BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                     SB 365


                                                                    Page  1








          Date of Hearing:  July 1, 2015


                  ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON ELECTIONS AND REDISTRICTING


                           Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, Chair


          SB  
          365 (Pavley) - As Amended May 4, 2015


          SENATE VOTE:  26-12


          SUBJECT:  Vote by mail ballot drop-off locations.


          SUMMARY:  Authorizes county elections officials to establish  
          vote by mail (VBM) ballot drop-off locations, as specified.   
          Specifically, this bill:  


          1)Permits a VBM voter to return a VBM ballot to the elections  
            official from whom it came at a VBM drop-off location, if  
            provided in accordance with this bill.

          2)Defines the following terms for the purposes of this bill:

             a)   "VBM ballot drop box" to mean a secure receptacle  
               established by a county or city and county elections  
               official whereby a voted VBM ballot may be returned to the  
               elections official from whom it was obtained.

             b)   "VBM drop-off location" to mean a location consisting of  








                                                                     SB 365


                                                                    Page  2





               a secured VBM ballot drop box at which a voted VBM ballot  
               may be returned to the elections official from whom it was  
               obtained.  

          3)Requires the Secretary of State (SOS), on or before January 1,  
            2017, to promulgate regulations establishing best practices  
            for security measures and procedures, including, but not  
            limited to, chain of custody, pick-up times, proper labeling,  
            and security of the VBM drop boxes, that a county elections  
            official may use if the county elections official establishes  
            one or more VBM ballot drop-off locations.  

          EXISTING LAW:   


          1)Requires all VBM ballots to be voted on or before the day of  
            the election.  Requires a VBM ballot voter, after marking the  
            ballot, to either return the ballot by mail or in person to  
            the elections official from whom it came or return the ballot  
            in person to a member of a precinct board at a polling place  
            within the jurisdiction.



          2)Permits a VBM voter who is unable to return the ballot to  
            designate his or her spouse, child, parent, grandparent,  
            grandchild, brother, sister, or a person residing in the same  
            household as the VBM voter to return the ballot to the  
            elections official from whom it came or to the precinct board  
            at a polling place within the jurisdiction.



          3)Prohibits a ballot from being counted if it is not delivered  
            in compliance with the aforementioned sections.



          4)Requires an elections official to establish procedures to  








                                                                     SB 365


                                                                    Page  3





            ensure the secrecy of a VBM ballot returned to a precinct  
            polling place and the security, confidentiality, and integrity  
            of any related personal information collected, stored, or  
            otherwise used.





          FISCAL EFFECT:  According to the Senate Appropriations  
          Committee, approximately $55,000 in administrative expenses to  
          the General Fund.  The SOS indicates costs of approximately  
          $55,000 to promulgate regulations.

          COMMENTS:  


          1)Purpose of the Bill:  According to the author: 

               California law has actively evolved to facilitate vote by  
               mail. Since 1990, vote-by-mail use has grown from  
               approximately 18 percent of the total votes cast, to over  
               60 percent of the votes in the last general election in  
               November 2014.  In an effort to further motivate VBM  
               voters, some counties have begun to provide additional  
               drop-off locations. These additional drop-off locations  
               (e.g., public libraries, city government offices, senior  
               centers) allow busy voters to drop off their ballots much  
               closer to home.

               SB 365 continues California's policy of decreasing barriers  
               to vote-by-mail adoption. The measure will make voting more  
               convenient for the public, help increase voter turn-out,  
               and ensure drop-off locations are secure.  Presently, there  
               is an ambiguity in current law around additional drop-off  
               locations that may be creating a potential barrier to  
               counties seeking to expand this service.  For example, in  
               the November 2014 election, Los Angeles County, which has a  
               population of more than 10 million people and is over 4,700  








                                                                     SB 365


                                                                    Page  4





               square miles in size, had one drop-off location.  This may  
               have contributed to the fact that only 38 percent of voters  
               in Los Angeles County used VBM-nearly 20 percent lower than  
               any other county in the state.

               SB 365 will clarify that additional drop off locations are  
               valid methods of delivering VBM ballots to the elections  
               official. In addition, the measure ensures the safety of  
               these drop-off locations by directing the Secretary of  
               State to establish suggested best practices for counties  
               that choose to implement VBM drop-off locations.  Voting by  
               mail has become a great asset for busy voters and a  
               potential means for increasing participation. This bill  
               will ensure that voters will continue to have the  
               opportunity to drop their ballot off closer to home.

          2)Current Practice:  As mentioned above, current law requires a  
            voted VBM ballot to be returned by mail or in person to the  
            elections official from whom it came from or returned in  
            person to a member of a precinct board at a polling place  
            within the jurisdiction in which the person is registered to  
            vote.  Moreover, any voter who is unable to return a voted VBM  
            ballot by mail, or drop it off at the elections office or  
            polling place may designate his or her spouse, child, parent,  
            grandparent, grandchild, brother, sister, or a person residing  
            in the same household to return the ballot on his or her  
            behalf.  In addition, existing law requires elections  
            officials to establish procedures to ensure the secrecy of a  
            VBM ballot returned to a precinct polling place and the  
            security, confidentiality, and integrity of any related  
            personal information collected, stored, or otherwise used.

          This bill adds another option for returning a VBM ballot and  
            permits a voter to return a voted VBM ballot to a VBM ballot  
            drop-off location, as defined, to the elections official from  
            whom it came. In addition, in order to ensure security, this  
            bill requires the SOS to promulgate regulations establishing  
            best practices for security measures and procedures,  
            including, but not limited to, chain of custody, pick-up  








                                                                     SB 365


                                                                    Page  5





            times, proper labeling, and security of the vote by mail drop  
            boxes, that a county elections official may use if the county  
            elections official establishes one or more VBM ballot drop-off  
            locations.  

          3)Existing VBM Ballot Drop-Off Sites:  While existing law does  
            not specifically address VBM ballot drop-off locations, in  
            practice, an unknown number of counties currently establish  
            VBM drop-off sites.  One of those counties, Sacramento County,  
            designates facilities throughout the county where voters can  
            drop-off their voted VBM ballot prior to election day.  The  
            county requires that all facilities be accessible to voters  
            with disabilities and have at least one person monitor the  
            station.  Sites include facilities such as city halls, county  
            departments, assisted living facilities, local businesses,  
            non-profit and community organizations, and facilities that  
            already serve as polling places on election day.  A list of  
            the VBM drop-off sites is included in Sacramento County's  
            sample ballot booklets.  The Sacramento County system is  
            designed so that a voter or someone designated by the voter  
            must hand their voted VBM ballot to the person monitoring the  
            drop-off site.

          Moreover, a few counties, such as Kings County, utilize a ballot  
            drop-off van as well.  According to the Kings County Elections  
            website, voters are encouraged to check the County's website  
            or the voter pamphlet for a list of drop box and van  
            locations.  Information about hours and locations of ballot  
            drop boxes and vans are available approximately 30 days prior  
            to each election.  To ensure ballots that are dropped off at  
            drop-off boxes are secure, in practice, Kings County elections  
            officials regularly collect the ballots from each drop box and  
            there are at least two official elections workers present at  
            the temporary locations serviced by a van.   However,  
            regardless of location, two official elections workers use a  
            chain of custody process to transport all ballots.

          4)VBM Data:  Statistics show that voters are choosing to cast a  
            VBM ballot more and more each election.  For instance, in the  








                                                                     SB 365


                                                                    Page  6





            November 2004 general election approximately 32 percent of  
            voters cast a VBM ballot.  In the November 2014 general  
            election over 60 percent of voters cast their VBM ballots.   
            However, studies have shown that not all VBM ballots are being  
            returned via the mail - many voters are instead choosing to  
            drop off their VBM ballot at a drop box on or close to  
            election day.  For example, one study found that in the  
            November 2014 general election, over 26 percent of those that  
            voted by mail returned their ballot at a polling place instead  
            mailing or dropping it off at the counter in an elections  
            official's office.  

          This bill, which permits county elections officials to set up  
            VBM ballot drop off locations, as specified, will help ensure  
            there are more secure and convenient locations in which a  
            voter may drop off their voted VBM ballot.

          5)Arguments in Support:  In support, the California Voter  
            Foundation (CVF), writes:

               Last August, CVF published a report on an in-depth study we  
               conducted on three counties' vote-by-mail [VBM] programs?  
               In our study, we found two counties (Sacramento and Santa  
               Cruz) used drop boxes located at other governmental  
               buildings throughout the county, such as city halls and  
               libraries and one (Orange) did not (other than a drop box  
               immediately outside the county election office).  When the  
               drop box option is available, voters utilize it.  In  
               November 2012, 17 percent of Santa Cruz County's VBM voters  
               and 9 percent of Sacramento County's VBM voters returned  
               their ballots at drop boxes.  Overall, in the three  
               counties studies, CVF found that a growing number of VBM  
               voters prefer to return their ballots in person, at a drop  
               box or at a polling place on Election Day, thus eliminating  
               the need for postage and reducing the risk and time  
               involved when ballots are delivered by the U.S. Postal  
               Service.  In Santa Cruz for example, the percentage of  
               voters returning their ballots in person rose from 40  
               percent in 2008 to 48 percent in 2012.








                                                                     SB 365


                                                                    Page  7






          6)Related Legislation:  SB 450 (Allen), which is pending in this  
            committee, requires county elections officials, if they choose  
            to conduct an election as an all-mailed ballot election, to  
            have at least one ballot drop-off location within the  
            jurisdiction where the election is held, as specified, among  
            other provisions. 

          7)Previous Legislation:  SB 240 (Yee) of 2013, which was  
            substantively similar to this bill, died in the Assembly Rules  
            Committee.

          REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION:




          Support


          California State Council of the Service Employees International  
          Union


          California Voter Foundation


          CALPIRG


          Secretary of State Alex Padilla




          Opposition


          None on file.








                                                                     SB 365


                                                                    Page  8









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