Elections Modernization Plan Signed into Law

Traditional Polling Places to be Replaced by Convenient Vote Centers

Thursday, September 29, 2016


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 was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown today.  SB 450 authorizes counties to replace neighborhood polling places with conveniently located vote centers and allow voting in the 10 days preceding and election; it also requires every voter to be mailed a vote-by-mail ballot.

“Our current system of limiting voters to casting their ballot at a single location on a single day has failed, as our voter turnout rates have continued to decline toward record lows.  People lead increasingly complicated lives; we should provide them with maximum flexibility when it comes to voting.  Under this new law, people will be able to choose the time and place to vote that is most convenient for their lifestyle and their schedule. This is part of an effort to modernize our voting system to meet contemporary needs,” said Senator Allen.

“I am glad the governor has signed SB 450 because it is time for us to modernize the voting process and provide Californians the same convenience and flexibility in casting a ballot as they have in so many other areas of their lives,” Hertzberg said. “You can stream a movie over the internet or deposit a check with your phone at any time, but without this bill, many people still have to rearrange their busy schedules to get to a polling place on a single day and that has hurt turnout.”

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.

“I commend Senator Allen and Senator Hertzberg for their work in carrying this legislation to improve the voting experience. I thank Governor Brown for signing SB 450. Once again he has demonstrated his vision and leadership,” Padilla said.

“This landmark law, will provide voters more options for when, where, and how they cast a ballot," Secretary of State Padilla said. SB 450 will increase participation and make our democracy stronger.”

“For many working Californians it may make more sense to cast a ballot the week before Election Day at a location closer to where they work, or where they drop off their kids, or where they go to college,” Padilla explained. “Why limit voting to one location on single Tuesday?”

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.

“The Vote Center model is the future of voting in California,” said Kathay Feng, Executive Director of California Common Cause. “Senate Bill 450 will encourage more people to vote by expanding the options Californians have for when, where, and how to cast a ballot.”

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.

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