BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



          SENATE COMMITTEE ON
          ELECTIONS AND CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
                              Senator Ben Allen, Chair
                                2015 - 2016  Regular 

          Bill No:             AB 363         Hearing Date:    6/30/15    
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          |Author:    |Steinorth                                            |
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          |Version:   |5/19/15                                              |
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          |Urgency:   |No                     |Fiscal:    |Yes              |
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          |Consultant:|Frances Tibon Estoista                               |
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                           Subject:  Closing of the polls 

           DIGEST
           
            Authorizes county elections officials, on Election Day, to begin  
          accounting and processing polling place ballots during the day,  
          instead of waiting until the closing of the polls.
           ANALYSIS
           
           Existing law  :

           1) Requires members of a precinct board to account for ballots  
             delivered to them by returning a sufficient number of unused  
             ballots to make up, when added to the number of official  
             ballots cast and the number of spoiled and canceled ballots  
             returned, the number of ballots given to them.

           2) Requires members of a precinct board, as soon as the polls  
             are closed, to remove the voted ballots from the ballot  
             container.  Requires the precinct board to count the number  
             of ballot cards in each group, and certify the number of  
             ballots cast on the voting roster, as specified.  Requires  
             the precinct board, if there is any discrepancy between the  
             number of voters listed in the roster and the number of  
             ballots voted, to note this fact with an explanation of the  
             difference signed by all the members of the precinct board.  

           3) Requires precinct board members to group voted ballot cards  
             and voted separate write-in ballots, as directed by the  
             elections official, and place them in containers.  Requires  







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             the board to place spoiled and voided ballots, if any, in  
             containers as directed by the elections official.  Requires  
             all the containers to be placed in one or more boxes and  
             sealed and delivered as soon as possible to the receiving  
             centers or central counting places with the unused ballots,  
             supplies, and other materials as directed by the elections  
             officials. 

           4) Prohibits the removal of a ballot container from a polling  
             place or the presence of any persons assembled at the polling  
             place until all the ballots are counted and prohibits the  
             ballot container from being opened until after the polls are  
             closed.







































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          This bill  :

          Authorizes county elections officials, on Election Day, to begin  
          accounting and processing polling place ballots during the day,  
          instead of waiting until the closing of the polls.   
          Specifically, this bill:  

           1) Authorizes a precinct board, when accounting for ballots to  
             either account for the ballots at a polling place  or  be  
             performed by the elections official at a central counting  
             place.

           2) Permits a county elections official,  before  or at the close  
             of the polls, to direct a precinct board to seal the ballot  
             container and record on forms prescribed by the elections  
             official the information needed for the reconciliation of  
             ballots, as specified. 

           3) Allows a county elections official to direct a precinct  
             board to seal the ballot container prior to the closing of  
             the polls in accordance with existing law.  Permits a county  
             elections official, as soon as the container is sealed, to  
             direct at least two elections officials to remove the sealed  
             ballot container of voted, untallied ballots from the polling  
             place and, in the presence of any bystanders, to deliver the  
             container to a receiving center or central counting place as  
             directed.

           4) Requires the elections officials to notify the public 48  
             hours before Election Day of the dates, times and places  
             where ballot containers will be delivered.

           5) Allows a county elections official, upon receipt of a  
             container at a receiving center or central counting place, to  
             process the voted untallied ballots.  Prohibits the tally of  
             ballots or release of any results prior to the closing of the  
             polls.  Provides that the procedures described shall not be  
             construed as relieving a precinct board of its responsibility  
             to account for ballots in accordance with existing law. 

           6) Requires the Secretary of State (SOS) to adopt regulations  
             addressing the secure delivery and transfer of ballots to a  
             receiving center or central counting place.








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           7) Makes other technical changes.

           BACKGROUND
           
            Existing law establishes procedures for processing ballots  
          following the closing of the polls on Election Day.   
          Specifically, once the polls close, existing law requires  
          members of the precinct board to account for ballots delivered  
          to them whether voted, unused, spoiled, or canceled.  This  
          process is commonly known as ballot reconciliation.  Existing  
          law prohibits a ballot container from being opened until after  
          the polls are closed and further prohibits the removal of a  
          ballot container from a polling place until all ballots are  
          counted.  Once reconciliation is completed ballot containers are  
          allowed to be delivered to their assigned receiving center or  
          central counting location for processing.



































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           COMMENTS
                                           
            1) According to the author  , AB 363 will improve election  
             efficiency by allowing for ballots to be picked up and  
             processed prior to the close of polls.  In doing so, election  
             results may be reported earlier on election night, and  
             counties will save taxpayer dollars by reducing overtime  
             costs.  Further, this bill will give election officials the  
             option to modify current ballot reconciliation procedures in  
             an attempt to make them more effective and secure.

           Existing law allows for absentee ballots to be processed prior  
             to the close of polls, however, does not treat ballots cast  
             at a polling place the same way.  Allowing for election  
             officials to begin counting these ballots as well will  
             improve the election process.

           AB 363's improved ballot reconciliation process will make  
             results more accurate and secure, because reconciliation will  
             take place in a controlled environment, under the supervision  
             of election professionals.  If a discrepancy is found by the  
             elections officials, he/she has the authority to investigate  
             further, as opposed to poll workers who have no authority to  
             act upon any inconsistencies.  Voters may feel more secure in  
             knowing that their voted ballot cannot be tampered with by  
             poll workers, because the ballot box will be sealed and  
             securely moved to the counting location without being handled  
             by poll workers at the polling place.

                               RELATED/PRIOR LEGISLATION
           
          SB 417 (Stone of this session) is similar to this bill, but only  
          applies to counties of 2,500 square miles or more.  SB 417 is  
          currently in the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee.  
           However Senator Stone's office has informed Committee staff  
          that he will no longer pursue SB 417.

           PRIOR ACTION
           
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          |Assembly Floor:                       |78 - 0                     |
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          |Assembly Appropriations Committee:    |17 - 0                     |








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          |Assembly Elections and Redistricting  |  7 - 0                    |
          |Committee:                            |                           |
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          POSITIONS
           
          Sponsor: County of San Bernardino

           Support: California Association of Clerks and Election  
                   Officials
                    California State Association of Counties
                    Rural County Representatives of California
                    Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors
                    Urban Counties Caucus

           Oppose:  None received

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