Legislation authored by Senator Ben Allen (D – Santa Monica) that will transform the way elections are conducted in California passed the state Assembly today on a vote of 42 – 28.
“Our current system of limiting voters to one polling location on a single day has failed. It is time to implement a new voting model that allows people to vote conveniently, close to where they work, shop and congregate,” Senator Allen said.
Under the new system, every voter will receive a vote by mail ballot that can be returned by mail, or dropped off at numerous locations throughout the county called vote centers. Voters will be able to vote in person at the vote centers for 10 days prior to Election Day, including two weekends.
SB 450 is patterned after the successful way Colorado conducts its elections. Since instituting the new voting system, Colorado’s voter turnout has risen to third among all states. The new model also significantly reduced the cost of holding elections.
SB 450 permits 14 counties to opt in to the new system beginning in 2018, and all other counties may opt in starting in 2020.
“For the first time, California voters will be able to choose when, where, and how they want to vote under a system that provides maximum convenience and accessibility,” Allen said.
SB 450 is jointly authored by Senator Robert Hertzberg (D – Van Nuys) and supported by Secretary of State Alex Padilla, California Common Cause, and numerous other organizations.
Due to infrastructure limitations, the bill provides a separate option for Los Angeles County in which the county will provide a greater number of vote centers but will not be required to send a vote by mail ballot to every voter when it initially opts in to the program. By 2024, Los Angeles County will send every voter the vote by mail ballot.
Voter participation in California has been steadily decreasing for decades. In 2014, California ranked 43rd in voter turnout among the 50 states and District of Columbia. That year, only 25 percent of registered voters cast ballots in June, and only 42 percent participated in November. Los Angeles County had the lowest turnout in the state, with fewer than 17 percent of voters casting ballots in June and only 31 percent voting in November.