BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                                                                  SB 589     
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          SB 589 (Hill)
          As Amended  August 12, 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)Clarifies that a county elections official may use a free  
            access system for provisional ballots established by the  
            county pursuant to the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002  
            to implement the requirements of this bill.

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

             a)   The voter is one of the following:


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               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  
               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.

          4)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.

          5)Requires the elections official, if it elects not to mail a  
            sample ballot to a voter pursuant to specified provisions in  
            this bill, to use any savings achieved to offset the costs  
            associated with establishing the free access system for VBM  
            voters before the savings may be used for any other purpose

          6)Makes technical changes to avoid chaptering out problems with  
            AB 1135 (Mullin).

           FISCAL EFFECT  :  According to the Assembly Appropriations  

          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  


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            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  

          "SB 589 would also allow 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 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  


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          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)  

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