voters will only receive it  
             once when they receive their ballot.

             2.  What about L.A. County  :  L.A. County has been using  
              the InkaVote Plus    Voting System for all their  
              elections since 2003.  This device uses an ink marker  
              and requires each voter to insert their ballot card  
              into the voting device, or vote recorder, securing the  
              ballot over fixed red pins and then "inks" the ovals on  
              their ballot card accordingly.

            According to staff with the L.A. County Registrar  
              Recorder's Office, for VBM voters, in addition to their  
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              ballot card, voters receive a VBM instruction  
              guide/sample ballot.  All candidates and measures up  
              for election have corresponding numbers printed inside  
              the instruction guide and correspond to the numbers  
              printed on the voter's ballot.  The ballot can  
              accommodate up to 360 offices and or measures.

            3. Related legislation  :  AB 293 (Hill) of 2011 would have  
             required the elections official to establish a free  
             access system that allows a VBM voter to find out  
             whether his or her VBM ballot was counted and, if not,  
             the reason why the ballot was not counted.  AB 293 was  
             vetoed by the Governor, who, although he supported the  
             author's intent, vetoed the measure based on the new  

           AB 2616 (Hill) of 2010, which was substantially similar to  
             AB 293, was vetoed by the Governor, who wrote in his  
             veto message, "I cannot support mandating additional  
             costs in this time of fiscal crisis.  Nothing in current  
             law prohibits county elections officials from providing  
             this information and I would encourage them to do so as  
             resources allow."

           AB 84 (Hill) of 2009, which was substantially similar to  
             AB 2616, was also vetoed by the Governor who expressed  
             concern that it could result in additional costs to  
             local governments. 

           AB 2964 (Levine) of 2008, which was substantially similar  
             to AB 84, was vetoed by the Governor, though the  
             Governor did not express any policy objections to the  

          Sponsor: Secretary of State

           Support: California State Council of the Service Employees  
                   International Union
                    California Association of Clerks and Election  

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           Oppose:  None received

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