FROM:   Kim Alexander, CVF President
DATE:   August 20, 2001
RE:   Update on AB 56/CA voting technology legislation

Hi Folks,

The California Legislature is back in session after its summer recess and will be taking up hundreds of bills over the next few weeks until they adjourn for the year on September 14.

Among the bills under consideration is Assembly Bill 56, which would provide $300 million for new election equipment if approved by California voters. This edition of CVF-NEWS provides an update and overview on AB 56.

AB 56 was introduced last December by Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg. As introduced, AB 56 would have appropriated $300 million from the state General Fund to make matching grants to counties wanting to upgrade their voting equipment. In January Governor Gray Davis introduced his new budget, which included only $40 million for new voting equipment. When Davis later unveiled his "May revise" budget, based on the state's actual income for the year, he eliminated funding for most of the new initiatives he proposed in January, including the $40 million for new voting equipment. Before signing the state budget into law in July, the Governor also vetoed a line item in the Secretary of State's budget to fund a $1 million voter outreach campaign. (For more details see the Secretary of State's news release at

In June, AB 56 was amended to become a bond act instead of a General Fund appropriation, but retained the matching fund formula where state moneys for new voting equipment would be matched with county dollars on a 3-1 ratio. The bill was amended again in July to clarify that the funds can be used to purchase any voting system that does not utilize prescored punch cards. This is an important clarification because 22 of California's 58 counties use the Datavote punch card system, which does not have the kind of hole punch and design problems voters have experienced with Votomatic or Pollstar machines.

However, AB 56 is silent on two issues raised by Republican members of the Assembly Elections committee when the bill was before them back in April. Committee members raised concerns about whether the voting equipment certification process is sufficient in light of new technology, and discussed the need for a paper trail. Though the Assembly committee members agreed to amend AB 56 to address the paper trail/security concerns, no such amendments have yet been made. (For a summary of the committee's debate on AB 56, see the archived CVF-NEWS online at

AB 56 requires a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature as well as Governor Davis' signature to qualify for the ballot. It is currently in the Senate Appropriations committee and is one of several bond measures the Legislature is considering placing before voters on the March ballot, which will no doubt be part of the negotiations over this and other measures over the next few weeks.

We'll keep you posted on the developments. In the meantime, if you'd like more information on AB 56, including links to the bill text, analyses and votes, visit CVF's Voting Technology Resources web page, at

Have a great week,

-- Kim Alexander, California Voter Foundation, 530-750-7650,

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This page was first published on August 20, 2001 | Last updated on August 20, 2001
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