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SB-29 Elections: vote by mail ballots.(2021-2022)

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Date Published: 02/19/2021 09:00 PM
SB29:v96#DOCUMENT

Senate Bill No. 29
CHAPTER 3

An act to amend Sections 3000.5 and 3019.7 of the Elections Code, relating to elections, and declaring the urgency thereof, to take effect immediately.

[ Approved by Governor  February 19, 2021. Filed with Secretary of State  February 19, 2021. ]

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


SB 29, Umberg. Elections: vote by mail ballots.
Existing law required county elections officials to mail a ballot to every registered voter for the November 3, 2020, statewide general election. Existing law, for the November 3, 2020, statewide general election, also required county elections officials to use a specified Secretary of State vote by mail tracking system or a system that meets the same specifications.
This bill would extend these requirements to all elections proclaimed or conducted prior to January 1, 2022. By requiring county elections officials to mail a ballot to every registered voter, and to track those ballots, this 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.
This bill would declare that it is to take effect immediately as an urgency statute.
Vote: 2/3   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: YES  

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


SECTION 1.

 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) To maintain a healthy democracy in California, it is important to encourage eligible voters to vote and to ensure that residents of the state have the tools needed to participate in every election.
(b) When California conducts an election in 2021, it is unknown to what degree the COVID-19 pandemic will still pose a threat to public health. The state and its counties need to begin taking action now in order to ensure that elections are held in a manner that is accessible, secure, and safe.
(c) Consistent with paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) of Section 2226 of the Elections Code, and with the longstanding interpretation by state and local elections officials of Sections 4000 to 4108, inclusive, of the Elections Code governing the conduct of all-mailed ballot elections and of Section 3005 of the Elections Code governing mailed ballot precincts, nothing in this act is intended, and shall not be construed, to mean that a voter with an inactive voter registration status shall receive a vote by mail ballot for an election conducted in 2021.

SEC. 2.

 Section 3000.5 of the Elections Code is amended to read:

3000.5.
 (a) Notwithstanding any other law, for an election proclaimed or conducted prior to January 1, 2022, the county elections official shall, no later than 29 days before the day of the election, begin mailing the materials specified in Section 3010 to every registered voter in the county. The county elections official shall have five days to mail a ballot to each person who is registered to vote on the 29th day before the day of the election and five days to mail a ballot to each person who is subsequently registered to vote. The county elections official shall not discriminate against any region or precinct in the county in choosing which ballots to mail first within the prescribed five-day mailing period.
(b) The distribution of vote by mail ballots to all registered voters does not prevent a voter from voting in person at a polling place, vote center, or other authorized location.

SEC. 3.

 Section 3019.7 of the Elections Code is amended to read:

3019.7.
 (a) Not later than January 1, 2020, the Secretary of State shall establish a system that a county elections official may use to allow a vote by mail voter to track the voter’s vote by mail ballot through the mail system and as the vote by mail ballot is processed by the county elections official. The system established pursuant to this section shall, at a minimum, allow a voter to register to receive information via email or text message from the county elections official about the status of the voter’s vote by mail ballot, including all of the following information:
(1) A notification when the ballot has been delivered by the county elections official to the United States Postal Service.
(2) A notification of the date, based on information from the United States Postal Service, that the voter’s ballot is expected to be delivered to the voter.
(3) A notification if the voter’s ballot is returned as undeliverable to the county elections official by the United States Postal Service.
(4) A notification when the voter’s completed ballot has been received by the county elections official.
(5) A notification that the voter’s completed ballot has been counted, or, if the ballot cannot be counted, a notification of the reason why the ballot could not be counted and instructions of any steps that the voter can take in order to have the ballot counted.
(6) A reminder of the deadline for the voter to return the voter’s ballot if the county elections official has not received a voter’s completed ballot by specified dates as determined by the county elections official.
(b) The Secretary of State shall make the system established pursuant to subdivision (a) available for use by each county. A county elections official may use the system for the purpose of complying with Section 3019.5.
(c) The Secretary of State shall use funds provided to the state pursuant to the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 (52 U.S.C. Sec. 20901 et seq.) to develop the system described in this section. The Secretary of State shall implement this section only to the extent that these funds are available.
(d) For an election proclaimed or conducted prior to January 1, 2022, the county elections official shall use the system established by the Secretary of State pursuant to subdivision (a), unless the county makes available to voters a different vote by mail ballot tracking system that meets or exceeds the level of service provided by the Secretary of State’s system.

SEC. 4.

 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. 5.

 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 county elections officials have sufficient time to ensure that elections are held in a manner that is accessible, secure, and safe, it is necessary for this act to take effect immediately.