In the final days of this year's legislative session, the California Legislature passed three important bills supported by the California Voter Foundation and many other voter advocacy groups.
If signed into law, SB 72, SB 523 and AB 681 will enact important reforms that will improve the voting process and experience for potentially hundreds of thousands of California voters. CVF is urging Gov. Newsom to sign these bills into law to ensure all Californians can exercise their voting rights in 2020 and beyond:
- Senate Bill 72, by Senator Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana) will allow voters to register to vote at polling places on Election Day starting in 2020.
Under current law, Californians may register on Election Day only at county election or satellite offices, or, if their county has implemented the Voter's Choice Act (VCA) voting model, at vote centers. SB 72 will ensure voters have equal access to Election Day registration regardless of whether their county has implemented the VCA. Voters who register on Election Day do so "conditionally" and their eligibility is verified before their ballots are counted. If enacted, California will join 13 other states and DC in providing Election Day registration at polling places. CVF's support letter is online.
- Senate Bill 523, by Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) will require counties to notify voters who forget to sign their vote-by-mail ballot envelopes and help them submit a signature so their ballot will be counted.
Every election, tens of thousands of California voters' ballots go uncounted, primarily because they arrive too late or because of missing or mismatched voters' signatures on ballot envelopes. The number of mail ballots rejected statewide in 2018 increased to nearly 142,000, up from 127,000 in 2016. SB 523 will ensure that voters with missing signatures are contacted by their county election office and provided an opportunity to submit a signature so their ballot gets counted. In Sacramento County, 2,207 voters' ballots were counted instead of rejected in 2018 because the county informed them their signature was missing and provided an opportunity to submit one. CVF's support letter is online.
- Assembly Bill 681, by Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) will require counties to notify voters of their party registration and presidential voting options before the March 2020 Primary.
In 2008 and 2016, California voters experienced widespread confusion when attempting to cast ballots for the Presidential candidates of their choice. Some thought they were independent but were actually registered with the American Independent Party. Many "No Party Preference" voters received ballots in the mail with no presidential candidates on them, failing to respond to an earlier request to state a preference.
AB 681 will require counties to notify every registered voter regarding: their current political party preference; the type of ballot they will be able to vote in the Presidential Primary election; voting options for "No Party Preference" voters stating which parties will allow them to participate in their primaries; and how voters can change their registered party preference if desired. This bill will also let voters update their address or party preference before and on Election Day without having to complete an entirely new voter registration application. If SB 72 is also enacted, all voters will be able to update their address or party preference at voting sites statewide on Election Day. CVF's support letter is online.