Today's Law As Amended


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SB-759 Elections: vote by mail ballots.(2017-2018)



As Amends the Law Today
As Amends the Law on Sep 17, 2018


SECTION 1.
 It is the intent of the Legislature that the procedures in Section 3019 of the Elections Code apply only to signatures that do not compare because of a mismatched signature submitted by the voter himself or herself.

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) All of the following apply to the comparison of signatures pursuant to this section:
(A) A presumption exists that the signature on the identification envelope, signature verification statement, unsigned ballot statement, or provisional ballot envelope is the voter’s signature.
(B) An exact match is not required for an elections official to determine that a voter’s signature is valid. The fact that signatures share similar characteristics is sufficient to determine that a signature is valid.
(C) Except as provided in subparagraph (D), the elections official shall consider explanations for discrepancies between signatures that are specified in regulations promulgated by the Secretary of State. For purposes of this subparagraph, explanations include a variation in signature style over time and the haste with which a signature is written.
(D) When comparing signatures, an elections official shall not review or consider a voter’s party preference, race, or ethnicity.
(E) The elections official may consider characteristics of the written signature that are specified in regulations promulgated by the Secretary of State. For purposes of this subparagraph, characteristics include the slant of the signature, letter formation, and whether the signature is printed or written in cursive.
(F) (2)  The  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.
(G) (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 signature is subject to the additional procedures described in paragraph (2) of subdivision (c). elections official shall visually examine the signatures and verify that the signatures do not compare. 
(H) (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.
(I) A signature made using a mark such as an “X”, or made by a signature stamp, shall be presumed valid and shall be accepted if the signature meets the requirements of Section 354.5.
(b) If upon conducting the comparison of signatures pursuant to subdivision (a) the elections official determines that the signatures compare, the elections official he or she  shall deposit the ballot, still in the identification envelope, in a ballot container in the elections official’s his or her  office.
(c) (1) If upon conducting the comparison of signatures pursuant to subdivision (a) the elections official determines that the signature possesses multiple, significant, and obvious differing characteristics when compared to all signatures in the voter’s registration record, the signature is subject to the additional procedures described in paragraph (2).
(2) (c)  If the elections official makes the determination described in paragraph (1), the signature shall be rejected only if two additional elections officials each find beyond a reasonable doubt that the signature differs in multiple, significant, and obvious respects from all signatures in the voter’s registration record. If the officials determine that the signatures  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) A  Except as provided in subparagraph (D), on or before the next business day after a determination that a voter’s signature does not compare pursuant to subdivision (c), but not later than   minimum of  eight days prior to the certification of the election, the elections official shall send by first-class mail notice to the voter  provide notice to all voters identified pursuant to subdivision (c)  of the opportunity to verify the voter’s signature  their signatures  no later than 5 p.m. two days prior to the certification of the election. The notice shall include a return envelope, with postage paid, for the voter to return a signature verification statement. 
(B) Unless required pursuant to Section 3026, the elections official may send additional written notices to a voter identified pursuant to subdivision (c), and may also notify the voter in person, by telephone or email, or by other means of the opportunity to verify the voter’s signature.
(C) Unless required pursuant to Section 3026, the elections official may use any information in a county’s election management system, or otherwise in the election official’s possession, for the purpose of notifying the voter of the opportunity to verify the voter’s signature.
(D) If it is impracticable under the circumstances for the elections official to send the notice described in subparagraph (A) on or before the next business day, including in the event of technological failure, the elections official shall send the notice as soon as practicable, but not later than eight 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 compare with  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 the postage-paid return envelope if it is included with these instructions. If a return envelope is not included with these instructions, use your own  a  mailing envelope addressed to your local elections official. Mail, deliver, or have the completed statement delivered to the elections official. If you mail your completed statement using your own envelope, be  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.” official using the information provided.” 
(3) The notice and instructions shall be translated in all languages required in that county by Section 203 of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 (52 U.S.C. Sec. 10503).
(4) (3)  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 he or she  shall deposit the ballot, still in the identification envelope, in a ballot container in the elections official’s his or her  office.
(ii) If, under the standards and procedures of subdivision (c), a determination is made 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) (4)  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 (or I received)  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) (5)  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  his or her Internet Web site,  and shall provide the elections election  official’s mailing address, email address, and facsimile transmission number on the internet web Internet Web  page containing the statement and instructions.
(7) (6)  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  before  5 p.m. two days prior to the certification of  on the eighth day after  the election.
(ii) No later than  Before  5 p.m. two days prior to the certification of  on the eighth day after  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 (or I received)  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) (i) Except as provided in clause (iv), or before the next business day after discovering that a voter has failed to sign the identification envelope, but not later than eight days prior to the certification of the election, the elections official shall send by first-class mail notice and instructions to the voter of the opportunity to provide a signature no later than 5 p.m. two days prior to the certification of the election. The notice shall include a return envelope, with postage paid, for the voter to return the unsigned ballot statement.
(ii) Unless required pursuant to Section 3026, the elections official may send additional written notices to a voter identified pursuant to this subdivision, and may also notify the voter in person, by telephone or email, or by other means of the opportunity to provide a signature.
(iii) Unless required pursuant to Section 3026, the elections official may use any information in the county’s election management system, or otherwise in the election official’s possession, for the purpose of notifying the voter of the opportunity to provide a signature.
(iv) If it is impracticable under the circumstances for the elections official to send the notice described in clause (i) on or before the next business day, including in the event of technological failure, the elections official shall send the notice as soon as practicable, but not later than eight days prior to the certification of the election.
(C) (B)  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 he or she  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 his or her  office.
(ii) If, under the standards and procedures of subdivision (c), a determination is made  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). ballot shall not be counted. 
(D) (C)  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  possible so that it can reach the elections official of the county in which your precinct is located  no later than 5 p.m. two days prior to the certification of  on the eighth day after  the election.
2. You must sign your name on the line above (Voter’s Signature).
3. Place the statement into the postage-paid return envelope if it is included with these instructions. If a return envelope is not included with these instructions, use your own  a  mailing envelope addressed to your local elections official. Mail, deliver, or have delivered the completed statement to the elections official. If you mail your completed statement using your own envelope, be  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 203 of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 (52 U.S.C. Sec. 10503).
(4) (3)  An elections official shall include the unsigned ballot statement and instructions described in this subdivision on the elections official’s internet website  his or her Internet Web site,  and shall provide the elections official’s mailing address, email address, and facsimile transmission number on the internet web 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.
(g) For purposes of this section, “certification of the election” means the date the particular elections official submits a certified statement of the results of the election to the governing body pursuant to Section 15372, even if that occurs before the deadline to submit the certified statement of the election results set forth in Section 15372.
(h) In comparing signatures pursuant to this section, including when using signature verification software or other technology, an elections official shall adhere to all applicable regulations promulgated by the Secretary of State.
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.
SEC. 4.
 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:
To ensure that votes cast in the November 6, 2018, statewide general election are properly counted, it is necessary that this bill take effect immediately.