BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    




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          |SENATE RULES COMMITTEE            |                        SB 415|
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                                   THIRD READING 


          Bill No:  SB 415
          Author:   Hueso (D), et al.
          Amended:  4/28/15  
          Vote:     21  

           SENATE ELECTIONS & C.A. COMMITTEE:  4-1, 4/21/15
           AYES:  Allen, Hancock, Hertzberg, Liu
           NOES:  Anderson

           SUBJECT:   Voter participation


          SOURCE:    Author


          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 25% lower than the average turnout within that political  
          subdivision for the previous four statewide general elections.   
          This bill authorizes 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:"









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             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,

             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)Provides, generally, 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 25% less than the average voter  
            turnout within that political subdivision for the previous  
            four statewide general elections.

          3)Authorizes 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  








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            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  
            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  








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          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  
          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.

          General election turnout vs. off-year local election turnout.   
          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 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.

          FISCAL EFFECT:   Appropriation:    No          Fiscal  
             Com.:NoLocal:    No


          SUPPORT:   (Verified4/28/15)









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          California Common Cause  


           OPPOSITION:   (Verified4/27/15)


          Desert Water Agency


          ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT:       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.


          ARGUMENTS IN OPPOSTION:  The Desert Water Agency states in  
          opposition, "Ballots with more races on the ballot require more  
          effort on the part of citizens.  Voter attention to the work of  
          the Agency and voter participation in its elections are of  








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          paramount importance.  The enactment of SB 415 might force the  
          Agency to change its election date to the statewide election  
          date.  Voter fatigue would likely counteract any benefit of  
          forcing such a change as Agency elections would fall toward the  
          end of a crowded ballot."

          Prepared by:Frances Tibon Estoista/ E. & C.A. / (916) 651-4106
          4/29/15 16:07:29


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