BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                                                                SB 589
                                                                Page  1

        SB 589 (Hill)
        As Amended June 4, 2013
        Majority vote 

         SENATE VOTE  :25-10  
         ELECTIONS           6-0         APPROPRIATIONS      17-0        
        |Ayes:|Fong, Donnelly,           |Ayes:|Gatto, Harkey, Bigelow,   |
        |     |Bocanegra, Bonta, Hall,   |     |Bocanegra, Bradford, Ian  |
        |     |Perea                     |     |Calderon, Campos,         |
        |     |                          |     |Donnelly, Eggman, Gomez,  |
        |     |                          |     |Hall, Holden, Linder,     |
        |     |                          |     |Pan, Quirk, Wagner, Weber |
        |     |                          |     |                          |
         SUMMARY  :  Makes changes to vote by mail (VBM) procedures and sample  
        ballot mailings.  Specifically,  this bill  :   

        1)Requires the county elections official 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.  Requires the elections official to make the free access  
          system available to a VBM voter upon the completion of the  
          official canvass and for 30 days thereafter.  

        2)Permits a county elections official to elect not to mail a sample  
          ballot to a voter if all of the following are satisfied:

           a)   The voter is one of the following:

             i)     A permanent VBM voter pursuant to existing law;

             ii)    A voter in an all-mail ballot election conducted  
               pursuant to existing law; or,

             iii)   A voter in an all-mail ballot precinct pursuant to  
               existing law.

           b)   The elections official prepares and mails to each voter a  
             voter information guide containing all of the information  


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             required to be included in, and accompanied with all the  
             election materials required to accompany, the sample ballot,  
             except for both of the following:

             i)     An application for a VBM ballot; and,

             ii)    A notice that a VBM ballot application is enclosed.

           c)   The voter is furnished a VBM ballot in accordance with  
             existing law.

        3)Provides that for each voter to whom the elections official elects  
          not to mail a sample ballot pursuant to the provisions of this  
          bill, the election official may cause to be printed one less copy  
          of the sample ballot.

         FISCAL EFFECT  :  According to the Assembly Appropriations Committee:

        1)Given that similar notifications are already required for  
          provisional ballots and that VBM voters may already obtain  
          information regarding whether their ballot was received, any  
          additional reimbursable costs to inform a VBM voter should be  

        2)Potential minor savings to counties in printing and mailing costs  
          from omitting sample ballot language from the voter information  
          guide sent to permanent VBM voters.

         COMMENTS  :  According to the author, "For the first time in  
        California's history, a majority of voters in a general election  
        cast their ballots by mail.  Fifty-one percent, or 6,753,688 out of  
        the 13,202,158 Californians who voted in the November 6, 2012  
        election, voted by mail.  Unfortunately, 59,370 vote-by-mail ballots  
        were rejected by county registrars throughout the state during the  
        November 6, 2012 election.  These vote-by-mail voters submitted  
        their ballots and thought they voted, not knowing that their ballots  
        were actually rejected.  Existing law already provides voters who  
        cast a provisional ballot at a polling place with the ability to  
        verify with county election officials if their provisional ballot  
        was counted, and if not, to learn why it was not counted. Vote-by  
        mail voters do not have this same ability.

        "SB 589 would also allow vote-by-mail voters to contact their local  
        registrar of voters to determine if their ballot was counted.  If  


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        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 most common reasons for a  
        rejected vote-by-mail ballot are late submission (registrar receives  
        the ballot in the mail after the election) and the signature on the  
        ballot not matching with the signature on the registration form.  

        "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."

        AB 293 (Hill) of 2011, which is similar to this bill, was vetoed by  
        Governor Brown.  In his veto message, the Governor stated that while  
        he supports the author's goal, under existing law, local governments  
        can already implement this type of database on their own.

        Please see the policy committee analysis for a full discussion on  
        this bill.

         Analysis Prepared by  :    Nichole Becker / E. & R. / (916) 319-2094