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SB-1163 Elections: vote by mail ballots.(2019-2020)

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Date Published: 04/30/2020 09:00 PM
SB1163:v98#DOCUMENT

Amended  IN  Senate  April 30, 2020

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2019–2020 REGULAR SESSION

Senate Bill
No. 1163


Introduced by Senator Nielsen
(Principal coauthor: Assembly Member Gallagher)

February 20, 2020


An act to amend Section 14310 of the Elections Code, relating to elections. An act to amend Section 3017 of the Elections Code, relating to elections, and declaring the urgency thereof, to take effect immediately.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


SB 1163, as amended, Nielsen. Elections: provisional ballots. Elections: vote by mail ballots.
Existing law authorizes a vote by mail voter who is unable to return their ballot to designate any other person to return the ballot.
This bill, during, or within 6 months of the suspension of, a duly proclaimed state of emergency or local emergency due to an epidemic or other contagious disease, including COVID-19, would only allow a spouse, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, brother, sister, or a person residing in the same household of the voter to be designated to return a voter’s vote by mail ballot, and, except as provided, would prohibit the return of vote by mail ballots by a paid or volunteer worker of a campaign or political party or any other group or organization at whose behest the individual designated to return the ballot is performing a service.
This bill would declare that it is to take effect immediately as an urgency statute.

Existing law permits a voter whose qualifications or entitlement to vote cannot be immediately established to vote a provisional ballot. Existing law prescribes the manner in which a provisional ballot is to be sealed and counted.

This bill would make technical, nonsubstantive changes to this provision.

Vote: MAJORITY2/3   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: NOYES   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) It is the intent of the Legislature to provide for the health and public welfare of the millions of Californians participating in the election process.
(b) Physical distancing measures and personal protection must remain a priority of the state and local governments to minimize the spread of infection due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
(c) Election workers and voters must be protected under statute from potential infection from COVID-19 until a vaccine or other appropriate disease control is widely distributed.
(d) The state has an interest in limiting the total amount of individuals interacting with a ballot during a time of a catastrophic health pandemic.

SEC. 2.

 Section 3017 of the Elections Code is amended to read:

3017.
 (a) (1) All vote by mail ballots cast under this division shall be voted on or before the day of the election. After marking the ballot, the vote by mail voter shall do any of the following:
(A) Return the ballot by mail or in person to the elections official who issued the ballot.
(B) Return the ballot in person to a member of a precinct board at a polling place or vote center within the state.
(C) Return the ballot to a vote by mail ballot dropoff location within the state that is provided pursuant to Section 3025 or 4005.
(2) A (A) Except as provided in subparagraph (B), a vote by mail voter who is unable to return the ballot may designate another person to return the ballot to the elections official who issued the ballot, to the precinct board at a polling place or vote center within the state, or to a vote by mail ballot dropoff location within the state that is provided pursuant to Section 3025 or 4005. The person designated shall return the ballot in person, or put the ballot in the mail, no later than three days after receiving it from the voter or before the close of the polls on election day, whichever time period is shorter. Notwithstanding subdivision (d), a ballot shall not be disqualified from being counted solely because it was returned or mailed more than three days after the designated person received it from the voter, provided that the ballot is returned by the designated person before the close of polls on election day.
(B) During, or within 6 months of the suspension of, a duly proclaimed state of emergency or local emergency, as defined in Section 8558 of the Government Code, due to an epidemic or other contagious disease, including COVID-19, both of the following apply:
(i) A vote by mail voter who is unable to return their ballot may designate only their spouse, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, brother, sister, or a person residing in the same household to return their ballot.
(ii) A vote by mail voter’s ballot shall not be returned by a paid or volunteer worker of a general purpose committee, controlled committee, independent expenditure committee, political party, candidate’s campaign committee, or any other group or organization at whose behest the individual designated to return the ballot is performing a service. However, this clause does not apply to a candidate or a candidate’s spouse.
(3) The ballot must be received by the elections official who issued the ballot, the precinct board, or the vote by mail ballot dropoff location before the close of the polls on election day. If a vote by mail ballot is returned to a precinct board at a polling place or vote center, or to a vote by mail ballot dropoff location, that is located in a county that is not the county of the elections official who issued the ballot, the elections official for the county in which the vote by mail ballot is returned shall forward the ballot to the elections official who issued the ballot no later than eight days after receipt.
(b) The elections official shall establish procedures to ensure the secrecy of a ballot returned to a polling place and the security, confidentiality, and integrity of any personal information collected, stored, or otherwise used pursuant to this section.
(c) On or before March 1, 2008, the elections official shall establish procedures to track and confirm the receipt of voted vote by mail ballots and to make this information available by means of online access using the county’s elections division Internet Web site. internet website. If the county does not have an elections division Internet Web site, internet website, the elections official shall establish a toll-free telephone number that may be used to confirm the date a voted vote by mail ballot was received.
(d) The provisions of this section are mandatory, not directory, and a ballot shall not be counted if it is not delivered in compliance with this section.
(e) (1) A person designated to return a vote by mail ballot shall not receive any form of compensation based on the number of ballots that the person returns and an individual, group, or organization shall not provide compensation on this basis.
(2) For purposes of this paragraph, “compensation” means any form of monetary payment, goods, services, benefits, promises or offers of employment, or any other form of consideration offered to another person in exchange for returning another voter’s vote by mail ballot.
(3) A person in charge of a vote by mail ballot and who knowingly and willingly engages in criminal acts related to that ballot as described in Division 18 (commencing with Section 18000), including, but not limited to, fraud, bribery, intimidation, and tampering with or failing to deliver the ballot in a timely fashion, is subject to the appropriate punishment specified in that division.

SEC. 3.

 This act is an urgency statute necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety within the meaning of Article IV of the California Constitution and shall go into immediate effect. The facts constituting the necessity are:
In order to address public health concerns due to COVID-19 in the upcoming statewide general election on November 3, 2020, it is necessary for this act to take effect immediately.
SECTION 1.Section 14310 of the Elections Code is amended to read:
14310.

(a)At all elections, a voter claiming to be properly registered, but whose qualification or entitlement to vote cannot be immediately established upon examination of the roster for the precinct or upon examination of the records on file with the county elections official, shall be entitled to vote a provisional ballot as follows:

(1)An elections official shall advise the voter of the voter’s right to cast a provisional ballot.

(2)The voter shall be provided a provisional ballot, written instructions regarding the process and procedures for casting the ballot, and a written affirmation regarding the voter’s registration and eligibility to vote. The written instructions shall include the information set forth in subdivisions (c) and (d).

(3)The voter shall be required to execute, in the presence of an elections official, the written affirmation stating that the voter is eligible to vote and registered in the county where the voter desires to vote.

(b)Once voted, the voter’s ballot shall be sealed in a provisional ballot envelope, and the ballot in its envelope shall be deposited in the ballot box. All provisional ballots voted shall remain sealed in their envelopes for return to the elections official in accordance with the elections official’s instructions. The provisional ballot envelopes specified in this subdivision shall be of a color different than the color of, but printed substantially similar to, the envelopes used for vote by mail ballots, and shall be completed in the same manner as vote by mail envelopes.

(c)(1)During the official canvass, the elections official shall examine the records with respect to all provisional ballots cast. Using the procedures that apply to the comparison of signatures on vote by mail ballots pursuant to Section 3019, the elections official shall compare the signature on each provisional ballot envelope with the signature on the voter’s affidavit of registration or other signature in the voter’s registration record. If the signatures do not compare or the provisional ballot envelope is not signed, the ballot shall be rejected. A variation of the signature caused by the substitution of initials for the first or middle name, or both, shall not invalidate the ballot.

(2)(A)Provisional ballots shall not be included in any semiofficial or official canvass, except under one or more of the following conditions:

(i)The elections official establishes before the completion of the official canvass, from the records in the election official’s office, the claimant’s right to vote.

(ii)The provisional ballot has been cast and included in the canvass pursuant to Article 4.5 (commencing with Section 2170) of Chapter 2 of Division 2.

(iii)Upon the order of a superior court in the county of the voter’s residence.

(B)A voter may seek the court order specified in this paragraph regarding the voter’s own ballot at any time before completion of the official canvass. A judicial action or appeal shall have priority over all other civil matters. A fee shall not be charged to the claimant by the clerk of the court for services rendered in an action under this section.

(3)The provisional ballot of a voter who is otherwise entitled to vote shall not be rejected because the voter did not cast the voter’s ballot in the precinct to which the voter was assigned by the elections official.

(A)If the ballot cast by the voter contains the same candidates and measures on which the voter would have been entitled to vote in the voter’s assigned precinct, the elections official shall count the votes for the entire ballot.

(B)If the ballot cast by the voter contains candidates or measures on which the voter would not have been entitled to vote in the voter’s assigned precinct, the elections official shall count only the votes for the candidates and measures on which the voter was entitled to vote in the voter’s assigned precinct.

(d)The Secretary of State shall establish a free access system that a voter who casts a provisional ballot may access to discover whether the voter’s provisional ballot was counted and, if not, the reason why it was not counted.

(e)The Secretary of State may adopt appropriate regulations for the purpose of ensuring the uniform application of this section.

(f)This section applies to any vote by mail voter described by Section 3015 who is unable to surrender the voter’s unvoted vote by mail ballot.

(g)Any existing supply of envelopes marked “special challenged ballot” may be used until the supply is exhausted.