BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ó



                                                                            



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          |SENATE RULES COMMITTEE            |                        SB 589|
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                                 UNFINISHED BUSINESS


          Bill No:  SB 589
          Author:   Hill (D), et al.
          Amended:  8/12/13
          Vote:     21

           
           SENATE ELECTIONS & CONSTITUTIONAL AMEND. COMM.  : 4-1, 4/2/13
          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

           SENATE FLOOR  :  25-10, 4/18/13
          AYES:  Beall, Block, Calderon, Corbett, Correa, De León,  
            DeSaulnier, Evans, Galgiani, Hancock, Hernandez, Hill, Hueso,  
            Jackson, Lara, Leno, Lieu, Liu, Monning, Price, Roth,  
            Steinberg, Wolk, Wright, Yee
          NOES:  Anderson, Berryhill, Emmerson, Fuller, Gaines, Huff,  
            Knight, Nielsen, Walters, Wyland
          NO VOTE RECORDED:  Cannella, Padilla, Pavley, Vacancy, Vacancy

           ASSEMBLY FLOOR :  76-0, 8/19/13 - See last page for vote


           SUBJECT  :    Vote-by-mail ballots:  sample ballots

           SOURCE  :     Secretary of State


           DIGEST  :    This bill makes changes to vote-by-mail (VBM)  
          procedures and sample ballot mailings.
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           Assembly Amendments  delete language authorizing elections  
          officials to compare signatures on VBM ballots; add language to  
          permit the county elections official to use the county's free  
          access system for provisional ballots to establish the free  
          access system for VBM ballots; and require the elections  
          official to use any savings achieved from not mailing a sample  
          ballot to offset costs associated with establishing the free  
          access system for VBM ballots.

           ANALYSIS  :    

          Existing law:

          1. 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.

          2. 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.

          3. 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.

          This bill:

          1. Requires the county elections official to establish a free  
             access system that allows a VBM voter to learn whether  
             his/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  

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             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  
             satisfied:

             A.    The voter is one of the following:

                (1)      A permanent VBM voter pursuant to existing  
                   law;

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

                (3)      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:

                (1)                                                     
                       An application for a VBM ballot; and

                (2)                                                     
                       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  

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             associated with establishing the free access system for VBM  
             voters before the savings may be used for any other purpose.

           Background
           
           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.

           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.

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


          According to the Senate Appropriations Committee:

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           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  8/20/13)

          Secretary of State (source)
          California Association of Clerks and Election Officials
          California Common Cause
          California Federation of Teachers
          California State Council of the Service Employees International  
          Union


           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.   
          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  

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          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.


           ASSEMBLY FLOOR  :  76-0, 8/19/13
          AYES:  Achadjian, Alejo, Allen, Ammiano, Atkins, Bigelow, Bloom,  
            Bocanegra, Bonilla, Bonta, Bradford, Brown, Buchanan, Ian  
            Calderon, Campos, Chau, Chávez, Chesbro, Conway, Cooley,  
            Dahle, Daly, Dickinson, Donnelly, Eggman, Fong, Fox, Frazier,  
            Beth Gaines, Garcia, Gatto, Gomez, Gonzalez, Gordon, Gorell,  
            Gray, Grove, Hagman, Hall, Harkey, Roger Hernández, Holden,  
            Jones, Jones-Sawyer, Levine, Linder, Logue, Lowenthal,  
            Maienschein, Mansoor, Medina, Melendez, Mitchell, Morrell,  
            Mullin, Muratsuchi, Nazarian, Nestande, Olsen, Pan, Patterson,  
            Perea, Quirk, Quirk-Silva, Rendon, Salas, Skinner, Stone,  
            Ting, Wagner, Weber, Wieckowski, Wilk, Williams, Yamada, John  
            A. Pérez
          NO VOTE RECORDED:  V. Manuel Pérez, Waldron, Vacancy, Vacancy


          RM:d  8/20/13   Senate Floor Analyses 

                           SUPPORT/OPPOSITION:  SEE ABOVE

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