Friday, April 24, 2015

Heather Halsey at Commission on State Mandates explains test claim filing

Heather Halsey is the Executive Director of the California Commission on State Mandates, which will, according to San Mateo County Chief Elections Officer Mark Church, play a crucial role in determining who has to pay for the 17.7 million absentee ballots that would be mailed out to be mailed in under California State Senator Robert M. Hertzberg’s pending legislation, SB 163, aka “Vote-from-Home.”  Here’s what she had to say today in response to an inquiry from Etopia News.

“We just received a request from you asking for ‘any information about the timetable and process by which you will determine if the costs incurred under SB 163 will be considered state mandated costs?’ 

“This is a bill currently pending before the Legislature.  If the bill is eventually enacted and a local government believes it imposes a state-mandated new program on them and related costs, the local government may file a test claim (which functions similarly to a class action for all similarly situated local governments) within one year of the effective date of the statute  (or one year of first incurring costs under the statute) with the Commission for a determination of the mandate issue.   I have attached the Commission's brochure, which lays out the process and time line for a test claim decision.”

To access that brochure, click here.

San Mateo County CEO Mark Church weighs in on SB 163 aka “Vote-from-Home”

Besides “Thank you,” here’s what San Mateo, California, Chief Elections Officer and Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder Mark Church ( had to say in response to an inquiry from Etopia News about SB 163:

“Voter turnout has reached dismal lows in recent history. Increased voter participation and turnout will only serve to strengthen democracy, and SB 163 will help to achieve that.

“SB 163 mandates vote by mail ballots be sent to every registered voter. Voters who have a ballot in hand are more likely to vote. SB 163 will expand the opportunity of voters to participate in the democratic process, and the outcome will be that the voices of more voters are heard. The election results will also reflect a broader cross section of the community and will ensure a more representative government.

“At this point the cost is unknown. It will depend on a decision by the Commission on State Mandates. If the Commission determines that this is a state mandated cost, reimbursement to the local agencies and school districts will be required. At the most, we would be reimbursed for every ballot we mail, which would reduce our election expenses by approximately $300,000 per election. At the least, we would be reimbursed for the additional ballots sent to voters above those that are sent to permanent vote by mail voters, which is the more likely scenario.

“SB 163, however, may result in more provisional ballots cast. Voters going to the polls will need to surrender their mail ballot to vote on Election Day, or vote by provisional ballot. Provisional ballots require more time to process than regular ballots, and as a result, are costlier.

“SB 163 could result in some voter confusion, but given San Mateo County already has an all-mail ballot pilot program under AB 2028, the confusion may be less here than in some other counties provided AB 2028 is implemented this November.

“To address voter confusion issues, and the additional provisional ballots that will be anticipated, significant voter education and outreach will need to be conducted. There is no provision in the bill for reimbursement of such expenses. Those expenses will be borne locally.”

Thursday, April 23, 2015

OC RoV Kelley’s estimate sets cost of SB 163 at around 40 million dollars

Neal Kelley is Registrar of Voters for Orange County, California, the fifth largest voting jurisdiction in the United States, serving more than 1.6 million registered voters.  He also serves as the elected president of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials (CACEO).  He today issued the following statement about SB 163, which  would mandate the provision to every registered California voter of a mail/in/absentee ballot for every state primary, general, or special election:

“Our Association has a ‘watch’ position on the bill.  Obviously this is something we are monitoring carefully and at the same time we are working on cost estimates.  We don't have full data yet from enough counties to provide an average - however - it generally costs about $2.25 on average to send out regular vote-by-mail ballots (this does not include the added cost of including sample ballot info in the ballot envelope).”

So, doing the word problem, it would probably cost around $3.6 million to provide every voter in Orange County with a mail-in/absentee ballot so they could vote from home.  California has about 17.7 registered voters, as of June 2014, so it would cost around $39,825,000 to send a mail-in/absentee ballot to every registered California voter.  Call it an even 40 million, or about a dollar per California resident, of whom there are now around 38 million.  

You can see what the mail-in/absentee ballot voting process looks like by clicking here.

California State Senator Joel Anderson explains his opposition to SB 163

California State Senator Joel Anderson (R-38th) has issued a statement to Etopia News expressing his reasons for opposing SB 163, a bill authored by California State Senator Robert M. Hertzberg (D-18th) that would allow “Vote-from-Home”® by providing all of California’s registered voters mail-in/absentee ballots during all statewide primary, special and general elections.  Here’s what he said:

“SB 163 places an unfunded mandate on counties.  Counties already have the autonomy to do what this bill proposes and that authority should be left in their hands.  This proposal comes with a substantial cost, and it should be up to each individual county to decide how to utilize their limited resources to best carry out an election.”

You can see what the mail-in/absentee ballot voting process looks like by clicking here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Bill to provide all voters with “absentee ballots” moves forward in California State Senate

SB 163, a bill to provide every California voter with a mail-in ballot for all statewide primary, special and general elections, today passed the Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments on a 4-1 vote.  Voting for it were California State Senators Ben Allen, chair of the committee, Loni Hancock, Robert M. Hertzberg, and Carol Liu, all Democrats.  Voting against it was California State Senator Joel Anderson (vice chair of the committee), who is the panel’s sole Republican.

The bill now goes to the Senate Appropriations committee, where it will take 2-4 weeks for the staff to do the financial analysis necessary for a understanding of how much this effort will cost.  After that, the committee will hold a hearing and vote on the bill.

The bill's author is committee member Robert M. Hertzberg, who represents the 18th Senatorial District, which encompasses about a million residents of the San Fernando Valley district of the City of Los Angeles (and a bit of Burbank, maybe including the studios there).

According to Ray Sotero, Senator Hertzberg’s Communications Director, his office has not received a single letter of opposition to this measure.

To read Senator Hertzberg's own press release on this subject, click here.