BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



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

          Bill No:             SB 450         Hearing Date:    08/25/16     

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          |Author:    |Allen                                                |
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          |Version:   |8/18/16    Amended                                   |
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          |Urgency:   |No                     |Fiscal:    |Yes              |
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          |Consultant:|Darren Chesin                                        |
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              Subject:  Elections: vote by mail voting and mail ballot  
                                      elections

           DIGEST
           
          Permits specified counties beginning in 2018, and all other  
          counties beginning in 2020, to conduct elections in which every  
          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.  Permits Los Angeles County, beginning in 2020 and  
          for a period of not more than four years, to conduct elections  
          in which 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. 

           ANALYSIS
          Existing law:

          1)Allows a voter who wishes to receive a vote by mail (VBM)  
            ballot for every election in which that voter is eligible to  
            vote to become a permanent VBM voter.


          2)Permits, but does not require, elections officials to allow  
            voters to cast ballots prior to an election at their offices  
            or satellite locations on weekends or times beyond regular  
            office hours.








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          3)Permits a voter who is otherwise qualified to register to vote  
            to complete a conditional voter registration, as defined, and  
            to cast a provisional ballot during the 14 days immediately  
            preceding an election or on Election Day at the office of the  
            elections official.  Permits the county elections official to  
            offer conditional voter registration at satellite offices of  
            the county elections official.  Provides that these provisions  
            do not become operative until January 1 of the year following  
            the year in which the Secretary of State (SOS) certifies that  
            the state has a statewide voter registration database that  
            complies with the requirements of the federal Help America  
            Vote Act (HAVA).

          4)Allows local elections held on no more than three different  
            dates in Monterey, Sacramento, San Mateo, and Yolo counties to  
            be conducted wholly by mail, as part of a pilot project  
            lasting through January 1, 2018, subject to certain  
            conditions.


          5)Permits San Diego County, as part of a pilot program lasting  
            through January 1, 2021, to conduct a special election to fill  
            a vacancy in the Legislature or in Congress as an all-mailed  
            ballot election, subject to certain conditions and reporting  
            requirements.


          6)Requires precinct boundaries to be fixed in a manner so that  
            the number of voters in the precinct does not exceed 1,000 on  
            the 88th day prior to the day of election, except as  
            specified.  Requires an elections official, at least 29 days  
            prior to an election, to designate a polling place for each  
            precinct, except as specified.


          7)Requires a state or a political subdivision of a state to  
            provide voting materials in the language of a minority group  
            according to specified criteria.


          8)Requires the elections official to make reasonable efforts to  
            recruit elections officials who are fluent in a language if  
            three percent or more of the voting-age residents in the  








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            precinct are fluent in that language and lack sufficient skill  
            in English to vote without assistance.


          9)Requires the elections official to undertake necessary  
            measures when locating polling places to ensure that polling  
            places meet the guidelines promulgated by the SOS for  
            accessibility by the physically handicapped.


          10)Requires, pursuant to HAVA, that voting systems used in an  
            election for federal office be accessible for individuals with  
            disabilities, including nonvisual accessibility for the blind  
            and visually impaired, in a manner that provides the same  
            opportunity for access and participation, including privacy  
            and independence, as for other voters.


          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  








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               minimum hours of operation at vote centers.  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.  Requires  
               vote centers to be equitably distributed around the county  
               so as to afford maximally convenient options for voters at  
               accessible locations as near as possible to established  
               public transportation routes.  


               Requires every vote center to have an electronic mechanism  
               that allows elections officials to immediately access voter  
               registration data, including whether each voter has been  
               issued a VBM ballot and whether a ballot has been received  
               by the elections official.

               Provides that the requirements for eligibility and  
               composition of precinct boards at polling places generally  
               apply for election boards at vote centers, except as  
               otherwise specified.

               Requires that a voter be able to do any of the following at  
               any vote center in the voter's county of residence: 

               i.     Return, or vote and return, a VBM ballot;

               ii.    Register to vote, or update his or her registration,  
                 and vote, as specified;

               iii.   Receive and vote a provisional ballot, as specified;

               iv.    Receive a replacement ballot upon verification that  
                 a ballot for the same election has not been received from  
                 the voter by the elections official; and,

               v.     Vote a regular, provisional, or replacement ballot  
                 using accessible voting equipment that provides for a  
                 private and independent voting experience. 

             a)   Vote by Mail Ballots and Return.  Requires all  
               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  








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               a ballot drop-off location for every 15,000 registered  
               voters.

             b)   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 SOS to review and  
               approve the voter education and outreach portions of the  
               plan.

             c)   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.

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

             e)   Permits a county to conduct a special election as an  
               all-mailed ballot election under this bill, as specified.

          1)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. 









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             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.  Additionally requires a  
               vote center to be located in every city within the county  
               that has at least 1,000 registered voters. Requires 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.


          2)Requires the SOS to report specified information to the  
            Legislature within six months of any election conducted  
            pursuant to this bill and establish a task force to review  
            these elections and to provide recommendations to the  
            Legislature.  


          3)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.


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


           BACKGROUND
           
           Colorado Model of Elections  .  As noted in the author's statement  
          below, the provisions of this bill are modeled after the way  
          that Colorado conducts its elections.  The essence of Colorado's  
          elections system is that voters may choose to vote at home using  
          a ballot that is mailed to them, or may visit any of the several  
          vote centers within their home county on election day, or on the  








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          days leading up to Election Day, including weekends.  Voters may  
          mail the voted ballot back to elections officials, or may return  
          it in person to the elections official's office, a vote center,  
          or a designated drop-off location. 

           Vote Centers vs. Polling Places  .  Vote centers under this bill  
          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 fewer physical voting locations on Election Day itself  
          in elections using vote centers than in elections using  
          neighborhood polling places.  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 could  
          have the flexibility to vote near his or her work, or near his  
          or her child's school, if that was a more convenient option.   
          Because of the reduced number of physical voting locations,  
          elections officials would also have greater flexibility to  
          locate vote centers near established public transportation  
          routes and in areas with sufficient parking. (In fact, this bill  
          would require elections officials to take those factors into  
          consideration when deciding where to locate vote centers.)

           Technical Requirements for Vote Centers  .  Because voters have  
          the option of casting a ballot at any vote center in the county,  
          vote centers need to have a system that can provide any eligible  
          voter in the county with the appropriate ballot.  While smaller  
          counties that have fewer ballot styles may be able to  
          accommodate that need using pre-printed paper ballots, vote  
          centers in larger jurisdictions likely will feature electronic  
          voting systems that are pre-loaded with all the ballot types in  
          the county, or ballot-on-demand printers that can produce the  
          appropriate paper ballots as needed.

          Additionally, in order to verify the registration of voters,  
          determine the correct ballot type for each voter, and ensure  
          that a voter has not already cast a ballot, vote centers must  








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          have a mechanism to verify voter registration information.  In  
          most jurisdictions, this requirement is likely to be met through  
          the use of electronic poll books that can communicate with the  
          voter registration database in real-time.  

           Conditional Voter Registration, a.k.a. "Election Day"  
          Registration  .  AB 1436 (Feuer, Chapter 497, Statutes of 2012),  
          permits "conditional voter registration," under which a person  
          is allowed to register to vote and vote at the office of the  
          county elections official at any time, including on election  
          day, if certain requirements are met.  AB 1436 does not,  
          however, require conditional voter registration to be available  
          at polling places.  Conditional voter registration will go into  
          effect on January 1 of the year following the date that the SOS  
          certifies the operation of VoteCal.  Under conditional voter  
          registration, voters will cast provisional ballots which will be  
          counted only if the elections official is able to determine the  
          person's eligibility to vote, as specified. 

          One of the conditions of this bill would require that  
          conditional voter registration be available at every vote  
          center.  Because counties would not be allowed to operate vote  
          centers pursuant to this bill until 2018, and because VoteCal is  
          scheduled to be fully implemented this year, the state law  
          providing for conditional voter registration is expected to be  
          in effect before any elections are conducted under the  
          provisions of this bill.

           Early Adopters  .  The following table details the 14 counties  
          that would have the option of adopting the provisions of this  
          bill beginning in 2018, and the number of vote centers and  
          drop-off locations that each county would be required to  
          operate, based on current registration figures.



             ----------------------------------------------------------------- 
            |County    |Registered| Polling  |   Vote   |   Vote   | Drop-off |
            |          |  Voters* |Places at | Centers, | Centers, |Locations |
            |          |          | 11/2014  | E-10 to  |   E-3    |          |
            |          |          |Election**|   E-4    | through  |          |
            |          |          |          |          | Election |          |
            |          |          |          |          |   Day    |          |
            |----------+----------+----------+----------+----------+----------|








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            |Orange    |1,395,380 |   1135   |    28    |   140    |    94    |
            |----------+----------+----------+----------+----------+----------|
            |Santa     | 788,063  |   697    |    16    |    79    |    53    |
            |Clara     |          |          |          |          |          |
            |----------+----------+----------+----------+----------+----------|
            |Sacramento| 715,975  |   528    |    15    |    72    |    48    |
            |          |          |          |          |          |          |
            |----------+----------+----------+----------+----------+----------|
            |San Mateo | 367,155  |   211    |    8     |    37    |    25    |
            |----------+----------+----------+----------+----------+----------|
            |San Luis  | 155,801  |   145    |    4     |    16    |    11    |
            |Obispo    |          |          |          |          |          |
            |----------+----------+----------+----------+----------+----------|
            |Shasta    |  96,310  |    79    |    2     |    10    |    7     |
            |----------+----------+----------+----------+----------+----------|
            |Napa      |  72,461  |    13    |    2     |    8     |    5     |
            |----------+----------+----------+----------+----------+----------|
            |Nevada    |  66,149  |    39    |    2     |    7     |    5     |
            |----------+----------+----------+----------+----------+----------|
            |Madera    |  54,017  |    39    |    2     |    6     |    4     |
            |----------+----------+----------+----------+----------+----------|
            |Sutter    |  42,351  |    22    |    2     |    5     |    3     |
            |----------+----------+----------+----------+----------+----------|
            |Tuolumne  |  29,472  |    27    |    2     |    3     |    2     |
            |----------+----------+----------+----------+----------+----------|
            |Calaveras |  27,532  |    15    |    2     |    3     |    2     |
            |----------+----------+----------+----------+----------+----------|
            |Inyo      |  9,697   |    5     |    2     |    2     |    2     |
            |----------+----------+----------+----------+----------+----------|
            |Sierra    |  2,217   |   0***   |    2     |    2     |2         |
            |          |          |          |          |          |          |
             ----------------------------------------------------------------- 

          *As of 5/23/2016, per Secretary of State's Report of  
          Registration.

          **According to information provided by the counties to the  
          United States Election Assistance Commission as part of the 2014  
          Election Administration and Voting Survey.

          ***Due to the fact that none of Sierra County's precincts have  
          more than 250 registered voters, all of its precincts were  
          designated as mailed-ballot precincts for the November 2014  
          Election.  As a result, it did not have polling places for that  








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          election.

           COMMENTS
                                           
          1)According to the author, California saw historically low  
            voter turnout in 2014.  Only 25 percent of all registered  
            California voters cast a ballot in the June primary and  
            only 42 percent participated in the November general  
            election.  Los Angeles County - the largest voting  
            jurisdiction in the country - had the lowest turnout  
            among all of California's 58 counties.  Fewer than 17  
            percent of Los Angeles County voters cast a ballot in the  
            June primary and only 31 percent voted in November.   
            While voter turnout was poor across the entire country in  
            2014, California ranked an inexcusable 43rd in turnout  
            among the 50 states and District of Columbia.



          Since 1960 turnout of registered voters in California  
            off-year general elections has steadily decreased from a  
            high of 79 percent in 1966 to a previous low of 50.5  
            percent in 2002.  Turnout for off-year primary elections  
            since 1960 has also steadily decreased from a high of  
            almost 69 percent in 1978 - when Proposition 13 appeared  
            on the ballot - to a previous low of 33 percent in 2010.

          SB 450 is modeled on the very successful way Colorado  
            conducts its elections wherein every voter automatically  
            receives a VBM 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.

          At the vote centers, voters can register to vote, cast a  
            vote, or get a new ballot if they lost or damaged their  
            mail ballot.  They are also equipped with accessible  
            voting machines for disabled voters and electronic poll  
            books that interact with the official voter database. 








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          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.  

          The language of SB 450 was painstakingly developed with the  
            input of the SOS, county elections officials, and  
            numerous advocates representing all facets of  
            California's very diverse electorate.  This effort is  
            evident in the unprecedented lengths to which the bill  
            goes toward accommodating non-English proficient voters  
            and voters with accessibility needs as well as requiring  
            extensive community involvement and voter education.

          A majority of our voters are already casting ballots by  
            mail.  During the November, 2014 General Election over 60  
            percent of all voters statewide used a VBM ballot.  Use  
            of mail ballots in local and special elections is even  
            higher.  Furthermore, a recent poll conducted by the  
            Public Policy Institute of California found that 70  
            percent of California adults favor sending every  
            registered voter a VBM ballot.

          SB 450 offers the best opportunity to significantly  
            increase voter participation while also saving  
            participating counties money over the current system.
                               RELATED/PRIOR LEGISLATION
           
          SB 439 (Allen, Chapter 734, Statutes of 2015), allows elections  
          officials to offer conditional voter registration at satellite  
          offices on days other than election day, and requires the SOS to  
          adopt and publish standards for electronic poll books and ballot  
          on demand printers, as specified.

          AB 3024 (Wolk of 2006), would have authorized Solano County to  
          conduct a pilot project whereby the county elections official  
          would establish vote centers in lieu of polling places in each  
          precinct.  AB 3024 was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger.  In  
          his veto message, the Governor stated that "[w]hile the vote  
          center system may offer some advantages over the current  
          precinct-based voting system, the proposed pilot project would  
          reduce the number of voting locations by 80 percent, and thereby  








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          significantly increase the distance that voters would have to  
          travel in order to vote.  This burden would fall  
          disproportionately on those who are less mobile, frequently the  
          poor, disabled, and elderly."

           PRIOR ACTION
           
           ------------------------------------------------------------------ 
          |Assembly Floor:                       | 47 - 31                   |
          |--------------------------------------+---------------------------|
          |Assembly Appropriations Committee:    | 14 - 6                    |
          |--------------------------------------+---------------------------|
          |Assembly Elections and Redistricting  |   5 - 2                   |
          |Committee:                            | 36 - 0                    |
          |Senate Floor:                         |   5 - 0                   |
          |Senate Elections and Constitutional   |                           |
          |Amendments:                           |                           |
           ------------------------------------------------------------------ 

           POSITIONS
           
          Sponsor: Secretary of State

          Support:  American Federation of State, County and Municipal  
                  Employees, AFL-CIO
                  California Association of Clerks and Election Officials
                  California Association of Nonprofits
                  California Foundation for Independent Living Centers 
                  California League of Conservation Voters 
                  California Common Cause
                  California Nurses Association 
                  California Public Interest Research Group
                  California State Association of Counties
                  California Transit Association
                  City Clerks Association of California
                  Consumer Watchdog
                  Courage Campaign
                  Equality California
                  Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
                  NARAL Pro-Choice California
                  Rural County Representatives of California 
                  San Fernando Valley Young Democrats
                  San Mateo County Board of Supervisors
                  Service Employees International Union








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                  Sierra Club California
                    
          Oppose:   Department of Finance
                  Election Integrity Project
                  Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association