Gov. Gavin Newsom last week signed a slew of elections-related bills into law that will allow disabled voters to vote curbside, permit mail-in ballots to be processed like in-person votes and treat double-voting as a misdemeanor, among other changes.
Five of the bills were authored by Assemblymember Gail Pellerin, D-Santa Cruz, chair of the Assembly Elections Committee and a former Santa Cruz County clerk, the position that administers elections.
Pellerin’s district includes portions of northern Santa Cruz County, sections of South San Jose and Santa Clara Counties and the cities of Los Gatos, Morgan Hill, Santa Cruz and Scotts Valley.
Among the new election laws is AB 545, which mandates that curbside voting be available at all polling places. The law also requires tables at polling places to display handheld magnifying glasses and signature cards, which help people with vision issues sign their name efficiently.
AB 626 lets voters return a mail-in ballot at a polling place and have it processed like a normal ballot, which will expedite the counting of those ballots. Under the previous law, vote-by-mail ballots had a signature verification process in which the return ballot's signature is compared to one on file, a process that takes longer than the on-the-spot checks at polling places.
Pellerin said in a statement she was thrilled to have the bills become law and that the laws improve the voter experience in numerous ways.
Other bills impacting voting and elections that are now law are AB 292, which provides a clearer explanation to voters with no party preference on which partisan ballots they can request to participate in for those parties' primaries without changing party affiliation, AB 398, which allows for electronic and telephone-based requests for replacement ballots, and AB 773, a bill related to elections filings.
AB 773 streamlines the process of submitting arguments for and against ballot initiatives that appear on ballots in multiple counties, as well as candidate statements and filing fees.
Another bill signed by Newsom sought to address "double voting." AB 1539, authored by Marc Berman, D-Menlo Park, makes it a misdemeanor to vote in an election in California and also vote in an election on the same date in another state. It does not apply to elections that allow landowners or others to vote without being a resident of the district.
A change was also made to how potential tax rates are displayed on ballots. SB 798, authored by state Sen. Steven Glazer, D-Orinda, will have tax rates associated with local bond measures display the rate per $100,000 of assessed valuation of taxed property, rather than the current $100.
SB 77, authored by Sen. Thomas Umberg, D-Santa Ana, requires a county clerk to notify a voter whose signature has been deemed not matching by phone, text, or email, if the information is on file, at least eight days before the certification of the election, to give them a chance to explain or correct it. Previously, notice was only given by mail.
Thomas Hughes is a reporter with Bay City News.