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SB-523 Elections: vote by mail ballots.(2019-2020)

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Date Published: 08/13/2019 09:00 PM
SB523:v98#DOCUMENT

Revised  August 21, 2019
Amended  IN  Assembly  August 13, 2019

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2019–2020 REGULAR SESSION

Senate Bill
No. 523


Introduced by Senator McGuire
(Coauthor: Assembly Member Gonzalez)

February 21, 2019


An act to amend Section Sections 2194 and 3019 of the Elections Code, relating to elections.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


SB 523, as amended, McGuire. Elections: vote by mail ballots.
(1) Existing law requires an elections official, upon receiving a vote by mail ballot, to compare the signature on the identification envelope of the ballot to specified records of the voter’s signature. If the signature does not compare, existing law requires the elections official, at least 8 days before the certification of the election, to provide the voter with notice of an opportunity to verify the voter’s signature by signing and delivering a signature verification statement to the elections official, as specified. If the elections official determines that the voter has not signed the ballot identification envelope, existing law prohibits the elections official from rejecting the vote by mail ballot if the voter either signs the ballot identification envelope at the office of the elections official during regular business hours, or completes and submits an unsigned ballot statement, as specified, before 5 p.m. on the 8th day after the election.
This bill would, in the case of a voter whose signatures do not match, require the elections official to notify the voter, at least 8 days before the certification of the election, of an opportunity to verify the voter’s signature. It would extend the deadline for a voter who did not sign the ballot identification envelope to sign the envelope, or sign and deliver an unsigned ballot statement, to no later than 5 p.m. 2 days before the certification of the election. Because the bill would impose additional duties on a local elections official, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
(2) Existing law provides that certain information on a voter’s affidavit of registration, including the voter’s home address and signature, is confidential and prohibits disclosure of the information except in specified circumstances.
This bill would require information regarding voters who did not sign a vote by mail ballot identification envelope, or whose signature on the vote by mail ballot identification envelope did not match the voter’s signature on file, to also be treated as confidential and would prohibit disclosure of the information except in specified circumstances. The bill would require any disclosure of the information to be accompanied by a specified notice relating to misuse of the information.
Because the bill would impose additional duties on a local elections official, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.
This bill would provide that, if the Commission on State Mandates determines that the bill contains costs mandated by the state, reimbursement for those costs shall be made pursuant to the statutory provisions noted above.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: YES  

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


SECTION 1.

 Section 2194 of the Elections Code is amended to read:

2194.
 (a) Except as provided in Section 2194.1, the affidavit of voter registration information identified in Section 6254.4 of the Government Code:
(1) Shall be confidential and shall not appear on any computer terminal, list, affidavit, duplicate affidavit, or other medium routinely available to the public at the county elections official’s office.
(2) Shall not be used for any personal, private, or commercial purpose, including, but not limited to:
(A) The harassment of any voter or voter’s household.
(B) The advertising, solicitation, sale, or marketing of products or services to any voter or voter’s household.
(C) Reproduction in print, broadcast visual or audio, or display on the Internet or any computer terminal unless pursuant to paragraph (3).
(3) Shall be provided with respect to any voter, subject to the provisions of Sections 2166, 2166.5, 2166.7, and 2188, to any candidate for federal, state, or local office, to any committee for or against any initiative or referendum measure for which legal publication is made, and to any person for election, scholarly, journalistic, or political purposes, or for governmental purposes, as determined by the Secretary of State.
(4) May be used by the Secretary of State for the purpose of educating voters pursuant to Section 12173 of the Government Code.
(b) (1) Notwithstanding any other law, the California driver’s license number, the California identification card number, the social security number, and any other unique identifier used by the State of California for purposes of voter identification shown on the affidavit of voter registration of a registered voter, or added to voter registration records to comply with the requirements of the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 (52 U.S.C. Sec. 20901 et seq.), are confidential and shall not be disclosed to any person.
(2) Notwithstanding any other law, the signature of the voter shown on the affidavit of voter registration or an image thereof is confidential and shall not be disclosed to any person, except as provided in subdivision (c).
(c) (1) The home address or signature of any voter shall be released whenever the person’s vote is challenged pursuant to Sections 15105 to 15108, inclusive, or Article 3 (commencing with Section 14240) of Chapter 3 of Division 14. The address or signature shall be released only to the challenger, to elections officials, and to other persons as necessary to make, defend against, or adjudicate the challenge.
(2) An elections official shall permit a person to view the signature of a voter for the purpose of determining whether the signature matches a signature on an affidavit of registration or an image thereof or a petition, but shall not permit a signature to be copied.
(d) A governmental entity, or officer or employee thereof, shall not be held civilly liable as a result of disclosure of the information referred to in this section, unless by a showing of gross negligence or willfulness.
(e) For the purposes of this section, “voter’s household” is defined as the voter’s place of residence or mailing address or any persons who reside at the place of residence or use the mailing address as supplied on the affidavit of registration pursuant to paragraphs (3) and (4) of subdivision (a) of Section 2150.
(f) Notwithstanding any other law, information regarding voters who did not sign a vote by mail ballot identification envelope or whose signature on the vote by mail ballot identification envelope did not match the voter’s signature on file shall be treated as confidential voter registration information pursuant to this section and Section 6254.4 of the Government Code. This information shall not be disclosed to any person except as provided in this section. Any disclosure of this information shall be accompanied by a notice to the recipient regarding Sections 18109 and 18540. Voter information provided pursuant to this subdivision shall be updated daily, include the name of the voter, and be provided in a searchable electronic format.

SECTION 1.SEC. 2.

 Section 3019 of the Elections Code is amended to read:

3019.
 (a) (1) Upon receiving a vote by mail ballot, the elections official shall compare the signature on the identification envelope with either of the following to determine if the signatures compare:
(A) The signature appearing on the voter’s affidavit of registration or any previous affidavit of registration of the voter.
(B) The signature appearing on a form issued by an elections official that contains the voter’s signature and that is part of the voter’s registration record.
(2) In comparing signatures pursuant to this section, the elections official may use facsimiles of voters’ signatures, provided that the method of preparing and displaying the facsimiles complies with the law.
(3) In comparing signatures pursuant to this section, an elections official may use signature verification technology. If signature verification technology determines that the signatures do not compare, the elections official shall visually examine the signatures and verify that the signatures do not compare.
(4) The variation of a signature caused by the substitution of initials for the first or middle name, or both, is not grounds for the elections official to determine that the signatures do not compare.
(b) If upon conducting the comparison of signatures pursuant to subdivision (a) the elections official determines that the signatures compare, the elections official shall deposit the ballot, still in the identification envelope, in a ballot container in the elections official’s office.
(c) If upon conducting the comparison of signatures pursuant to subdivision (a) the elections official determines that the signatures do not compare, the identification envelope shall not be opened and the ballot shall not be counted. The elections official shall write the cause of the rejection on the face of the identification envelope only after completing the procedures described in subdivision (d).
(d) (1) A minimum of eight days prior to the certification of the election, the elections official shall provide notice to all voters identified pursuant to subdivision (c) of the opportunity to verify their signatures no later than 5 p.m. two days prior to the certification of the election.
(2) The notice and instructions shall be in substantially the following form:
“READ THESE INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY. FAILURE TO FOLLOW THESE INSTRUCTIONS MAY CAUSE YOUR VOTE BY MAIL BALLOT NOT TO COUNT.
1. We have determined that the signature you provided on your vote by mail ballot does not match the signature(s) on file in your voter record. In order to ensure that your vote by mail ballot will be counted, the signature verification statement must be completed and returned as soon as possible.
2. The signature verification statement must be received by the elections official of the county where you are registered to vote no later than 5 p.m. two days prior to certification of the election.
3. You must sign your name where specified on the signature verification statement (Voter’s Signature).
4. Place the signature verification statement into a mailing envelope addressed to your local elections official. Mail, deliver, or have the completed statement delivered to the elections official. Be sure there is sufficient postage if mailed and that the address of the elections official is correct.
5. If you do not wish to send the signature verification statement by mail or have it delivered, you may submit your completed statement by email or facsimile transmission to your local elections official, or submit your completed statement to a polling place within the county or a ballot dropoff box before the close of the polls on election day.”
(3) The notice and instructions shall be translated in all languages required in that county by Section 14201 and Section 203 of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 (52 U.S.C. Sec. 10503).
(4) The elections official shall not reject a vote by mail ballot identified pursuant to subdivision (c) if each of the following conditions is satisfied:
(A) The voter delivers, in person, by mail, by fax, or by email, a signature verification statement signed by the voter and the elections official receives the statement no later than 5 p.m. two days prior to the certification of the election, or the voter, before the close of the polls on election day, completes and submits a signature verification statement to a polling place within the county or a ballot dropoff box.
(B) Upon receipt of the signature verification statement, the elections official shall compare the signature on the statement with the signature on file in the voter’s record.
(i) If upon conducting the comparison of signatures the elections official determines that the signatures compare, the elections official shall deposit the ballot, still in the identification envelope, in a ballot container in the elections official’s office.
(ii) If upon conducting the comparison of the signatures the elections official determines that the signatures do not compare, the identification envelope shall not be opened and the ballot shall not be counted. The elections official shall write the cause of the rejection on the face of the identification envelope.
(5) The signature verification statement shall be in substantially the following form and may be included on the same page as the notice and instructions specified in paragraph (2):
“SIGNATURE VERIFICATION STATEMENT
I,, am a registered voter of __________ County,
State of California. I declare under penalty of perjury that I requested and returned a vote by mail ballot. I am a resident of the precinct in which I have voted, and I am the person whose name appears on the vote by mail ballot envelope. I understand that if I commit or attempt any fraud in connection with voting, or if I aid or abet fraud or attempt to aid or abet fraud in connection with voting, I may be convicted of a felony punishable by imprisonment for 16 months or two or three years. I understand that my failure to sign this statement means that my vote by mail ballot will be invalidated.
Voter’s Signature
Address”
(6) An elections official shall include the vote by mail ballot signature verification statement and instructions provided in this subdivision on the elections official’s internet website and shall provide the election official’s mailing address, email address, and facsimile transmission number on the internet web page containing the statement and instructions.
(7) If the elections official determines that the signatures compare, the official shall use the signature in the signature verification statement, even if returned untimely, to update the voter’s signature for future elections.
(e) (1) (A) Notwithstanding any other law, if an elections official determines that a voter has failed to sign the identification envelope, the elections official shall not reject the vote by mail ballot if the voter does any of the following:
(i) Signs the identification envelope at the office of the elections official during regular business hours no later than 5 p.m. two days prior to the certification of the election.
(ii) No later than 5 p.m. two days prior the certification of the election, completes and submits an unsigned ballot statement in substantially the following form:
“UNSIGNED BALLOT STATEMENT
I,, am a registered voter of __________ County,
State of California. I declare under penalty of perjury that I requested and returned a vote by mail ballot and that I have not and will not vote more than one ballot in this election. I am a resident of the precinct in which I have voted, and I am the person whose name appears on the vote by mail ballot envelope. I understand that if I commit or attempt any fraud in connection with voting, or if I aid or abet fraud or attempt to aid or abet fraud in connection with voting, I may be convicted of a felony punishable by imprisonment for 16 months or two or three years. I understand that my failure to sign this statement means that my vote by mail ballot will be invalidated.
Voter’s Signature
Address”
(iii) Before the close of the polls on election day, completes and submits an unsigned ballot statement, in the form described in clause (ii), to a polling place within the county or a ballot dropoff box.
(B) A minimum of eight days prior to the certification of the election, the elections official shall provide notice and instructions to all voters identified pursuant to this subdivision of the opportunity to provide a signature no later than 5 p.m. two days prior to the certification of the election.
(C) If timely submitted, the elections official shall accept any completed unsigned ballot statement. Upon receipt of the unsigned ballot statement, the elections official shall compare the voter’s signature on the statement in the manner provided by this section.
(i) If the elections official determines that the signatures compare, the elections official shall attach the unsigned ballot statement to the identification envelope and deposit the ballot, still in the identification envelope, in a ballot container in the elections official’s office.
(ii) If the elections official determines that the signatures do not compare, the identification envelope shall not be opened and the elections official shall provide notice to the voter pursuant to subdivisions (c) and (d).
(D) An elections official may use methods other than those described in subparagraph (A) to obtain a voter’s signature on an unsigned identification envelope.
(2) Instructions shall accompany the unsigned ballot statement in substantially the following form:

“READ THESE INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY BEFORE COMPLETING THE STATEMENT. FAILURE TO FOLLOW THESE INSTRUCTIONS MAY CAUSE YOUR BALLOT NOT TO COUNT.


1. In order to ensure that your vote by mail ballot will be counted, your statement should be completed and returned as soon as possible, but no later than 5 p.m. two days prior to the certification of the election.
2. You must sign your name on the line above (Voter’s Signature).
3. Place the statement into a mailing envelope addressed to your local elections official. Mail, deliver, or have delivered the completed statement to the elections official. Be sure there is sufficient postage if mailed and that the address of the elections official is correct.
4. If you do not wish to send the statement by mail or have it delivered, you may submit your completed statement by facsimile or email transmission to your local elections official, or submit your completed statement to a polling place within the county or a ballot dropoff box before the close of the polls on election day.”
(3) The notice and instructions shall be translated in all languages required in that county by Section 14201 and Section 203 of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 (52 U.S.C. Sec. 10503).
(4) An elections official shall include the unsigned ballot statement and instructions described in this subdivision on the elections official’s internet website and shall provide the elections official’s mailing address, email address, and facsimile transmission number on the internet web page containing the statement and instructions.
(f) A ballot shall not be removed from its identification envelope until the time for processing ballots. A ballot shall not be rejected for cause after the identification envelope has been opened.

SEC. 2.SEC. 3.

 If the Commission on State Mandates determines that this act contains costs mandated by the state, reimbursement to local agencies and school districts for those costs shall be made pursuant to Part 7 (commencing with Section 17500) of Division 4 of Title 2 of the Government Code.
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REVISIONS:
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