SACRAMENTO – Today Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bills 1037, 1219, and 1539, authored by Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park), to advance election accessibility and security. The bills signed today build on Assemblymember Berman’s continued efforts to strengthen and defend California’s democracy.
“Over the past seven years, while politicians have sought to undermine our democracy and disenfranchise voters in states across the country, California has been unwavering in our commitment to expand ballot access and strengthen our democracy,” said Assemblymember Marc Berman. “We’ve taken steps to send a vote by mail ballot to every active registered voter, create a system to track your ballot and increase transparency, make registration simpler, make ballot language more accessible, strengthen our elections cybersecurity, and increase access to ballot drop boxes. I want to thank Governor Newsom for signing this new package of elections bills to continue this critically important work to advance election security and accessibility.”
“Our democracy is strongest when everyone participates,” continued Assemblymember Berman. “Governor Newsom has been an important ally in my years-long work to strengthen elections in California.”
AB 1219 updates and improves the ballot design for voters while providing county elections officials with additional flexibility to reflect the diversity of counties and election systems.
“The design of a ballot plays a critical role in ensuring that every voter properly understands how to participate in their democracy and have their voice heard,” said Assemblymember Marc Berman. “According to the Center for Civic Design, a ballot is a form that represents perhaps the most important interaction between a government and its citizens. Poor ballot design affects all voters and can result in the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of votes. In 2019, based on feedback from a constituent, I authored the bill that created the Ballot Design Advisory Committee. It is tremendously heartening to see the results of that effort signed into law today.”
"Ballots must be user friendly," said California Secretary of State Shirley N. Weber, Ph.D. "The easier we make ballots to read and understand, the more likely voters will be to participate in elections. AB 1219 will codify the recommendations of the Ballot Design Advisory Committee so that elections officials will develop ballots that are easier to read, that use plain language, and that make it clearer what and who people are voting for. The design advancements in this bill will go a long way towards making it easier for voters to participate in our democracy.”
In 2019, Assemblymember Berman authored AB 623, which directed the Secretary of State to establish a Ballot Design Advisory Committee to bring experts and stakeholders together to facilitate a comprehensive discussion and thorough examination of ballots, their design and their instructions, to better ensure that a voter’s choices are counted. The Ballot Design Advisory Committee engaged the Center for Civic Design and included representatives from 18 county elections offices. It held eight public meetings in 2021 and 2022, culminating in the issuance of an August 2022 report making numerous recommendations for changes to the Elections Code.
AB 1219 would implement the recommendations of the Ballot Design Advisory Committee. This would enhance voters’ experience by simplifying instructions and providing elections officials more flexibility when designing ballot layouts that are user friendly. Key changes would provide ballot instructions in plain language so that voters may easily understand the nature of every election and how to mark a ballot, update font size requirements to provide flexibility for jurisdictions providing multilingual ballots, ensure that an administrative error or design will not inadvertently invalidate ballots, and codify ballot instructions for recall elections.
AB 1037 authorizes county elections officials to offer the option for California voters to fix or cure their Vote by Mail (VBM) ballot electronically if the elections official determines that the signature does not match, or if the ballot envelope lacks a signature.
“Far too many ballots go uncounted due to uncorrected mismatched or missing signatures,” said Assemblymember Berman. “‘Text to cure’ has been successfully utilized in Nevada and Colorado, allowing those voters the option to cure their ballot signature issues easier and faster. AB 1037 will give California’s voters more flexibility and provide greater efficiency.”
“As we expand the use of vote by mail, it is critical to ensure the process is equitable, fair and increases engagement,” said Stephanie Doute, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of California. “AB 1037 is an important step to modernize the system and help guarantee that all eligible votes are counted, and every voter is heard.”
“We are pleased with the passage and enactment of AB 1037 as it expands the ability for election administrators to assist voters in curing inadvertent issues that impact the processing of their ballots, “ said Dean Logan, Los Angeles County Registrar—Recorder/County Clerk. “This legislation helps reinforce the principle that every vote counts.”
Data from multiple statewide elections shows a pattern across the state that voters are not curing their ballots upon receiving notification at a significant rate. Additionally, some voters who return a signature verification statement still have their ballot challenged due to differences between the electronic signature provided to the Department of Motor Vehicles and the handwritten signatures on their VBM identification envelope. Accordingly, AB 1037 would additionally permit voters to submit a signature verification statement or unsigned identification envelope statement by other electronic means made available by the local elections official. In doing so, AB 1037 will help ensure that voters are allowed every opportunity to verify their signature.
AB 1539 prohibits a person from voting in both California and another state in elections that occur on the same day.
“Voting twice in the same election in two different states is a violation of the principle of one-person, one-vote,” said Assemblymember Berman. “AB 1539 ensures that California does not have to rely on another states’ laws to address the issue of multi-state double voting.”
“One person one vote. It’s our Democracy and we have to take care of it,” said Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen.
Sponsored by the Santa Clara County District Attorney, AB 1539 prohibits multi-state double voting by providing that a person who votes or attempts to vote both in an election held in California and in another state on the same date shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. While voter fraud is extremely rare, his happened with three residents of Santa Clara County, and the District Attorney’s Office was forced to defer prosecution to the other state, which has a law that unambiguously outlaws multi-state voting. The bill would also recognize an exception for unique elections such as a landowner voter district or any other district where an elector is not required to be a resident.