BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    ”



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

          Bill No:             SB 415         Hearing Date:    4/21/15    
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          |Author:    |Hueso                                                |
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          |Version:   |4/15/15                                              |
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          |Urgency:   |No                     |Fiscal:    |No               |
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          |Consultant:|Frances Tibon Estoista                               |
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                            Subject:  Voter participation

                                        DIGEST
                                           
          This bill prohibits a local political subdivision from holding  
          an election on a date other than on a statewide election date if  
          it has previously resulted in voter turnout that was at least 5%  
          lower than the average turnout within that political subdivision  
          for the previous four statewide general elections.  This bill  
          permits a voter who resides in a political subdivision where a  
          violation is alleged to file an action to enforce this  
          prohibition and requires a court to implement specified remedies  
          including a change of election dates.

                                       ANALYSIS
                                           
          Existing law:

          1. Provides that the following dates are "established election  
             dates":

             A.     The second Tuesday of April in each even-numbered  
             year;

             B.     The first Tuesday after the first Monday in March of  
             each odd-numbered year;

             C.     The first Tuesday after the first Monday in June in  
             each year; and,








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             D.     The first Tuesday after the first Monday in November  
             in each year.

          2. Requires all state, county, municipal, district, and school  
             district elections to be held on an established election  
             date, except as specified.  

          3. Generally provides that any local political subdivision may  
             submit a resolution to the relevant county board of  
             supervisors that its regular elections be held on the same  
             day as a statewide election.  The board of supervisors must  
             approve the resolution unless it finds that the ballot style,  
             voting equipment, or computer capacity is such that  
             additional elections or materials cannot be handled.  

          This bill:  

          1. Creates the California Voter Participation Rights Act which  
             prohibits a political subdivision from holding an election  
             other than on a statewide election date if holding an  
             election on a non-concurrent date has previously resulted in  
             a significant decrease in voter turnout. 
          2. Defines "significant decrease in voter turnout" as the voter  
             turnout for a regularly-scheduled election in a political  
             subdivision that is at least 5% less than the average voter  
             turnout within that political subdivision for the previous  
             four statewide general elections.

          3. Permits a voter who resides in a political subdivision where  
             a violation is alleged to file an action in the superior  
             court of the county in which the political subdivision is  
             located.

          4. Requires upon finding of a violation, the court to implement  
             appropriate remedies, including the imposition of concurrent  
             election dates for future elections and the upgrade of voting  
             equipment or systems to do so.  In imposing remedies, a court  
             may also require a county board of supervisors to approve  
             consolidation.

          5. Defines "political subdivision" as a geographic area of  
             representation created for the provision of government  
             services, including, but not limited to, a city, a school  
             district, a community college district, or other district  








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             organized pursuant to state law.

          6. Defines "voter turnout" as the percentage of voters who are  
             eligible to cast ballots within a given political subdivision  
             who voted (i.e., registered voters within the affected  
             jurisdiction).

          7. Requires the court to allow the prevailing plaintiff other  
             than the state or political subdivision thereof, reasonable  
             attorney's fees and litigation expenses including, but not  
             limited to, expert witness fees and expenses as part of the  
             costs.  Also requires prevailing defendant to not recover any  
             costs, unless the court finds the action to be frivolous,  
             unreasonable, or without foundation.

          8. Does not apply to special elections.

          9. Becomes operative on January 1, 2018.
                                          
                                      BACKGROUND
                                           
           History of Established Election Dates  :  In 1973, the Legislature  
          approved and Governor Reagan signed SB 230 (Biddle), Chapter  
          1146, Statutes of 1973, which created "regular election dates"  
          (which subsequently were renamed "established election dates").   
          The concept behind having a regular election schedule that  
          governed when most elections would be held was that such a  
          schedule would encourage election consolidations, thereby  
          potentially reducing election costs, and could encourage greater  
          voter participation because voters would become used to voting  
          on these regular election dates.  SB 230 created five  
          established election dates in each two-year cycle-three in  
          even-numbered years (in March, June, and November), and two in  
          odd-numbered years (in March and November).

          One year after established election dates were first created, AB  
          4180 (Keysor), Chapter 1386, Statutes of 1974, added an  
          additional established election date in May of odd-numbered  
          years.  The rationale for adding an established election date  
          was that the eight-month gap between established election dates  
          in March and November of odd-numbered years delayed many special  
          local elections from taking place in a timely manner, including  
          elections to fill vacancies, annexation elections, bond  
          elections, and tax rate elections.  Since that time, the exact  








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          dates that are established election dates have fluctuated, often  
          moving to reflect changes in the date of the statewide primary  
          election held in even-numbered years, though generally there  
          have been at least three established election dates in each  
          year.

          Having multiple established election dates in each year, but  
          specifying that many types of elections must be held on an  
          established election date, reflects an attempt to balance the  
          desire to hold most elections on a predictable, regular  
          schedule, while still providing the flexibility to ensure that  
          elections can occur in a timely manner when necessary.
                                          
                                       COMMENTS
           
          1.  According to the author  :  Voter turnout in local elections  
             held on odd-numbered years has been abysmal.  On average,  
             less than 30% of registered voters have come out to vote in  
             local odd-year elections.  As a result of low voter turnout,  
             the voting population often does not look like the general  
             public as a whole and neither does the city council. While  
             there is no silver bullet, one way to increase voter turnout  
             in local elections is to hold them concurrently with  
             statewide and federal elections, where voter turnout is often  
             twice as high.

          Elections held on the same date can help reduce voter fatigue  
             and make voting more habit forming, while saving local  
             government on administrative costs.  For example, the City of  
             San Diego in 2012 spent 42 cents per voter on elections and  
             saw a 70% voter turnout. The City of Los Angeles in 2011  
             spent $39.35 per voter for a voter turnout of 14.1%. 

          This bill is attempting to remedy the low voter turnout of local  
             elections held in off-cycle election years by giving  
             individuals the right to challenge local government for  
             holding costly elections with little voter turnout. 

          2.  Is the 5% Trigger Too Low  ?  According to statistics published  
             by the Secretary of State, average turnout among registered  
             voters for the last four statewide general elections was  
             63.39%.  Conversely, the average turnout for off-year local  
             elections is usually much lower.  For instance, turnout of  
             registered voters for the March 3, 2015 municipal election  








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             conducted in the City of Los Angeles was only 9.9%.  The  
             November 5, 2013 municipal election in the City and County of  
             San Francisco was significantly better than Los Angeles but  
             still only 29.3% of registered voters.  Under this bill, a  
             local political subdivision with turnout that is just short  
             of being within 5% of the recent average statewide general  
             election turnout (e.g., 58%) could be forced to change its  
             election dates.  Should this 5% trigger be increased to truly  
             reflect turnout in political subdivisions that is  
             significantly lower than statewide general election turnout?
                                          
                                RELATED/PRIOR ELECTION
           
          AB 2550 (R. HernŠndez) of 2014 among other things, would have  
          required general municipal and general district elections held  
          on or after July 1, 2015, to be held on the first Tuesday after  
          the first Monday in June of even-numbered years, or on the first  
          Tuesday after the first Monday in November of each odd-numbered  
          or even-numbered year, subject to certain exceptions.  That bill  
          died on Suspense in Assembly Appropriations Committee.

          AB 254 (R. HernŠndez) of 2015 requires all cities, school  
          districts, community college districts, and special districts,  
          as of January 1, 2020, to hold their general elections at the  
          same time as the statewide primary or statewide general  
          election, i.e. in even-numbered years, or on the first Tuesday  
          after the first Monday in June or November of odd-numbered  
          years.  The bill is currently on the Assembly Appropriations  
          Committee Suspense file.
                                          
                                       POSITIONS
           
          Sponsor:  Author

          Support:  None received

          Oppose:Desert Water Agency



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