Bill would add vot­ing op­tions

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By Pa­trick McGreevy pa­trick.mcgreevy @la­times.com Twit­ter: @mc­greevy99

SACRA­MENTO — Cal­i­for­nia’s top elec­tions of­fi­cer on Wed­nes­day ex­panded his pro­posed over­haul of the way cit­i­zens vote, aim­ing to make it eas­ier for them to cast bal­lots.

Sec­re­tary of State Alex Padilla wants the state to mail all vot­ers a bal­lot and al­low them to use it at any of sev­eral vot­ing cen­ters dur­ing a 10-day pe­riod be­fore elec­tions. That would al­low peo­ple to vote near their jobs or other con­ve­nient lo­ca­tions rather than limit them to vis­it­ing polling places near their homes on elec­tion day or mail­ing in their bal­lots.

Vot­ers also would be able to drop off bal­lots 24 hours a day at se­cure lo­ca­tions dur­ing a 14-day pe­riod be­fore elec­tions.

“Cal­i­for­nia ranked 43rd in voter turnout na­tion­ally for the 2014 Gen­eral Elec­tion. This prob­lem can­not be ig­nored,” Padilla said in a state­ment. “Civic par­tic­i­pa­tion is the foun­da­tion of our democ­racy.”

His pro­posal has been put into leg­is­la­tion by Sens. Ben Allen (D-Santa Mon­ica) and Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys).

“In elec­tions in Cal­i­for­nia, gov­ern­ment fun­da­men­tally thinks only about it­self,” Hertzberg said. “This mea­sure f lips the sit­u­a­tion on its head so that the con­ve­nience of vot­ing is the top pri­or­ity.”

The pro­posed changes are mod­eled af­ter laws in Colorado, which has much higher voter par­tic­i­pa­tion than Cal­i­for­nia. If passed and signed into law, the leg­is­la­tion, SB 450, would de­pend on the state com­plet­ing a new com­puter voter reg­is­tra­tion sys­tem in June 2016.

Padilla has spon­sored an­other bill that would reg­is­ter to vote ev­ery­one who gets a driver’s li­cense in Cal­i­for­nia, un­less they opt out.

The new leg­is­la­tion in­cor­po­rates ideas pre­vi­ously in­cluded in other bills. A pending bill by Allen also calls for vot­ing cen­ters to be open be­fore elec­tion day. A mea­sure by Sen. Fran Pav­ley (D-Agoura Hills) would cre- ate se­cure drop-off sites where bal­lots could be left be­fore elec­tion day.

Cal­i­for­nia of­fi­cials were alarmed when just 30.9% of el­i­gi­ble cit­i­zens voted in the Novem­ber 2014 state elec­tion. In Colorado, the num­ber was 56.9%.

Since vot­ing days were added in Colorado, turnout there has av­er­aged 20.7 per­cent­age points higher than in Cal­i­for­nia, Padilla said.

“SB 450 would pro­vide cit­i­zens more op­tions for when, where and how they vote,” Padilla said. “Pro­vid­ing more op­tions will help more cit­i­zens vote, de­spite our of­ten busy lives.”

Bob Chamberlin Los An­ge­les Times

VOT­ERS WOULD be able to cast bal­lots sev­eral days be­fore elec­tions un­der a state Se­nate bill aimed at in­creas­ing voter turnout. Above, vot­ers at the Her­mosa Beach Com­mu­nity Cen­ter gym in March.

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