BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



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

          Bill No:             SB 505         Hearing Date:    4/21/15    
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          |Author:    |Mendoza                                              |
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          |Version:   |4/9/15                                               |
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          |Urgency:   |No                     |Fiscal:    |Yes              |
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          |Consultant:|Frances Tibon Estoista                               |
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                           Subject:  Voter Bill of Rights

                                        DIGEST

           This bill eliminates the requirement that the Voter Bill of  
          Rights (VBOR) be worded as currently specified and instead  
          authorizes the Secretary of State (SOS) to revise the wording as  
          necessary to ensure the use of clear and concise language free  
          from technical terms.

                                       ANALYSIS

           Existing law:

           1. Requires a VBOR be made available in the statewide voter  
             pamphlet to all voters with printed copies supplied by the  
             SOS for conspicuous posting both inside and outside of every  
             polling place.  The VBOR reads as follows:



              A.    You have the right to cast a ballot if you are a valid  
                registered voter. (A valid registered voter means a United  
                States citizen who is a resident in this state, who is at  
                least 18 years of age and not in prison or on parole for  
                conviction of a felony, and who is registered to vote at  
                his or her current residence address.)

              B.    You have the right to cast a provisional ballot if  
                your name is not listed on the voting rolls.







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              C.    You have the right to cast a ballot if you are present  
                and in line at the polling place prior to the close of the  
                polls.

              D.    You have the right to cast a secret ballot free from  
                intimidation.

              E.    You have the right to receive a new ballot if, prior  
                to casting your ballot, you believe you made a mistake.   
                If at any time before you finally cast your ballot, you  
                feel you have made a mistake, you have the right to  
                exchange the spoiled ballot for a new ballot.   
                Vote-by-mail voters may also request and receive a new  
                ballot if they return their spoiled ballot to an elections  
                official prior to the closing of the polls on Election  
                Day.

              F.    You have the right to receive assistance in casting  
                your ballot, if you are unable to vote without assistance.

              G.    You have the right to return a completed vote by mail  
                ballot to any precinct in the county.

              H.    You have the right to election materials in another  
                language, if there are sufficient residents in your  
                precinct to warrant production.

              I.    You have the right to ask questions about election  
                procedures and observe the election process.

              J.    You have the right to ask questions of the precinct  
                board and elections officials regarding election  
                procedures and to receive an answer or be directed to the  
                appropriate official for an answer.  However, if  
                persistent questioning disrupts the execution of their  
                duties, the board or election officials may discontinue  
                responding to questions.

              AA.   You have the right to report any illegal or fraudulent  
                activity to a local elections official or to the SOS's  
                office.










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          Existing law also:



               A.     Requires that beneath the VBOR a toll-free telephone  
                 number be listed to call if a person has been denied a  
                 voting right or to report election fraud or misconduct.

               B.     Permits the SOS to develop regulations to implement  
                 and clarify the Voter Bill of Rights.

               C.     Requires the VBOR be made available to the public  
                 before each election and on election day, at a minimum,  
                 as follows:

               D.     Requires the VBOR be printed in the statewide voter  
                 pamphlet.

               E.     Requires posters or other printed materials  
                 containing the Voter Bill of Rights be included in  
                 precinct supplies.



          This bill:

           1. Permits the SOS to revise the wording of the VBOR as  
             necessary to ensure the use of clear and concise language  
             free from technical terms.



                                      BACKGROUND

           AB 177 (Oropeza), Chapter 425, Statutes of 2003, among other  
          things, enumerated a Voter Bill of Rights (VBOR) and required  
          the VBOR to be published and posted.  Since becoming law, the  
          VBOR is typically printed and located on the inside of the  
          statewide voter pamphlet and is also required to be posted or  
          printed in other materials included in precinct supplies for  
          conspicuous posting both inside and outside of every polling  
          place.









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          Although each of these rights were already in existence in  
          various sections of either the Government Code or the Elections  
          Code, these code sections were paraphrased and summarized into  
          the VBOR located in one section of the Elections Code.

          The VBOR's author, Assembly member Jenny Oropeza stated in her  
          written testimony before the Assembly Elections Committee that,  
          "In recent elections there have been numerous reports of voters  
          being turned away at the polls.  Many of these voters are new  
          citizens whose primary language is not English.  Additionally,  
          poll workers have reported they do not offer provisional ballots  
          under many permissible circumstances.  As a result, AB 177 seeks  
          to protect all voters, so that they may understand and defend  
          their rights."

          Former Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, the sponsor of AB 177  
          wrote in his letter of support, "Voters, and often poll workers,  
          are unfamiliar with what rights a voter has.  AB 177 provides  
          for a listing of voter's basic rights, and requires that voters  
          receive notification of these rights both in the sample ballot  
          and at their polling places.  The provisions of the Voters Bill  
          of Rights provide for a common sense approach to voter education  
          at the polling place."

                                       COMMENTS

          1.According to the author  :  Senate Bill 505 would ensure that  
            California's Voter Bill of Rights is provided to voters in  
             plain , accessible language.  Pursuant to existing law, the  
            Voter Bill of Rights is provided to voters at every election  
            in the state ballot pamphlet prepared by the Secretary of  
            State.  It is also posted inside and outside of all polling  
            places.  The Voter Bill of Rights seeks to ensure that voters  
            understand their eligibility to vote, how they can receive  
            help with voting or other polling place problems, their  
            ability to be provided election materials in another language,  
            their rights to be free from intimidation, whether their mail  
            ballot is counted, and more.  It also provides a toll free  
            number for reporting denial of voting rights and other  
            potential violations of election law.  The original English  
            language version of the Voter Bill of Rights is currently  
            translated into nine languages.  An American Sign Language  
            video is also available on the Secretary of State website.   
            Translation of the Voter Bill of Rights is challenging because  








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            standards for translation require direct translation of each  
            word and the statutory wording, which is the source for  
            translation, is not written in plain language. When source  
            documents are written in plain language, translation is easier  
            and more effective because the message that needs to be  
            communicated is clearer.


            The Secretary of State has  limited authority  to ensure that  
            election materials are prepared and provided in plain  
            language.  SB 505 helps ensure that voters are better informed  
            about their key electoral rights under state law by formally  
            allowing the SOS to inform voters using plain language text to  
            describe the Voter Bill of Rights.



                               RELATED/PRIOR LEGISLATION

           AB 535 (Grove) of 2015 would require ballot titles and summaries  
          prepared by the Department of Finance to, "Be written in clear  
          and concise terms, understandable to the average voter, and in  
          an objective and nonpartisan manner, avoiding the use of  
          technical terms whenever possible."  That bill is currently  
          awaiting hearing in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

          AB 177 (Oropeza), Chapter 425, Statutes of 2003 originally  
          codified the Voter Bill of Rights.

                                       POSITIONS

           Sponsor:  Secretary of State

          Support:  None received

          Oppose:None received

                                          
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