Sacramento, CA – A measure authored by Senator Ben Allen (D – Santa Monica) and Senator Robert Hertzberg (D – Van Nuys) to transform the way elections are conducted passed the legislature today. The bill, SB 450, was approved on a bipartisan, final vote of 26 - 11in the state Senate.
“People’s lives are more complicated than ever, and our goal is to make it easier for them to participate in the democratic process. This new system will give voters an array of convenient options including voting at one of numerous locations close to where they work, shop or congregate,” Senator Allen said.
“You can stream a movie over the internet or deposit a check with your phone at any time, but many people still go to a polling place on a single day to cast a ballot,” Sen. Hertzberg said. “It’s time to bring voting into the 21st century and give Californians the same convenience and flexibility in casting a ballot as they have in so many other areas of their lives.”
Under SB 450, voters will be able to vote in person at “vote centers” located at public spots throughout their county for the 10 days prior to an election, including two weekends. Also, every voter will receive a vote by mail ballot that can be returned by mail, or dropped off at any vote center.
SB 450 is patterned after the successful way Colorado conducts its elections. Since instituting the vote center model, Colorado’s voter turnout has risen to third among all states. It also significantly reduced the cost of holding elections.
SB 450 permits 14 counties to opt in to the new system beginning in 2018, and all other counties may opt in starting in 2020.
Due to infrastructure limitations, the bill provides a separate option for Los Angeles County in which the county will provide a greater number of vote centers but will not be required to send a vote by mail ballot to every voter when it initially opts in to the program. By 2024, Los Angeles County will send every voter the vote by mail ballot.
"I commend Senator Allen and Senator Hertzberg for their commitment and tireless work on this important legislation, and I thank the legislators who voted for this measure," said Secretary of State Alex Padilla, the sponsor of the measure.
"We are one step away from modernizing California elections. With his signature, Governor Brown can provide California voters more options for when, where and how they vote. If we are truly committed to increasing voter turnout and participation we must make voting more convenient for California voters. SB 450 does that," added Padilla.
Voter participation in California has been steadily decreasing for decades. In 2014, California ranked 43rd in voter turnout among the 50 states and District of Columbia. That year, only 25 percent of registered voters cast ballots in June, and only 42 percent participated in November. Los Angeles County had the lowest turnout in the state, with fewer than 17 percent of voters casting ballots in June and only 31 percent voting in November.
SB 450 now goes to the governor’s desk for consideration. The governor has until September 30 to act on it.
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