BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ó


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                                    THIRD READING

          Bill No:  SB 589
          Author:   Hill (D)
          Amended:  4/1/13
          Vote:     21

          AYES:  Correa, Hancock, Padilla, Yee
          NOES:  Anderson

           SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE  :  5-2, 4/15/13
          AYES:  De León, Hill, Lara, Padilla, Steinberg
          NOES:  Walters, Gaines

           SUBJECT  :    Vote by mail ballots:  sample ballots

           SOURCE  :     Secretary of State

           DIGEST  :    This bill requires county election officials to offer  
          a free access system whereby vote-by-mail (VBM) voters can learn  
          whether their ballot was counted, authorizes elections officials  
          to compare signatures to previous affidavits on file, and also  
          authorizes the counties to elect not to mail sample ballots  
          under specified conditions.

           ANALYSIS  :    

          Existing law:

          1. Outlines procedures for VBM and establishes requirements for  
             elections officials to compare the signature on a VBM ballot  


                                                                     SB 589

             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  

          2. 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 Web site.  If the county  
             does not have an elections division Internet Web site, the  
             elections official shall establish a toll-free telephone  
             number that may be used to confirm the date a voted VBM  
             ballot was received.

          3. Requires the Secretary of State to establish a free access  
             system to allow any voter who casts a provisional ballot to  
             determine whether his/her provisional ballot was counted and,  
             if not, the reason why it was not counted.

          4. 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 (VIG).

          This bill:

          1. Requires each county elections official to establish a free  
             access system that allows a VBM voter to learn whether  
             his/her ballot was counted and, if not, the reason why the  
             ballot was not counted.  The free access system must be  
             available to voters for at least 30 days immediately  
             following the completion of the official canvass.

          2. Allows the counties to elect not to mail a sample ballot to a  
             voter if that voter is a permanent VBM voter, is in an  
             all-mail ballot election, or is in an all-mail ballot  

          3. Provides that an election official does not have to mail a  
             sample ballot if the voter has already received a VIG which  
             contained a sample ballot.



                                                                     SB 589

           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/her ballot would be counted as  
          long as the envelope was postmarked by Election Day could  
          repeatedly have his/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.

           Prior 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/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 mandate.



                                                                     SB 589

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

          According to the Senate Appropriations Committee:

           Potentially minor costs to counties for providing free-access  
            system. (General)

           Potential savings to counties for printing and mailing fewer  
            sample ballots. (General)

           SUPPORT  :   (Verified  4/16/13)

          Secretary of State (source)
          California Association of Clerks and Election Officials

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

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

          This bill also provides county registrars with flexibility on  
          printing requirements in order to reduce redundancy for voters.   



                                                                     SB 589

          This bill allows county registrars to omit the sample ballot  
          language when they mail the voter information guide to VBM  
          voters.  This is a reasonable option since VBM 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, VBM  
          voters will only receive it once when they receive their ballot.

          RM:d  4/17/13   Senate Floor Analyses 

                           SUPPORT/OPPOSITION:  SEE ABOVE

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