BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                     SB 450


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          SENATE THIRD READING


          SB  
          450 (Allen and Hertzberg)


          As Amended  August 15, 2016


          Majority vote


          SENATE VOTE:  (vote not relevant)


           ------------------------------------------------------------------ 
          |Committee       |Votes|Ayes                  |Noes                |
          |                |     |                      |                    |
          |                |     |                      |                    |
          |                |     |                      |                    |
          |----------------+-----+----------------------+--------------------|
          |Elections       |5-2  |Weber, Gordon, Low,   |Harper, Travis      |
          |                |     |Mullin, Nazarian      |Allen               |
          |                |     |                      |                    |
          |----------------+-----+----------------------+--------------------|
          |Appropriations  |14-6 |Gonzalez, Bloom,      |Bigelow, Chang,     |
          |                |     |Bonilla, Bonta,       |Gallagher, Jones,   |
          |                |     |Calderon, Daly,       |Obernolte, Wagner   |
          |                |     |Eggman, Eduardo       |                    |
          |                |     |Garcia, Holden,       |                    |
          |                |     |Quirk, Santiago,      |                    |
          |                |     |Weber, Wood, McCarty  |                    |
          |                |     |                      |                    |
          |                |     |                      |                    |
           ------------------------------------------------------------------ 


          SUMMARY:  Permits counties to conduct elections in which every  








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          voter is mailed a ballot and vote centers and ballot drop-off  
          locations are available prior to and on election day, in lieu of  
          operating polling places for the election, subject to certain  
          conditions.  Specifically, this bill:  


          1)Permits the counties of Calaveras, Inyo, Madera, Napa, Nevada,  
            Orange, Sacramento, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Clara,  
            Shasta, Sierra, Sutter, and Tuolumne, on or after January 1,  
            2018, and all other counties, on or after January 1, 2020, to  
            choose to conduct elections where all voters are mailed a  
            ballot and where vote centers and ballot drop-off locations  
            are available prior to and on election day, in lieu of  
            operating polling places for the election, subject to the  
            following conditions:


             a)   Vote Centers.  Requires vote centers to be open, in lieu  
               of polling places, on election day, and for the 10 days  
               prior to election day.  Requires, for regularly scheduled  
               elections, one vote center for every 50,000 registered  
               voters from the 10th day to the 4th day prior to the  
               election, and one vote center for every 10,000 registered  
               voters from the 3rd day prior to the election through  
               election day, with no fewer than two vote centers.   
               Requires, for special elections, one vote center for every  
               60,000 registered voters from the 10th day to the day prior  
               to the election, and one vote center for every 30,000  
               registered voters on election day, as specified.  Specifies  
               minimum hours of operation at vote centers.  Requires that  
               a voter be able to return a vote by mail (VBM) ballot,  
               register to vote, and vote at any vote center in the  
               voter's county of residence.  Requires vote centers to be  
               accessible to voters with disabilities, and requires  
               language assistance to be provided at vote centers  
               consistent with current state and federal law.


             b)   Vote by Mail Ballots and Return.  Requires all  








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               registered voters to be mailed ballots and requires ballot  
               drop-off locations, consisting of a secure, accessible,  
               locked ballot box, to be available from the 28th day before  
               the election through Election Day, as specified.  Requires  
               a ballot drop-off location for every 15,000 registered  
               voters.


             c)   Election Administration.  Requires county elections  
               officials to develop a plan for conducting elections, and  
               specifies the elements of the plan, including voter  
               education and outreach, and the public process for  
               developing the plan.  Requires the Secretary of State (SOS)  
               to review and approve the voter education and outreach  
               portions of the plan.


             d)   Requires a toll-free voter assistance hotline,  
               accessible to voters who are deaf and hard of hearing,  
               maintained by the county elections official that is  
               operational no later than 29 days before the day of the  
               election until 5 p.m. on the day after the election.   
               Requires the hotline to provide assistance to voters in all  
               languages in which the county is required to provide voting  
               materials and assistance, as specified.


             e)   Requires the county elections official to establish a  
               Language Access Advisory Committee and a Voting  
               Accessibility Advisory Committee, as specified. 


             f)   Permits a county to conduct a special election as an  
               all-mailed ballot election under this bill only if the  
               county has either previously conducted an election in  
               accordance with the provisions of this bill, or has adopted  
               a final election administration plan and completed all  
               activities provided for in the county's outreach plan prior  
               to the special election.








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          2)Los Angeles County Alternative.  Permits Los Angeles County,  
            beginning January 1, 2020, to conduct elections subject to the  
            same conditions that are generally applicable above, with the  
            following exceptions:


             a)   The county is not required to mail a ballot to every  
               registered voter, but is required to mail ballots to  
               permanent VBM voters, voters in precincts with fewer than  
               500 registered voters, voters in jurisdictions that are  
               shared with counties that are conducting elections pursuant  
               to this bill, and voters in precincts that are either more  
               than a 30-minute travel time from a vote center, or where  
               the precinct's polling place from the last statewide  
               election is more than 15 miles from the nearest vote  
               center. 


             b)   Requires, for regularly scheduled elections, one vote  
               center for every 30,000 registered voters from the 10th day  
               to the 4th day prior to the election, and one vote center  
               for every 7,500 registered voters from the 3rd day prior to  
               the election through election day.  Requires, for regularly  
               scheduled elections, at least one drop-off location for  
               every 15,000 permanent VBM voters, with no fewer than two  
               drop-off locations, as specified.


             c)   Provides that the county may conduct elections under  
               this alternative for no more than four years, and allows  
               the county to conduct elections as otherwise provided in  
               this bill after that time.


          3)Requires the SOS to do all of the following:










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             a)   Report specified information to the Legislature within  
               six months of any election conducted pursuant to this bill,  
               including information about turnout by various demographic  
               groups.


             b)   Establish a task force, as specified and in existence  
               until January 1, 2022, to review elections conducted  
               pursuant to this bill, and to provide comments and  
               recommendations to the Legislature no later than six months  
               after each election.  


             c)   Enforce the provisions of this bill, as specified.


          4)Allows a VBM ballot to be returned to any polling place within  
            the state, instead of being limited to polling places within  
            the jurisdiction of the elections official who issued the  
            ballot.


          5)Contains double-jointing language to avoid chaptering problems  
            with AB 1921 (Gonzalez).


          FISCAL EFFECT:  According to the Assembly Appropriations  
          Committee: 


          1)The SOS will incur ongoing General Fund costs of about  
            $280,000 for three positions to review and approve county  
            voter education and outreach plans, provide technical support  
            for election equipment at vote centers, which will be  
            connected to the statewide voter registration database  
            (VoteCal), conduct demographic analysis of election data, and  
            staff the SOS task force.










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          2)Initial costs to participating counties will likely be  
            significant, but in many cases will result in long-term cost  
            savings.  Since the bill is permissible, any county costs will  
            not be state reimbursable.


          COMMENTS:  According to the author, "California saw historically  
          low voter turnout in 2014.  Only 25% of all registered  
          California voters cast a ballot in the June primary and only 42%  
          participated in the November general election.  


          "SB 450 is modeled on the very successful way Colorado conducts  
          its elections wherein every voter automatically receives a vote  
          by mail ballot who may then return that ballot by mail or in  
          person at numerous drop-off locations and innovative vote  
          centers.  In lieu of traditional neighborhood polling places,  
          these vote centers are placed in convenient locations all over  
          town and open several days prior to each election.  Furthermore,  
          voters can use any vote center or drop-off location in their  
          home county - they are not limited to using the one closest to  
          their residence.


          "Fully implemented for the 2014 elections, this hybrid system  
          resulted in Colorado achieving one of the highest voter turnouts  
          in the nation.  SB 450 will replicate this system in California  
          on a county by county, opt-in basis beginning in 2018."


          While the provisions of this bill are modeled after Colorado  
          law, California's unique challenges will necessitate policies  
          that differ from the Colorado model in some respects.  For  
          example, California's language assistance requirements under the  
          federal Voting Rights Act are much more extensive than  
          Colorado's obligations under that law.  Other challenges that  
          California likely will face in moving to an election system  
          similar to Colorado's include the state's size (both in terms of  
          population and geography), and the fact that fewer voters and  








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          elections officials have familiarity with vote centers and  
          elections in which all voters are mailed a ballot.  Overcoming  
          these challenges may require more robust voter education and  
          outreach, and may require other adjustments to the Colorado  
          model.  This bill contains many adjustments to the Colorado  
          model in an attempt to address this state's unique challenges.


          Vote centers are polling locations at which any registered voter  
          in a county can cast a regular (i.e., non-provisional) ballot,  
          regardless of the voter's precinct.  Voters do not need to vote  
          at polling places near their homes, but can vote at any of the  
          vote centers throughout the county.  


          Vote centers provide greater flexibility to voters in deciding  
          where and when to cast their ballots.  The trade-off is that  
          there are considerably fewer physical voting locations in  
          elections using vote centers than in elections using  
          neighborhood polling places.  This reduction in the number of  
          physical voting locations could increase the distance that some  
          voters have to travel in order to cast a ballot in person. 


          On the other hand, because vote centers would be open for the 10  
          days prior to election day (including two full weekends), the  
          number of days and hours during which in-person voting is  
          available would increase significantly.  Additionally, with vote  
          centers, a voter has the flexibility to vote near his or her  
          work, or near his or her child's school, if that is a more  
          convenient option.


          This bill includes an option for conducting elections that is  
          only available to Los Angeles County.  While that option is  
          similar to the model offered to other counties under the bill,  
          the "Los Angeles option" generally requires a larger number of  
          vote centers, but does not require the county to mail a ballot  
          to every registered voter.  This option is designed, in part, in  








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          recognition of the fact that voters in Los Angeles County use  
          VBM ballots at much lower rates than in other counties in the  
          state.  Furthermore, the county's large population would create  
          significant logistical challenges if the county were required to  
          begin mailing VBM ballots to millions of additional registered  
          voters in a short period of time.  This bill, however, requires  
          Los Angeles County to transition to the election model that is  
          applicable to all other counties after four years of conducting  
          elections under the Los Angeles option.


          Please see the policy committee analysis for a full discussion  
          of this bill.




          Analysis Prepared by:                                             
                          Ethan Jones / E. & R. / (916) 319-2094  FN:  
          0004003