BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ó




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          |SENATE RULES COMMITTEE            |                        SB 415|
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                                UNFINISHED BUSINESS 


          Bill No:  SB 415
          Author:   Hueso (D), et al.
          Amended:  6/23/15  
          Vote:     21  

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

           SENATE FLOOR:  24-13, 5/7/15
           AYES:  Allen, Beall, Block, De León, Galgiani, Hall, Hancock,  
            Hernandez, Hertzberg, Hill, Hueso, Jackson, Lara, Leno, Leyva,  
            McGuire, Mendoza, Mitchell, Monning, Pan, Pavley, Roth,  
            Wieckowski, Wolk
           NOES:  Anderson, Bates, Berryhill, Cannella, Gaines, Huff,  
            Moorlach, Morrell, Nguyen, Nielsen, Runner, Stone, Vidak
           NO VOTE RECORDED:  Fuller, Liu

           ASSEMBLY FLOOR:  45-30, 7/16/15 - See last page for vote

           SUBJECT:   Voter participation


          SOURCE:    Author


          DIGEST:  This bill prohibits a local government, beginning  
          January 1, 2018, from holding an election on any date other than  
          a statewide election date if doing so in the past has resulted  
          in turnout that is at least 25 percent below the average turnout  
          in that jurisdiction in the last four statewide general  
          elections, as specified











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          Assembly Amendments permit a political subdivision to continue  
          to hold elections on dates other than statewide election dates  
          after January 1, 2018, notwithstanding the provisions of this  
          bill, if the political subdivision adopts a plan not later than  
          January 1, 2018, to consolidate future elections with the  
          statewide election not later than the November 8, 2022,  
          statewide election.




          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.  Provides that the following types  
             of elections, among others, are not required to be held on an  
             established election date:




             a)    Any special election called by the Governor;




             b)    Elections held in chartered cities or chartered  
                counties in which the charter provisions are inconsistent  
                with state election laws;




             c)    School governing board elections conducted pursuant to  
                specified provisions of law;




             d)    Elections required or permitted to be held by a school  
                district located in a charter city or county when the  
                election is consolidated with a regular city or county  
                election held in a jurisdiction that includes 95 percent  
                or more of the school district's population;









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             e)    County, municipal, district, and school district  
                initiative, referendum, or recall elections;




             f)    Any election conducted solely by mailed ballot pursuant  
                to specified provisions of law; and,




             g)    Elections held pursuant to specified provisions of law  
                on the question of whether to authorize school bonds. 




           3) Requires a general law city to hold its general municipal  
             election on an established election date or on the second  
             Tuesday in April of each odd-numbered year, except as  
             specified.




           4) Requires a school district, community college district, or  
             county board of education to hold the regular election to  
             select governing board members on the first Tuesday after the  
             first Monday of November in each odd-numbered year, or at the  
             same time as the statewide direct primary election, the  
             statewide general election, or the general municipal  
             election, except as specified.




           5) Requires the general district election held to elect members  
             of the governing board of a special district to be held on  








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             the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of each  
             odd-numbered year, unless the principal act of the district  
             provides for the general district election to be held on a  
             different established election date, or on an established  
             mailed ballot election date, as specified.  Permits a special  
             district to adopt a resolution requiring its general district  
             election to be held on the same day as the statewide general  
             election, upon approval of the county board of supervisors,  
             as specified.




           6) Permits a county or a city to provide for its own governance  
             through the adoption of a charter by a majority vote of its  
             electors voting on the question.




           7) Permits a city charter to provide for the conduct of city  
             elections.  Grants plenary authority, subject to limited  
             restrictions, for a city's charter to provide for the manner  
             in which and the method by which municipal officers are  
             elected.




           8) Provides that a legally adopted city charter supersedes all  
             laws inconsistent with that charter with respect to municipal  
             affairs.




          This bill:


          1) 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  








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             turnout that is at least 25% less than the average voter  
             turnout within that political subdivision for the previous  
             four statewide general elections.  Permits a voter who  
             resides in a political subdivision where a violation of this  
             requirement is alleged to file an action in the superior  
             court in the county in which the political subdivision is  
             located.


          2) Permits a political subdivision to continue to hold elections  
             on dates other than statewide election dates after January 1,  
             2018, notwithstanding the provisions of this bill, if the  
             political subdivision adopts a plan not later than January 1,  
             2018, to consolidate future elections with the statewide  
             election not later than the November 8, 2022, statewide  
             election.


          3) Requires a court, upon finding a violation of this bill, 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.  Permits a  
             court to require a county board of supervisors to approve the  
             consolidation of elections, as specified, when imposing  
             remedies.


          4) Permits a prevailing plaintiff party in an action brought  
             pursuant to this bill, other than the state or a political  
             subdivision of the state, to recover reasonable attorney's  
             fees and litigation expenses, including, but not limited to,  
             expert witness fees and expenses as part of the costs, as  
             specified.  Prohibits a prevailing defendant party from  
             recovering any costs unless the court finds the action to be  
             frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation.


          5) Provides that the provisions of this bill do not apply to  
             special elections.


          6) Provides that this bill shall become operative on January 1,  








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             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  
          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  








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          elections can occur in a timely manner when necessary.


          On-Cycle vs. Off-Cycle Elections:  Although existing law  
          generally requires that regularly scheduled county elections be  
          held at the same time as statewide elections, other local  
          jurisdictions (e.g., cities, school districts, and special  
          districts) have greater flexibility when deciding when to hold  
          regularly scheduled elections that are held to elect governing  
          board members.  Elections that are held at the same time as  
          statewide elections are often referred to as "on-cycle"  
          elections, while elections held at other times are often  
          referred to as "off-cycle" elections.


          The degree to which local governments hold their elections  
          on-cycle or off-cycle varies significantly throughout the state.  
           Roughly 30 percent of the counties in California do not have  
          regularly-scheduled off-cycle elections, because all the local  
          jurisdictions in those counties hold their governing board  
          elections at the same time as statewide elections.  In other  
          counties, large numbers of cities, school districts, and special  
          districts hold their governing board elections off-cycle in  
          November of odd-numbered years.  A smaller number of local  
          jurisdictions hold their regularly scheduled governing board  
          elections on other permitted off-cycle dates.


          Charter Cities:  As noted above, the California Constitution  
          gives cities and counties the ability to adopt charters, which  
          give those jurisdictions greater autonomy over local affairs.  
          Charter cities, in particular, are granted a great deal of  
          autonomy over the rules governing the election of municipal  
          officers.  In fact, the Constitution grants "plenary authority,"  
          subject to limited restrictions, for a city charter to provide  
          "the manner in which, the method by which, the times at which,  
          and the terms for which the several municipal officers and  
          employees?shall be elected or appointed."  The Constitution  
          further provides that properly adopted city charters "shall  
          supersede all laws inconsistent" with the charter.










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          Los Angeles County and Limitations on Election Consolidations:   
          Existing law requires all state, county, municipal, district,  
          and school district elections that are held on a statewide  
          election date to be consolidated with the statewide election,  
          except that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is  
          allowed to deny a request for consolidation of an election with  
          the statewide election if the voting system used by the county  
          cannot accommodate the additional election.  This unique  
          provision allowing Los Angeles County to deny consolidation  
          requests was created through the passage of SB 693 (Robbins,  
          Chapter 897, Statutes of 1985), in response to attempts by a  
          number of cities in Los Angeles to move their municipal  
          elections to the same day as statewide elections.  Los Angeles  
          County sought the ability to deny consolidation requests because  
          its voting system could accommodate only a limited number of  
          contests at each election, and the county was concerned that the  
          move by cities to hold their elections at the same time as the  
          statewide election would exceed the capacity of that voting  
          system.  Los Angeles County still uses a variant of the voting  
          system that it used in 1985, though the county is currently  
          developing a new voting system.  One of the principles that the  
          county has articulated to guide the development of its new  
          voting system is having a system that has "sufficient technical  
          and physical capacity to accommodate?consolidation of elections  
          with local districts and municipalities."  That voting system,  
          however, may not be available for use countywide before 2020.


          Some local jurisdictions have already taken steps to move the  
          date of their elections in anticipation of Los Angeles County's  
          new voting system.  Earlier this year, voters in the city of Los  
          Angeles and in the Los Angeles Unified School District approved  
          ballot measures to move those jurisdictions' general elections  
          so that they are held at the same time as statewide elections,  
          beginning in 2020.  Arguments in support of those measures  
          indicated that such a timeline would allow local elections to be  
          consolidated with federal and state elections.  


          While this bill will go into effect on January 1, 2018, recent  
          amendments taken by the author allow a political subdivision to  
          continue to hold its elections on dates other than statewide  








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          election dates after January 1, 2018, notwithstanding the  
          provisions of this bill, if the political subdivision adopts a  
          plan not later than January 1, 2018 to consolidate future  
          elections with the statewide election beginning no later than  
          November 2022.  Based on Los Angeles County's current timeline  
          for deploying its new voting system, these amendments should  
          allow political subdivisions in that county to continue holding  
          off-cycle elections until the county is able to accommodate  
          additional election consolidations.


          Special Elections:  This bill explicitly provides that its  
          provisions do not apply to special elections.  As a result,  
          special elections that are conducted by a political subdivision  
          to fill a vacancy on that subdivision's governing board, or to  
          vote on a local ballot measure, will not be required to occur at  
          the same time as statewide elections, even if the turnout at  
          special elections in the jurisdiction regularly is significantly  
          lower than the turnout in that jurisdiction at statewide  
          elections.


          Related/Prior Legislation


          AB 254 (R. Hernández) requires general law cities, school  
          districts, community college districts, and special districts to  
          hold their general elections and certain special elections at  
          the same time as the statewide primary or statewide general  
          election, or in June or November of odd-numbered years,  
          beginning in 2020.  AB 254 is currently in Senate Appropriations  
          Committee.


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


          SUPPORT:   (Verified8/6/15)


          California Common Cause








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          Southwest Voter Registration Education Project


          OPPOSITION:   (Verified8/6/15)




          Desert Water Agency 


          ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT:       According to California Common  
          Cause:  One of the greatest barometers for waning civic  
          engagement in American politics is declining voter turnout in  
          federal, state, and municipal elections.  There are many  
          potential contributing factors: general cynicism about  
          government and elected officials, a decline in investment in  
          civics education, and an increasingly transient society. 


          Yet there is one major contributing factor to low voter turnout  
          - the timing of elections - that could be addressed with a  
          relatively simple policy change.  The Public Policy Institute of  
          California surveyed 350 California cities and found that simply  
          moving an election to be synchronized with the even year state  
          elections can result in a 21-36 percent boost in voter turnout  
          for municipal and other local elections.  SB 415 accomplishes  
          this goal by prohibiting municipalities from holding off-cycle  
          elections if doing so results in a significant (25% or more)  
          decline in voter turnout.


          ARGUMENTS IN OPPOSITION:       The Desert Water Agency (DWA)  
          writes:  DWA holds an election for its governing board in  
          November of odd-numbered years.  The Agency was asked many years  
          ago by the Riverside County Elections Department to change?its  
          election schedule due to the large size of the ballot when all  
          elections were consolidated on a statewide election date.  The  
          November 2013 election turnout for DWA was 32.32%; the November  
          2014 statewide turnout for Riverside County was 34.52%.  In  
          comparison, voter turnout in Riverside County in the 2012  
          presidential election was nearly 75%, which would significantly  








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          skew the comparative analysis called for by SB 415 (an average  
          of the previous four statewide elections).


          Nevertheless, combining the DWA election with the statewide  
          election would not likely result in greater voter  
          participation?.[A] review of voter analytics shows that voters  
          are less likely to cast a vote as they move down the ballot, a  
          phenomenon known as "roll-off."  While this effect might be due  
          to fatigue, it also might be due to the fact that contest  
          saliency generally decreases with ballot positions.  Voter  
          fatigue would likely counteract any benefit of forcing local  
          agencies to change election dates as they would fall to the end  
          of a crowded ballot.

          ASSEMBLY FLOOR:  45-30, 7/16/15
          AYES:  Alejo, Bloom, Bonilla, Bonta, Brown, Burke, Calderon,  
            Campos, Chau, Chiu, Chu, Cooper, Dababneh, Daly, Dodd, Eggman,  
            Frazier, Cristina Garcia, Eduardo Garcia, Gatto, Gipson,  
            Gomez, Gonzalez, Roger Hernández, Holden, Jones-Sawyer,  
            Levine, Lopez, Low, McCarty, Medina, Perea, Quirk, Rendon,  
            Ridley-Thomas, Rodriguez, Salas, Santiago, Mark Stone,  
            Thurmond, Ting, Weber, Williams, Wood, Atkins
          NOES:  Achadjian, Travis Allen, Baker, Bigelow, Brough, Chang,  
            Chávez, Dahle, Beth Gaines, Gallagher, Grove, Hadley, Harper,  
            Irwin, Jones, Kim, Lackey, Linder, Maienschein, Mathis, Mayes,  
            Melendez, Obernolte, O'Donnell, Olsen, Patterson, Steinorth,  
            Wagner, Waldron, Wilk
          NO VOTE RECORDED:  Cooley, Gordon, Gray, Mullin, Nazarian


          Prepared by:Frances Tibon Estoista / E. & C.A. / (916) 651-4106
          8/13/15 13:52:39


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