California election bills to watch
The 2017-18 California legislative session is well underway, and the California Voter Foundation is supporting several bills this year:
- AB 216: Authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego), this bill would require counties to provide postage-paid envelopes to vote-by-mail voters. The bill passed out of the Assembly Elections Committee last month, and CVF president Kim Alexander testified in support.
As stated in CVF's support letter, this bill is needed to reduce voter confusion about postage costs and to ensure younger voters less familiar with the postal service are not disadvantaged when voting by mail, especially given the likely increase in mail balloting with the implementation of the Voter's Choice Act beginning in several counties next year.
- SB 568 and AB 84: SB 568 is authored by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and is sponsored by Secretary of State Alex Padilla. The bill, which if enacted would move California's presidential primary to the third Tuesday in March, passed out of the Senate Elections Committee this week on a bipartisan, unanimous vote. To avoid the risk of other states leapfrogging their primaries ahead of California's, the bill also includes a provision that would allow the governor to set the primary date before the third Tuesday in March at least 240 days prior to that date.
CVF's Alexander testified in support of the bill, saying that:
"Given the unlikelihood that the Electoral College will change anytime soon, the only practical opportunity for California voters to have a say in the Presidential election is in the Primary - and the only way to ensure that happens is to hold the California primary early enough that it will matter."
CVF also supports AB 84, authored by Assemblyman Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco), which would also move California's primary to March. That bill is scheduled to be heard by the Assembly Elections Committee on April 26.
Two other bills CVF is watching closely this year:
- AB 1403: Authored by Assemblyman Jay Obernolte (R-Big Bear Lake), this bill would require counties to accept emailed ballots from overseas and military voters. The bill passed out of the Assembly Elections Committee on a bipartisan vote earlier this month. While CVF has not taken a position on this bill, the organization has a long-standing opposition to all forms of Internet voting, including and especially voting by email. While email can be used safely to send out ballots, there is widespread agreement among computer scientists and security experts that it is not a safe or secure way for returning voted ballots.
- AB 668: Authored by Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher and sponsored by Secretary of State Padilla, this bill, if passed by the legislature and approved by the voters, would provide $450 million in bond funds to support California counties' acquisition of new voting equipment. The bill is currently written to provide additional funding to counties that opt to implement the Voter's Choice Act. It is sponsored by the Secretary of State.
CVF will be monitoring this bill closely; it may end up on the ballot and CVF's policy is to not take positions on ballot measures so the organization is neutral on this bill. But CVF has long championed the need for greater state fiscal support for election administration, including the acquisition of voting equipment. A recent report from the state Legislative Analyst's Office highlights the state's lagging role in providing funding to support elections. This topic will be covered in the next edition of CVF-News.
More information about these and other bills in the 2017-18 legislative session, including votes and bill analyses, can be accessed at leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.