February 18, 2005 - Informational Hearing: O Voter, Where Art Thou? - The move away from Elections Day Balloting

Senate Elections, Reapportionment & Constitutional Amendments Committee
Debra Bowen, Chair


Informational Hearing:
O Voter, Where Art Thou?—The Move Away From Election Day Balloting


State Capitol, Room 4203
February 18, 2005



SENATOR DEBRA BOWEN: ...members of the Senate Elections Committee. It is 9:30. We are still missing one of the witnesses for our first panel. So my aim is to begin in three to five minutes. I’m told the person will be here momentarily.


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Good morning. Give the TV folks 30 seconds, put down their coffee cups. Good morning, and thank you all for joining this committee this morning for our first informational hearing.

What I want to look at today is how and where people are voting in California. If our goal is to make it easy for people to vote and to improve voter turnout, what should we be encouraging or discouraging?  Should we be expecting to see a greater consolidation of precincts?  Should we expect more centralized or mobilized voting centers?  Should we anticipate the greater use of all-mail ballot elections?  And what are the various advantages, disadvantages, and costs to voting in these different ways?

Last November, the turnout in California was 76 percent, but nearly one-third of our voters did not go to the polls on election day. They voted by absentee ballot. And I’m certain thousands of others voted at early voting centers in their county.

The federal Help America Vote Act was designed in part to get rid of the dreaded chads and put electronic voting machines into each polling place. But we have to ask ourselves if—thanks to California’s liberal absentee voting rules, we have fewer and fewer people actually going to the polls on election day as a percentage of the overall voting population—whether we should be spending the lion’s share of California’s Help America Vote Act money on equipment that’s used in the polling place on election day. So these are the kinds of nuts-and-bolts issues that we’re going to discuss this morning.

For those of your who have not been through an informational hearing with me, have not had the great fortune to be involved in California’s energy picture over the last number of years, we try to run a hearing that’s interactive, not just a series of presentations. The goal is to give people the ability to ask questions, to have discussion. I encourage disagreement if it leads to learning because the goal here is for us to learn about what’s actually happening with people who have to deploy—the county registrars, those who deploy the voting systems, and, of course, the voters, who ultimately have to use whatever systems we put in place.

So with that, let me first call up John Mott-Smith from the Election Division of the Secretary of State’s Office. He will help us get started. He’s going to set the stage, talk to us a little bit about the state of voting in California. Maybe we should call this the—institutionalize this and make it the state-of-the-vote address.

Welcome. Thank you for being here.

MR. JOHN MOTT-SMITH: Thank you for inviting me.

My name is John Mott-Smith. I’m chief of the Elections Division for the Secretary of State’s Office. I was asked to provide a view from 20,000 feet on non-precinct-voting options, including absentee, all-mail, and early voting. And to be honest with you, 20,000 feet is about as close as we, at the Secretary of State’s Office, get to the actual administration and the details of voting, and you’re going to hear from the people who are really the experts on that, the Registrar of Voters later on.

Setting the scene, in 1978, first-class postage was 15 cents; the movie Star Wars had just been released; the Bee Gees’ Saturday Night Fever topped the charts for 24 weeks; Reggie Jackson was suspended by Billy Martin for not bunting (laughter);  hurricanes were for the first time not named not only after females; Leon Spinx beat Mohammad Ali for the world boxing championship; the hot new videogame was Pac Man; the Shah was on the throne in Iran; and Laverne and Shirley was the top-rated TV show.

In terms of technology, almost all voters voted on punch cards; no one had a PC on their desk; there was no email; there was no internet; there were no fax machines. No one carried around pagers, cell phones. Text messaging was not in the dictionary. A blackberry was something you put on top of pancakes. Students and employees still typed papers and memos on typewriters with carbon paper, and record stores sold records, not CDs. And the election center, the election night center, at the Secretary of State’s Office, in those days was in the atrium of the old building, the public market building. It literally consisted of a chalkboard and a person standing on a step ladder who would, whenever a telephone call came in with results, erased the old ones and chalk in the new ones. And perhaps most significantly, 96 percent of the people who voted in California had only one way to vote. They could vote at a polling place.

  I’m going to talk a little bit about absentee voting, permanent absentee voting, special absentee voting, and all-mail ballot voting. In 1978, the Legislature passed and Governor Jerry Brown signed Chapter 77, Statutes of 1978, permitting any voter to apply for an absentee ballot. Prior to this time, you could only vote absentee if you were ill, absent from the precinct on election day, had a physical disability, or a conflicting religious commitment, or lived more than ten miles from a polling place. At the November general election in 1978, there were 10.1 million registered voters; 7.1 million cast ballots. Of these, 314,000 were voted by absentee ballot. This was 4.4 percent of the total.

In the November 2004 election 26 years later, there were 16.6 million registered voters; 12.6 million cast ballots; and of these, 4.1 million were voted by absentee ballot. Between 1978 and 2004, there was an increase in the use of absentee ballots. If you measure it by number, it was 13-fold. If you measure it by percentage, it was eight-fold.

Permanent absentee voting. Permanent absentee voters automatically receive a ballot in the mail without having to apply for it. In 1992 for the June primary, 88,000 persons had applied for status as permanent absentee voters. That number slowly increased to 279,000 for the November 2000 election. AB 150, Chapter 922, statutes of 2001, by then, Assemblyman Shelly did for permanent absentees what Chapter 77 did for ABs in 1978. It opened up PAV status to any voter, regardless of whether they had a reason or not. By the November 2004 general election, almost 3 million persons were registered as permanent absentee voters, a tenfold increase in just one four-year election cycle.

California law was also amended in 2003 to state that an application for a special absentee ballot—and I’ll talk about that in a second—is also deemed as an application for a permanent absentee voter status. And while not quite permanent, the federal law, the Help America Vote Act, requires that an application for absentee voting be effective for the subsequent two federal general elections. So if you applied for an absentee ballot on the federal postcard application for the November 2004 election, that’s also an application for the June and November 2006 election.

Special absentee voters are those who are overseas and military. The federal Voting Assistance Program estimates there may be approximately a half a million of these Californians in this category. And traditionally, this is a very difficult group to enfranchise. We participated in a study with the Department of Defense ?? that indicated that there was a total of 68 days transit time in the election process—if I said 68, I meant 66—22 for the voter to send in an application, 22 for the elections official to send out the ballot, and 22 for the ballot to be returned to the elections official.

California is ahead of most other states in that we have a 60-day application period or we can begin sending absentee ballots to special absentee voters starting on the 60th day which is better than most states. But it is not sufficient to eliminate complaints from overseas voters, which we get after every election. There’s a lot of things that have been done. To respond to that, one of them, I think you’re going to hear about today, Monterey County. If you don’t hear about it, I’ll fill it in later.

But also, AB 2941 last year was enacted as emergency legislation to permit military and overseas voters to cast their ballots by fax. This goes back to in 1991 when the Legislature permitted military and overseas voters to apply for absentee ballots by fax. So the only—we don’t have a lot of data, but what we have so far is March versus November. And in March of 2004, there were just under 10,000 military or overseas voters, of whom about 3,600 were able to cast their ballots in a timely manner.

For the November election, there were more than 62,000 registered military and overseas voters; 45,000 of them successfully cast ballots. And of these 5,000 and change were delivered by facsimile. And we would expect much in the same way that absentee voting increased as it was open to any voter, and permanent absentee status increased as it was open to any voter. And as more people become aware of the fax option from overseas, that it will increase also.

All-mail ballot elections. California was the first nation in the country—the first state in the country—to conduct an all-mail ballot election. In 1977, the Monterey County Flood Control District conducted an election for 45,000 voters. The turnout was 36.7 percent, which doesn’t sound like much. But it was about 50 percent more than it had ever been before. This was followed in 1981 by an election in the City of San Diego for 430,000 voters with a similar increase in voter participation.

Interestingly, one aspect of contention about absentee voting in specific and all-mail-ballot voting in general was addressed as a result of litigation out of that election. It was a suit that ended up in the California Supreme Court alleging that absentee voting and all-mail-ballot voting violated the secrecy provisions of the California Constitution. The court indicated, “The secrecy provision was never intended to preclude reasonable measures to facilitate an increased exercise of the right to vote, such as absentee voting and all-mail ballot elections.”

Subsequent to 1981, however, all-mail ballot elections more or less withered on the vine in California. You’ll hear from John Lindback from Oregon who took it and ran with it. There are many other states with experience as well. But we can’t ignore, and your staff report points out, that there is more all-mail voting in California than perhaps the general population is aware of. Specified districts of a certain size are able to vote by mail ballot, special districts, “small cities in eligible entities as they’re defined,” and then some charter-law cities, such as Modesto, conduct, for example, their run-off election for their city council and mayor offices, all-mail ballot, as a result of their charter.

Monterey County has specific statutory authority to conduct all-mail ballot elections. And the bill that ended up giving them that ability started as a bill to permit any county to conduct non-state elections by all-mail ballot.

Stanislaus and Placer Counties were given the ability in 1992 to conduct pilot, all-mail ballot elections. Placer chose not to but Stanislaus did. And because of the language of the bill enacting the pilot program, we’re able to consolidate a local election with a statewide special election in 1993 and reported an increase in voter turnout and a decrease in cost. There was an effort to extend that pilot program through subsequent legislation, but it was vetoed with a citation to the potential for fraud as the reason for veto.

I guess I’d like to just insert parenthetically that our office has been very involved in the last couple of years in issues relating to voting equipment. And really since 2004, there have been a lot of concerns raised about the security of touch-screen systems, security of the balloting system in general. And underneath all of the discussion about new technology is a consistent but sort of low-level and persistent concern about the security of the absentee voting system as well.

SENATOR BOWEN: Could you talk a little bit more about that?  What is the concern and what’s your 20,000-foot view of the merits of the concerns?

MR. MOTT-SMITH: The concern is generally fraud, and fraud can take several different kinds of forms. It can be electioneering in the home; it can be somebody influencing a spouse, influencing another spouse; it could be a friend influencing a friend; it could be an employer influencing an employee. So electioneering in general—the involvement of campaigns in the delivery of voted ballots, where some of them do or do not make it back to the elections office—and then always the underlying issue. And there are ways of talking about the securities. But the underlying issue is, that in a system that permits registration without identification and voting without identification, that there’s an opportunity for people to pretend that they are people that they’re not or to organize efforts to—and I can give you specific examples, I guess. But again, I think that John Lindback from Oregon will have a lot to say about how that has worked in Oregon.

SENATOR BOWEN: I imagine our registrars can help us too.


SENATOR BOWEN: Although, actually, one of the things that surprise me is how little incidents of fraud we’ve had in California elections, generally. Maybe that’s an artifact of hailing from Illinois.


SENATOR BOWEN: Historically. I don’t want to cast any aspersions on Illinois today.

MR. MOTT-SMITH: Right. I think California has a record of very clean elections. Some of what people think of as weaknesses in the absentee voting system may not be precisely characterized as fraud. For example, in the gubernatorial election in which Mr. Checchi and Ms. Harmon went at it, there was a saturation of the electorate with applications to vote by absentee ballot. I think something like 3 million applications or more went out. And the timing of that was such that the delivery back to the elections officials was late. Each of the campaigns made special efforts to send postcards saying, if you didn’t get it by this date, then go to the polling place. There was concern about disenfranchisement just on an administrative level, not only on a fraud level.

Alpine County has been voting entirely by mail ballot since 1993. Sierra County…

SENATOR BOWEN: Yet we should explain that Alpine County has a total population—I think it’s 1,250 people. And the number of registered voters is what?

MR. MOTT-SMITH: It’s about 850, I think. But at any rate, their precincts are all smaller than the 250 limit.

SENATOR BOWEN: I would imagine their greatest challenge is finding five people who consistently wish to serve on the board of supervisors.

MR. MOTT-SMITH: (Laughter)  Well, I do remember visiting them many years ago, and I try and visit many of the offices. And you go to Los Angeles, for example, the week before an election, and you’ve walked through—they actually do a dry run—maybe you’ve been a part of that—but they do a dry run of the election, and it is logistically impressive. It’s like a mobilization of the military or something on that scale.

I went to Alpine County and asked to look around, and they took me into the courthouse and into one side room, and the side room was their elections office, including their warehouse, and the little 3x5 card file with flowers on it was their voter file box. I think they’ve upgraded since I visited sometime ago.

SENATOR BOWEN: Now it’s a 4x6 file.

         MR. MOTT-SMITH: (Laughter)  Anyway, Sierra County recently joined Alpine, and they conducted both their 2003 recall election and the November 2004 election with an 83 percent turnout in November.

Interestingly, both the City of San Francisco with Measure W—my wife always tells me I have to say “w” correctly—from the November 1989 election and two subsequent elections, as well as the City of Los Angeles, Charter Amendment 1 at the April 1997 election, placed the question of basically, Should we do, or should we have the capability of doing elections by all-mail ballot in our cities?  And in both cases, the voters rejected the proposition by about 60:40. And the materials in the sample-ballot materials do go back to that issue of fraud.

Early voting began in California in 1994, and it’s continued since that time. In 1994, it was conducted as an interpretation of Elections Code Section 3018, but that section was explicitly amended subsequent to that time to permit voting at satellite locations. And it should be noted—and I’m sure that Registrars will tell you, that early voting takes place in every one of the California counties 28 days before the election in their offices. But early voting, as it’s understood, is shopping centers and other remote locations.

I think the thing about early voting is that there are a couple of issues related. One is administrative complexity, particularly with a 15-day close of registration, adding another method by which people can cast a ballot. It is not insignificant in terms of the requirements for organizing and putting together the resources to pull it off. There’s also valid security. No matter what system you’re using, you have security over a longer period of time than you would at a polling-place election. And then there are—there’s also the issue of complexity due to the number of ballot styles. It’s difficult unless you have a touch-screen voting system to provide every single ballot for every voter which can literally be in the thousands of different styles.

On the plus side—and I have to say, so far, I’ve not seen anything that really indicates that early voting increases voter turnout. But on the plus side, it does seem to me to be a very strong vehicle, media-genic vehicle, to be able to promote the fact that an election is coming in your county and to draw attention to people that they have an opportunity to vote. It gets good coverage. People see voting going on, and I have to think, that at a minimum, more people pay attention. And even if they don’t vote, early voting, that they might remember to vote either absentee or at a polling place.

So I’m not going to really draw conclusions. I’ll be happy to give you some opinions, but I think you’d be best to listen to the real experts in this. But my singular advice at this point is that—and the point of all of that historical information was that elections has changed as we have changed. Things are getting bigger. The volumes that the counties have to process are increasing the number of ballots, the number of applications for ballots. Things are getting faster. Because they’re bigger, the systems that are used to process absentee-ballot applications and absentee ballots and count ballots have to be faster and are getting more complex because necessarily, to meet the bigger, faster test requires technology, and the technology, though it can handle volumes, includes an element of complexity that is a cultural change for the old days of the 3x5 box or whatever. So as you look for how to make it better and how to make things more convenient, I would also ask that you look for how to make things more simple for voters and for poll workers and for elections officials.

SENATOR BOWEN: All right. Thank you, Mr. Mott-Smith.

MR. MOTT-SMITH: You’re welcome.

SENATOR BOWEN: Let me call up the remaining panelists at this point. It’s my understanding that Tony Anchundo from Monterey County will not be able to be with us. But if we could have Freddie Oakley, Jill LaVine, Janice Atkinson—let’s have the voter gentleman back—Stephen Weir, Kim Alexander, Jacqueline Jacobberger, and Dan Kysor. And if I have murdered your name, I apologize. If you get the correct pronunciation to me, I will limit the error to once.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Do we have enough chairs or…

SENATOR BOWEN: I think we have enough chairs, yes.

What I’d like to do as people are coming up is sort of talk about, try to talk about one issue at a time because there are so many different aspects to the one set of issues. So perhaps if we begin with, if we set aside the issue of absentee voting for the moment and talk about early voting, centralized, or mobile voting, consolidated polling places, and the location of polling places, sort of the aspects of dealing with the more traditional voting, and then we’ll go to a discussion about absentee voting.

Well, let me start with Freddie Oakley from Yolo County.

MS. FREDDIE OAKLEY: Madam Chair, good morning.

SENATOR BOWEN: Thank you for coming across the causeway.

MS. OAKLEY: It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you. I have some materials which I’ll pass out later, give you to, if you want them.

Early voting, casting a ballot before election day, is permitted by the California Elections Code, beginning 28 days before any given election. Early voting may include casting an absent voter ballot through the mail or in the local registrar’s office. But it is most often thought of as casting an early ballot in person at a satellite location, and that’s what I’d like to discuss today.

Absent-voter-mailed ballots, popularly known as the absentee ballots, are used in every California county. Similarly, casting an early ballot in the registrar’s office is permitted in many, most, California counties. I have summaries of early-voting practices by county and also by state for you. What I will discuss here is the practice of allowing early voting in person at satellite locations.

Some of the positives of early voting at satellite locations are thought to be include greater convenience for voters, higher voter participation, and increased voter awareness of upcoming elections. Some of the negatives are thought to include the loss of degree of control over the voting process, increasing the occasion for voter fraud, trivialization of voting, creation of problems for campaigns—for example, when should we drop the mail is the perennial question, and insurmountable, technical challenges having to do with the voter file and recording votes.

SENATOR BOWEN: Can I stop you for a moment?


SENATOR BOWEN: You and I both know, when should we drop the mail means.


SENATOR BOWEN: But if you were listening to this conversation—

MS. OAKLEY: Oh, I’m sorry.

SENATOR BOWEN: --you might not know (laughter) for a campaign.

MS. OAKLEY: If you’re running a political campaign, you’d like to know when the majority of voters are going to cast their votes because you’d like to time your campaign so that you address the interest of those voters just previous to the time when they’re going to vote. So when we say drop the mail, we mean get those glossy brochures in the mail just a couple of days before people vote. If voting is spread out over a 28-day period, it’s very difficult to use that technique for addressing voters.

SENATOR BOWEN: Although some voters might think that’s preferable.

MS. OAKLEY: Absolutely. Some of us might.

With respect to the positives, I think they speak for themselves and address political values that I don’t think we need to debate. You either want higher voter turnout, greater convenience, and increased awareness of upcoming elections, or you don’t. Some people don’t. And certainly there are days when I could go either way. On a tough day, I just assume fewer people came around, but that’s not a good point of view to have, in my opinion.

The perceived negatives of early voting are more debatable, I think. By conducting voting that is more dispersed geographically and chronologically, we do lose some control over the process. You can make an analogy to 6th graders on a field trip. If you let them decide where they’re going to go and when, it’s much more difficult to know that they’re all in line when they need to be.

SENATOR BOWEN: You know, we use Assembly members rather than 6th graders.

MS. OAKLEY: Yes. I would never do that in this building. (Laughter)  But you should feel free.

SENATOR BOWEN: I don’t want to do that either. My bills are going over there later this week. (Laughter)

MS. OAKLEY: And it’s also probably not polite to, you know, compare voters to 6th graders, but it’s a good example of how hard it is to keep things line.

Some have expressed fear that this loss of control might lead to greater voter fraud by dispersing control authority and alertness. John introduced some of the issues that apply there. I think those are practical issues that we can address if we have the will.

The trivialization of voting by diluting what we think of as the sacredness of election day is a not-inconsequential issue to address for the reason that voters will bring it up. Our constituents care deeply, some of them, about whether or not we’re treating their votes as sufficiently sacred. And I have repeatedly heard complaints from voters, that by allowing voting by mail, by allowing early voting, we aren’t requiring of voters the discipline and the attention to ritual and sacredness that they think is important. I think we live in a culture where so many things that should be sacred are trivialized, that this is probably not an issue for politicians. It’s more like an issue for priests at this point, but it is an issue that will arise.

And with respect to creating problems for political campaigns, I don’t know of a single registrar in California who doesn’t think those guys can look out for themselves, you know. They’ve got all the money in the world now apparently, so let them figure it out.

In Yolo County, we were historically stymied by the technical challenges of early satellite voting. Since we use a paper-based voting system that does not link automatically with our database—and we look forward to replacing that system with an optical scan system that will likewise not link automatically with our database, it takes several steps for us to record whether a voter has cast a ballot and several steps to access that record. And none of those, that recording or access, is done over the internet or is linked to telephone transmission of any kind. We don’t have T-1 lines out to the Capay Valley and the remote regions of Yolo County and we will not have. We don’t have the capacity to do that.

Before the November presidential election, we were approached by UC Davis students who wanted to provide early voting on campus. Their thinking was that a significant number of students in particular missed the opportunity to vote on election day because their class and lab schedules are inflexible, and their polling places are unfamiliar to them and therefore challenging to locate. I think that is undeniably true. It is very hard for these kids who are essentially guests in our town to locate their polling places. I don’t think it’s impossible. I do think it’s difficult. You know, if you say to the parent of any six-year-old in Davis, California, You’re voting at BirchLaneElementary School, they know what you’re talking about. There is, you know, a college junior who’s in their third year in that town will not know similarly where that is, and I think that’s a problem.

So I have been appalled and shocked and dismayed by low voter turnout in our mostly student precinct, and I was anxious to experiment with a solution. And so our department computer scientist in our Elections Department developed a system to prevent double voting. In spite of our old-fashioned paper-based system, he is a genius, and he did a great job for us. The system is very elegant and very simple, and so we were able to establish an early voting location for five days before the election in the student union on campus, and we made it available to any Yolo County voter. This was for the primary—I’m sorry—for the presidential general election. We did not have the gigantic proliferation of ballot types that other counties have. Steve Weir, for instance, can tell you, in Contra Costa County, I shudder to think how many ballot types you had in that election, but I guarantee it was a gigantic multiple of what we had.

So we were able to place all those ballot types at the polling place and make that polling place available to any Yolo County voter. What we found was that…

SENATOR BOWEN: What kind of ballot were you using at that time?

MS. OAKLEY: We use a data-vote ballot which is a computer card with a mechanical punch that pokes a hole in it. They’re pretty—it’s great technology, and it makes it easy to have a lot of ballot types there. They’re compact; you just put them in their envelopes and put them in a file folder and you’re good to go.

The result was an increase of over 1,500 votes cast on campus attributable to mostly student precincts. So that was in our county of 90,000 voters. That was a substantial increase in student voting. And we’re going to expand the experiment to other areas in the county, in our next election. We’ll do it in West Sacramento also. We also have—we have early voting already in our office in Woodland. This provides a site in Davis; we’ll provide a site in West Sacramento; and we will consider providing a site in rural Yolo County. We have some pretty far reaches there. There are areas of Yolo that are pretty remote, and we would like to be able to provide early voting in a grange hall or something out in one of those areas.

SENATOR BOWEN: Technologically, how do you deal with the problem of the potential for duplicate votes as you expand the number of locations?

MS. OAKLEY: For us, it translated into a personnel issue. What we did was, we had the polling place open from 10:00 in the morning till 3:00 in the afternoon. We cheated. I mean this is such an elegant solution. I don’t know why computer guys think of this and the rest of us don’t. We just had them vote absentee ballots so that they signed it and we researched it. When it came back to the office at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, by 6 o’clock in the evening, we were done researching all of those ballots. We had recorded the vote history to the voter so that they were, you know, if they cast another ballot, they would be in the exact same position as any absentee voter casting another ballot. It worked fabulously. If we increased the number of voters voting that way by even a factor of ten, it would just be a matter of increasing the staff we’re assigned to research those ballots between 3:00 and 6:00 in the afternoon, and that is not a complex project. That’s something we could train simple, you know, people off the street to do, in ten minutes. So we’re pretty pleased with that solution. I don’t know why we never thought of it before.

I emphasized that Yolo County has a voter file of 90,000 people, which is a pretty small county compared to the other folks at the table here. It allows us to perform experiments like this and to fool around with our systems in ways that other folks can’t do. I mean there’s just no way Connie McCormick ?? can do this.

Certainly, if you’re using, if a county were to use an electronically based voting system, and were willing to transmit or capable of transmitting results over the internet or over T-1 lines, which many counties are willing and capable of doing, then early voting and multiple-ballot types would not be a challenge. Then it’s just a programming issue. It’s not a practical challenge of any other kind. The question of whether early voting should be allowed, the question of whether vote totals should be transmitted over the internet, are two other questions, and those are ones that will have to be addressed in connection with this issue. Our personal experience is that we were very excited to have an increase in student turnout, and we would hope to expand that to an increase in turnout in other populations by doing early voting for other populations.

SENATOR BOWEN: All right. Thank you.

Jill LaVine, Sacramento County.

MS. JILL LaVINE: Yes. Thank you for this opportunity. We’ve tried early voting twice. We’ve had different experiences each time. Of course, we have it in our office, right before the election, the 29 days before the election. In November of 2002, we worked with the Secretary of State and tried an early voting experiment down in their office. However, at that time, we were using punch cards, and you have to have the correct ballot, like Freddie was referring to. You have to have the ballots needed for the voter. So we had to keep all these ballots on hand. Quite often, we were running back and forth from our office downtown with another ballot type. You know, we only had two of those, and we needed three of them and back and forth. The other problem is keeping these ballots secure. Thank goodness, working, say, with the Secretary of State, we had an opportunity to lock the ballots up and do the accounting each night.

Then there was the one day that everybody at the convention center decided to come over and visit us, and we were just, had lines out the door. All total for that—we ran about five days with about 1,200 voters for this early voting. We didn’t do a lot of advertising. We were just trying to get our feet wet at that point.

The second time we tried early voting was part of an RFP process. We were looking for some data and some experience with one of the vendors that didn’t have any onsite experience. So we tried in November of 2002—this is with Avante; we tried it with the paper audit trail. We have five locations out in our county. Things worked well because it was an electronic ballot. We did not have to worry about running out of ballots, running back and forth. But we still had the problem of securing the system every single night because some of these were in a shopping mall, so that was difficult. We did do a little bit of advertising. And at this particular time, we got about 1,600 voters.

We have not pursued the early-voting system or trying that out because we are a paper-based system. We use an optical-scan ballot. You have to have that particular ballot type to vote on, and voters come from all over the county wanting their particular ballot type. Such as in the primary election, we would have approximately 100 ballot types, times 11 different parties, times the two different languages, so you can see the stock we would have to have on hand. The general elections are a little bit easier. We only have about 200 different ballot types with only two languages at that point. Any paper-based system will have problems with this early voting unless you can print the ballots as needed. There is the technology from the vendors now, what we call the ballot on demand. With that, it brings a couple of other problems, such as, if you’re going to be a ballot printer, you have to meet the Secretary of State’s requirements, so you’ll have to make sure that your spot or your location has met the certification of security and storage. So definitely, a paper-based system is very much disadvantaged, and an electronic system does have the advantage at this point.

SENATOR BOWEN: All right. Thank you.

Janice Atkinson, Sonoma.

MS. JANICE ATKINSON: Thank you. Good morning.

Sonoma County has not done any early voting outside of our office location. We are a paper-based ballot, as Jill was mentioning. And although we don’t have as many ballot types as Sacramento, for the size of our county, we have a sizeable number. We had 125 ballot types in the last general election. Of course, the problems are, how do you get that many ballot types out to an early-voting location?

We’ve also found—and I hope to speak more extensively on permanent absentee voters—because we have such a high percentage of permanent absentee voters in our county, we don’t seem to have any pressing need to do early voting in the community. I believe that the majority of the voters who would take advantage of this are already sitting at home with their ballot in hand in Sonoma County.

We do have for voter convenience in our office, however—you know, we do, of course, do absentee voting, the 28 days before the election. And we have probably the only, in the State of California, a drive-up window, which I want you to know gets constant use during that 28-day period for people who are coming by to pick up their ballots. And it’s a lot of fun. The voters get a kick out of it, and it has helped things at our county complex. I don’t know how many other, the county complexes, have the severe parking issues that Sonoma County seems to experience so we’re able to…

SENATOR BOWEN: So you can drive up and order up your ballot?

MS. ATKINSON: That’s correct. You drive up; we give you an application; and you fill out and sign it; we get your ballot for you. If you want to vote right there, we usually suggest that they pull down and use the parking lot and mark their ballot and come back around so that we don’t have lines into the street. But our voters seem to love it; it’s convenient for them, and it has been a little fun, innovative thing we’ve tried in Sonoma.

SENATOR BOWEN: Yes. I can imagine that. Do you get requests for fries?  (Laughter)

MS. ATKINSON: Every election. Generally, once a day.

SENATOR BOWEN: All right. Interesting.

Let me hear from Kim Alexander, Jacqueline Jacobberger, and Dan Kysor at this point, sort of your feedback on the early-election experience and what you think has been left out of the conversation so far, if anything, and where you might agree, disagree, or have other remarks.

MS. KIM ALEXANDER: Good morning. I’m Kim Alexander with the California Voter Foundation. My comments are going to focus primarily on absentee voting, as was mentioned earlier, it’s increased quite a bit just in the last 12 years. The rate has doubled from 17 percent in 1992 to…

SENATOR BOWEN: Let me do this. If you’re going to focus on the absentees, let me ask you to hold…


SENATOR BOWEN: …because I want to hear from the registrars on that.

MS. ALEXANDER: Do you want me to share my  comments on early voting?

SENATOR BOWEN: If you have early vote, sure. Let’s do that.

MS. ALEXANDER: Okay. A couple of issues. There are some ballot secrecy concerns with early voting because early voting is taking place in public areas, and my experience as an early voter in Sacramento County was in a shopping mall. I also went to Las Vegas to view their new touch-screen system with a voter-verified paper trail that was also in a shopping mall. It’s taking place in a public area. There are people around. I heard some reports of some people videotaping voters while they were voting in Las Vegas which is some concern. We have a law in California that prohibits videotaping in polling places. But if we have voting going on in shopping malls, it might be a hard thing to enforce.

I wonder, as a voter educator, if early voting sometimes is taking place too early. Having people voting 30 days before the election day means that, not only may they not benefit from some of the mail that they might not get. But more importantly, things change in elections very quickly. And as you recall during the recall election, there were a lot of candidates on the ballot. By the time the election day actually came around, several of those candidates had dropped out of the race. And we heard from a number of voters who were disappointed that they had already voted, either absentee or early, and had cast their vote, and their favorite candidate had decided not to continue to pursue the election at that point. I’m a little concerned about early voting in shopping malls and other public places where people are coming into vote, coming into to shop, and then see the polling stations and say, oh, well, I’ll get my vote in while I’m here. They probably won’t have their booklet with them. They may know how they want to vote on a couple of races on the ballot. But as we all know, we have very long and complex ballots in California, and it requires a lot of homework. And so I’m somewhat concerned. I’d love to hear what the registrars’ experience has been with this, that people may get into an early-voting site, start voting, realize that they’re not prepared at that point to make every decision that they want to make on the ballot, and then want to withdraw from voting but not be able to because of procedural or  security concerns with the ballot.

SENATOR BOWEN: It sounds like that wouldn’t be an issue with the way you did it in Yolo County because, if it’s an absentee ballot, you’re not required to turn them in right at that moment, right?

MS. ALEXANDER: Right. And it was also five days prior to the election when people probably were more likely to be better prepared to vote than they might be a month before the election. Early voting in California, my sense of it was that it was introduced in large part to introduce voters to electronic voting, and there’s no doubt that electronic voting is a much better system to use for early voting than paper-based systems.

One of the security concerns that the California Voter Foundation has with early voting is that, in order to ensure, as you were asking earlier, Senator Bowen, about how do you make sure there isn’t double voting, the best way that I’m aware of right now to do that is to have your early voting sites networked back to your county election office. That requires using the internet or phone lines to continuously update your databases and make sure all of your remote sites are being continuously updated. And I’m not at all confident that the counties that are engaged in satellite voting sites and using that kind of technology—primarily, Los Angeles is the one that I’m aware of—have covered all of the security bases that ought to be covered to make sure that that database updating is happening in a secure way and that the databases can’t be tampered with.

I think that we might want to consider, in general, and we’ve talked about this before, moving to high-tech voting centers and having early voting take place in a shorter timeframe, maybe, you know, the four days prior to the election rather than 30 days, and combining it more with absentee voting and having places where people can go and bring a paper ballot or cast an electronic ballot that’s backed up on paper and give voters more convenience to vote early but not so early that they end up not being able to make informed decisions about everything they might want to vote on, on the ballot.

We do need to improve the technology to make that happen and make sure that those databases of voters are continuously updated so that we don’t have over-voting or duplicate voting. And it’s important not only that we do that in a way that’s technologically secure but also in a way that gives voters confidence, that people aren’t going out and voting twice. A lot of the security concerns that voters have in California are hypothetical, and we may not have reports coming out that people are committing fraud or people are being coerced. But there’s a perception that those, because our system is rather liberal and there’s no ID requirements, that those kinds of things can happen, and we have to make sure that not only are the procedures are in place but that voters are informed of the procedures. Even if they’re not early voters themselves or absentee voters, all voters need to be made aware of the security concerns in place for all balloting systems so that all voters can have confidence that everybody is voting only once and voting their own ballot.

SENATOR BOWEN: And I think that voting your own ballot is certainly a concern to it. And that’s a concern, whether you’re dealing with electronic or paper ballots. But I think it’s an experience, particularly, I think it’s Orange County, where there were a number of voters in the last election, didn’t get the ballot that was appropriate to their situation, so they didn’t have the opportunity to vote for certain offices, and they did wind up voting in a district in which they didn’t live in certain races. So I think I want to kind of back up from this issue of the number of ballot types that various people have referenced.

And, Kim, maybe you can help explain to people who are watching or listening why we have so many ballot types. We all think of elections, and we think, Okay. We vote for governor or president, and we have a few initiatives. Why do you have 100 ballot types?

MS. ALEXANDER: Well, one of the reasons, of course, is redistricting and who draws the district lines. And we have district lines now following the 2000 Census that are very complicated, and that’s made the job for the county registrars much more difficult than when we had districts that were nested and more compact.

We have—you know, voters in California live in lots and lots of different districts. I personally have 22 different people who I elect to represent me at the state, federal, and local levels of government, and that’s everybody from, you know, my county sheriff to the school board to the president. And so every county election office has to deal with all these different ballot styles to make sure, that when you go and vote at your precinct, that you’re getting the ballot that is native to all of the districts that you vote in. And it’s challenging for the voter, and it’s extremely challenging, I’m sure, for the county registrars who, the bigger the county, the more districts they have, the more ballot styles they have. And it’s one of the reasons why electronic voting, quite frankly, has become quite attractive for the larger counties because, as you add in languages and the language requirements under the Voting Rights Act to that complexity of the districts, it becomes almost an impossible administrative task to generate all those different ballot styles. And then you add in also, of course, the primary and that additional layer of complexity to having different primary ballots, different language ballots, different districts.

SENATOR BOWEN: I think that will be helpful. I mean I think many voters don’t think about their school board, their reclamation district, their flood control board, the sheriff, the city attorney, the whole host of various kinds of elected offices that may all show up on the same ballot and where voters just have different, live in different districts next to each other sometimes.

So early voting. Anything else?

MS. ALEXANDER: That’s it.

SENATOR BOWEN: We’ll come back to you for absentees.


SENATOR BOWEN: Let me turn to Jacqueline Jacobberger with the League of Women Voters.

Thank you for joining us this morning.

MS. JACQUELINE JACOBBERGER: Thank you for the opportunity to be here. Of course, the League of Women Voters is very concerned about voter turnout and participation and that’s, you know, one of our core issues. We have had experience with early voting sites, and we feel that they do provide voters with an opportunity to vote ahead of time. We found that local leagues, in staffing their telephones, had many inquiries at the last minute from somebody who had to go out of town, and what am I going to do?  And so that we were able to direct them to early-voting sites and where—you know, they could go to the county registrars, but it was a long distance to that. Having something more centrally located for them was a plus, and people were very thankful.

SENATOR BOWEN: It sounds to me like that’s an issue that’s much more of a concern during the, sort of five-day window that Freddie Oakley was talking about and less of a concern 27 days before the election. I think, as we talked about, the complexity increases with the storage and security, the longer you have to maintain that. So having that experience report, I think, is helpful for us to understand who wants to vote early and can’t use a typical absentee ballot because that’s a way to vote to solve this, and we’ll talk about that next.

MS. JACCOBBERGER: And I’ve been in the Elections Department, say, on the very first day that absentee balloting was allowed and seen people who are going on a trip, standing there, casting their ballot and being delighted that they can do it and not have to worry about whether it was going to get in the mail and get delivered. So I think some of the alternatives that we’ve heard about, setting up the early-voting sites on college campuses, and I think when the technology, you know, is ready to allow that, it would certainly be a plus. One of the other things I’ve heard is setting up an early-voting site, say, in a large workplace, say, in San Mateo County, at Sun Micro Systems. And that would take definitely advances in technology for the people to be able to get those various ballots. But it could be a plus in the few days before the close of election. You could have it over several days.

I mentioned, when citizens use those alternatives, such as early voting, it does provide a challenge, as far as the mailing out of materials. The League gets a lot of calls saying, I don’t have my sample ballot. It didn’t come in the mail. So making sure that the materials are mailed in a timely fashion; I think I don’t have as much sympathy for the campaigns, but I also think that it is a challenge for volunteer groups, such as the League where we do candidates forums and, of course, have election publications of being able to get things prepared early, and I know Leagues are having their candidates forms earlier and so that people have that access to the candidates in a timely manner. And, of course, I think the increased use of electronic technology, such as we’re doing with our smart voter website, where the candidates could put their information on early and it would be available, so you could direct candidates, I mean, voters to that, as a source.

SENATOR BOWEN: When you were talking about the sample ballot, I was thinking that probably, generationally, much of that problem disappears before too long because the generation who are about to begin registering are pretty used to getting whatever it is. I had student in government yesterday say to me that she couldn’t imagine how she could do an historical report without Google and, if she had to go to the library and get books out, she just didn’t know how she would do it. It was a very big generational gap around the table. But I think it tells us something about that. But that doesn’t solve the problem that Kim Alexander referenced about the fact that things change during the course of an election. And reading a printed statement from a candidate is very different than dealing with a voter, a League of Voters forum, for the same position and the job that the media and now the bloggers do in looking at the details of some of what’s happened. And the information that’s available to voters is obviously richer as the time grows shorter.

MS. JACCOBBERGER: I’m just using our smart voter as an example. But the candidates can actually update their information right until the day before election time so that they can respond. So I think there’s more of that kind of information out there that can help voters. So I think, you know, just the time to study the issues is a definite concern.

And the other thing that’s come up in some discussions—and I haven’t heard mentioned yet—is the impact of the day, for the close of registration on early voting, and that would probably be something that the registrars could respond to. But,  you know, we’ve shortened it to 14 days. And I know that with the big influx of registrations that came in right at the last, for the November election, there was a real crunch for the registrars to be able to get that information entered. And if you had the early voting—you know, many people would like election-day registration, so I can see some real problems for registrars, you know, and that deadline for registration probably would have a lot of kinks that have to be worked out.

SENATOR BOWEN: It’s the difference between the desirability of doing something and just the administrative challenges particularly and big challenge of counties making it work.

Dan Kysor, thank you for joining us.

MR. DAN KYSOR: You’re welcome. Okay. I’ve got it. Yes. I’m with the California Council of the Blind, governmental affairs director. I may have to go downstairs and meet some people at 11:30. So on early voting, our blind and visually impaired members really, in Los Angeles County and Sacramento County in particular, really, the times that both those counties had early voting really appreciated that because there were several issues that people with disabilities confront.

One of the most important issues would be transportation. So if you have an election, everybody has to try to call their county Paratransit buses to get them to the voting poll on one day, whereas early voting, you have a longer period at which to disperse for voting. Also, it increases the areas of accessibility to the voting poll for people with disabilities if you have early voting, assuming that the public areas where early voting is will be accessible. I mean one of the issues that come up with normal voting has come up in some counties as, with people with disabilities, when you have voting in people’s homes—garages and whatever—there’s not enough clearance for wheelchairs, and there’s not the kind of accessibility. There’s the electronic voting machine issue about power and that sort of thing. So that’s sort of a nightmare just thinking about that. But early voting, our members have been really happy with it, and it’s been very popular.

I may have to leave by the time we talk about the absentee ballot. Can I make one comment on that?

SENATOR BOWEN: Sure. Certainly.

MR. KYSOR: I think that when you get to that, ask John in Oregon about the Braille, Braille ballots, and how blind and visually impaired people vote because I’m here to advocate that that system be used—if you’re going to go to a total absentee ballot system. But always keep in mind accessibility for people with disabilities when we talk about voting systems. And also, about new voting systems or any type of a grandiose technology plan, is that I am a real proponent of a kiosk type of, a universal kiosk, such as, integrating ATMs with voting or something on that line. Also, maybe touchtone voting with voice recognition could be a possibility for people. I don’t know how far along that technology has come. I know on my cell phone, I’m the only one who can activate my cell phone with my voice. So if they can do it on a cell phone, why can’t they do it on voting?  So those are my comments.

SENATOR BOWEN: Interesting. Yes. I think that voice-activated voting certainly presents its own set of security challenges. If I recorded your voice in a conversation we were having or from a hearing, I potentially would have the ability to use a snippet of that to get into your ballot, and you would never know. But every time we try a new innovation, we face another set of security issues.

MR. KYSOR: Yes. But, you know, people did that with electronic voting, and I think a lot of those, a lot of the fear mongering that was going on with electronic voting turned out to be baseless.

SENATOR BOWEN: I do have a question for you. Do you know at this point what percentage of blind and visually disabled people read Braille?

MR. KYSOR: Braille is a very—most of your blind and visually impaired population are seniors, and we’re not born blind. You know, they acquired their blindness or visual deprivation from their age, aging, the aging process. I believe it’s less than 10 percent. So if you’re talking—and John will be able to talk about those issues more than—because he has more experience with that in Oregon, and we have no experience in California.

SENATOR BOWEN: Well, I’m just thinking about, as you’re designing something to deal with a particular part of the—the wheelchair access, for example. One of the reasons that we look at schools as polling places is they already have to deal with the issues of access for the disabled. We don’t build schools that don’t have access at this point. And that’s not true of homes, garages, the carpet store where I voted in Venice a few years ago. I mean it’s the rolls of carpet and linoleum.

MR. KYSOR: Roll up your ballot with the carpet.

SENATOR BOWEN: Yes. The most unique voting experience I’ve had was in the carpet store.

MR. KYSOR: You’re electing carpetbaggers?

SENATOR BOWEN: Not in my district. (Laughter)

MR. KYSOR: Right.

SENATOR BOWEN: But very well done.

Let’s continue with the absentee-voting discussions. We’ve sort of gone into that. And to kick off that discussion, I think we have to go to John Lindback who’s come down from Oregon, bringing with him an enormous amount of precipitation that, of course, we normally don’t have in California in the winter. And then I’ll go to Steve Weir from Contra Costa County.

Thank you very much for coming. We expect to learn a lot from you.

MR. JOHN LINDBACK: Good morning, Madam Chair. Thank you very much for inviting me.

I moved to Oregon in 2001 from Alaska, and so I’ve had the pleasure of having oversight of elections in two different states, one, a polling-place state, and the other, an all-vote-by-mail state. And I landed in Oregon as an agnostic. I’ll have my four-year anniversary there in a couple of weeks. I can safely say now I’m a believer. I’ve watched this system now from an agnostic’s point of view for four years, including the busiest election in Oregon history last November.

Oregon’s been voting by mail for more than 20 years. It started in Oregon back in the early ‘80s. We had a situation where there were six election dates and statute in which local districts and cities and counties could conduct elections. A lot of those small districts were having elections at the polling place on some of those dates, and the turnouts were appallingly low, in some cases, under 10 percent. One of the county clerks at the time requested assistance from the Secretary of State’s Office on conducting an election by mail, just to see if it would do something to help the situation.

They, of course, did a lot of publicity surrounding it, got a lot of statewide publicity, and then that first election, where they did it, they got more than a 90 percent turnout. When the novelty wore off, they are quite consistently in those local elections getting turnouts of 30, 40, and 50 percent, which on paper by Oregon’s standards are low turnouts. But by standards of less than 10 percent, back when they were doing them in the polling-place days, it looks pretty good.

What I’d like to do is take you through a short presentation here on how the Vote by Mail system in Oregon works. You have a paper copy of it in front of you, and I’ve got it on the screen here, and I’ll take you through it, and I think it might address some of the questions and raise others, I’m sure.

In Oregon, the ballots go out, according to the statutory—the statutes say they can go out no sooner than 18 days before an election and no later than 14 days before an election. So the voter gets them approximately two weeks before election day, gets their ballot. The voter fills out the ballot in the privacy and comfort in their home, office, or other place of their choosing, and they place their completed ballots in a secrecy envelope that’s provided in their ballot packet.

Everyone in Oregon now votes on optical scan in early 2004 when we replaced our last punch card. The voter votes their ballot and places it in the secrecy envelope, and then the secrecy envelope goes in a ballot-return envelope. The voter reads the voter’s statements on the back of the ballot-return envelope. And you can see on the statement here, it says, I am the person to whom this ballot was issued. I’m legally qualified to vote in the county that issued this ballot, and that is, this is the only ballot I have voted this election, and I still live at the address where I’m registered to vote, and then they sign their name.

If a voter can certify that everything in the voter’s statement is true, they sign the envelope. A statement on the envelope warns the voter that it is a Class A felony to sign the ballot-return envelope if the voter knows the statements to be false. The voter returns the ballot to their county elections office, either by mail, in person, or by dropping it off at an official ballot drop site.

In included with my presentation today a copy of what we call our Vote by Mail manual in Oregon. This is a adopted by rule, and we’re constantly improving it from year to year after 20 years of vote-by-mail elections. As everyone around here or around the table knows, that with every election, something unanticipated happens, and so you’re constantly refining your laws and your regulations in order to deal with whatever happened in the last election. Well, this is a product of that effort, and there’s a lot of county ownership in that manual because we work, of course, very closely with the county clerks on that manual.

I raise that issue now because in our Vote by Mail manual, we have a requirement that there be one, at least one official ballot drop site for every 30,000 people in your county. And those are distributed on a geographic basis to make it convenient for voters. The county clerks are required to sign security agreements with libraries or other locations where they’re placing these drop sites. And, of course, they have to pick up the ballot regularly and keep the ballot secure.

When the ballot arrives back at the county, an election worker scans the bar code, which is unique to each voter, on the back of the ballot-return envelope. And that helps each county track where voters return their ballots—which voters who return their ballots—excuse me.

An elections worker who is trained in signature matching compares the signature on the back of the ballot-return envelope with a signature on the voter’s registration card. So when they scan in that barcode, it automatically pulls up the voter’s signature from their original voter registration card on the computer screen so they can eyeball the signature on the envelope against the signature on the original voter registration card.

SENATOR BOWEN: Let me ask you a question about that, that I’m going to have for California registrars too. What happens if the signature doesn’t match what’s on file?  Is there any way of letting the voter know that, either so that they can deal with whether or not their vote’s going to be counted in that election?  But more importantly, if you’re voting permanent absentee or all mail every election and your signature has changed since you wrote it, or you tend to sign formally when you’re signing your voter registration card and scribble, which I’m sure happens, how does a voter know that they need to deal with that?

I’m going to ask our Californians that too. What do you do in Oregon?

MR. LINDBACK: Our Vote by Mail manual, again, requires the counties to contact the voter in a signature, non-matching situation. And oftentimes, with the ballots going out two weeks early, they have time to—the voter has time to deal with that until election day. For those non-matching signature situations that occur close to election day, the counties challenge that ballot. It goes into a challenge-ballot category, and that gives them up until ten days after election day to contact the voter, ask the voter to explain the situation. Oftentimes, it requires them to come to the county, and they’ll say, That’s a 20-year-old card; my signature has changed, or…

SENATOR BOWEN: That’s kind of an involved process. I’m seeing our registrars contemplating the number of additional hires that that would take.

MR. LINDBACK: Well, I’ll get to the number of election workers we have in comparison to who they’re hiring now, and you’ll see, that even though it is an involved process, it’s very important of the security of the election. And overall, we hire many fewer people for elections than we did back in the polling-place days.

SENATOR BOWEN: The polling-place age?

MR. LINDBACK: The polling-place days.


MR. LINDBACK: We call it the old days. Anyway, the next thing on the thing says, if the signatures do not match, the voter is notified and asked to contact their county election official.

SENATOR BOWEN: I got ahead of you. I’m sorry.

MR. LINDBACK: In order to maintain the secrecy of each ballot, an official elections board composed of mixed, political-party membership removes and separates the secrecy envelopes from the ballot-return envelopes. So that process is done first.

In the second stage of the process, the separate elections board, separate group of people, remove and separate the ballots from the secrecy envelopes. And, of course, all of this is done in public and observers can watch and make sure that the secrecy of the ballots is maintained.

An official elections board inspects the ballots to ensure that they are machine readable. The people that are on the table here, I’m sure they all have this problem with their absentee ballots which are folded, and when people are marking them on a piece of paper, you can often look at the ballot and always mark it correctly. So we have an inspection, what we call a pre-inspection process in Oregon, where a separate board looks at those ballots to make sure they are machine readable. If the ballot is not machine readable—in other words, if there are extraneous marks or the voter intent is not clear—then the ballot is enhanced of duplicated by that election board, and there is a process where people watch that, and so they’re actually duplicating the ballot, tracking it with numbers.

SENATOR BOWEN: So that will—let me see if I understand that. You’ve got somebody who started to fill in a particular oval, changed their mind, put an X through it, and completely filled something else. And that’s going to cause the machine to burp, so you basically reproduce it without the crossed-out bubble?

MR. LINDBACK: That’s correct. And only in cases where the intent is clear.

Now the voter intent guidelines are in the Vote by Mail manual. You’ll see that for optical-scan ballots, you know, where those situations, what those guidelines are, and what you can make deductions about voter intent, and it has to be a pretty clear situation before you go ahead and do that.

Finally, once the ballots are all flattened out, the inspection board deals with them, you know, duplicated any ballots. We run them through our separate count machines. And since we all Vote by Mail, that’s all we use in Oregon mail, is central- count machines.

The benefits of Vote by Mail—participation is higher in elections conducted by mail. It’s just undoubtedly true at the local level. All elections in Oregon have been conducted, all statewide elections have been conducted, by mail since 1998, and the trends are looking very good, and I’ll get to some of those statistics later.

It removes barriers to keep the people from getting to the polls, obviously. And people have more time to study the issues and candidates before marking their ballot in elections conducted by mail. We also have very long ballots. In the 2000 presidential election, there were 26 ballot measures, state ballot measures alone. In Coos County, Oregon, in that election, when you combine the state ballot measures and the county ballot measures and the local ballot measures, Coos County voters have more than 40 measures on their ballot. It was no mystery to me why people prefer to sit at home around their kitchen table with their cup of coffee and their voters’ pamphlet and figure out how vote.

Vote by Mail costs about 30 percent less than polling-place elections. If you had counterparts to your California folks up here, they would be, give you the statistics, that over the course of 20 years, it is undoubtedly true that Vote by Mail elections cost less. It has built in safeguards that increase the integrity of the elections process.

The signature matching, we believe, we are only one of only two states in the country in which every signature of every voter is verified before their ballot is counted. In every other state in the country, if you find out if there’s a fraud situation, that ballot’s gone. For all those signature, non-matching situations, we don’t count that ballot until its resolved. If the voter never shows up, the ballot doesn’t get counted. And so there is a price to pay for folks who don’t pay attention to the signature situation.

There’s no evidence that Vote by Mail directly impacts one political party over another. We’ve had academics trying to figure that out and political parties trying to figure that out, and nobody’s been able to come up with any evidence that suggests that that may be true. And after five years of voting by mail in all statewide elections, Priscilla Southwell, a professor at the University of Oregon, found that 80.9 percent of Oregonians prefer Vote by Mail to other methods.

Now in 1998, the citizens of Oregon voted a citizen initiative to do all statewide elections by mail, and that vote was approximately 70 percent in favor to 30 percent against. And so over the past five yeas, the favorability rating has increased by about 10 percent. I’ve included some testimony also from people about why they like voting by mail and the convenience and so on, and I won’t read all those to you.

But here’s what we advise if other jurisdictions are interested in conducting Vote by Mail elections. We suggest that they start slow and small with local elections. Trying to radically change the way people vote in a very large election is never a good idea. If you start slow with small and local elections, like it was done in Oregon, people get used to it, their confidence grows, and as we’ve seen, they like it. We do not pay postage for ballot-returned envelopes. That would be like paying for transportation to get voters to the polls. There wouldn’t be any reason why you would pay the return postage than if you volunteered to pay people’s bus fare to get to the polling place.

Ballots are not forwardable. So when you get your—that is another important part of the security of the election. If you get your ballot mailed to an old address, the post office is not allowed to forward that ballot. It gets returned to the county, and you’re not allowed to vote that ballot until you come in and you update your registration. All ballots must be in by 8 p.m. on election night. Postmarks do not count.

We also advise that you create a strong relationship obviously with the post office. We have found that the post office is a very motivated partner. They want the business; they like the business; they love Vote by Mail. And they go to extraordinary measures to help us make sure our system works in Oregon, including doing the last-minutes sweeps of election offices on election day to make sure that all the ballots that are at a post office get in by that 8 o’clock deadline.

It does result in our experience in better-run elections. All the election workers are in one location, not in many polling places, dispersed out, wide over the geography of the county. A smaller number of election workers is needed, and let me give you an example. Lane County, Oregon, just over 100,000 voters, in their last polling-place election in 1998, had 1,500 people that they had to have hire. For the 2004 general election, the busiest election in the county’s history, they hired 225. It’s huge. It’s just huge in terms of a more efficient administration, and the county clerks from Oregon will tell you that. Not only do they have to hire fewer people, but they’re all located in one place. Election officials are by nature control freaks, and they love having people all in one place where they can watch.

SENATOR BOWEN: I don’t see any disagreement around the table. (Laughter)

MR. LINDBACK: Here’s another thing that people haven’t thought about, but it was very noticeable for me. I’m sure none of the folks around the table have ever had an error on a ballot, right?

SENATOR BOWEN: So you’re saying that all of your county officials prefer this method?



MR. LINDBACK: I’m sure that none of you have ever had a ballot error, right?

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Produced a ballot with an error on it?


UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Jerry Alder. (Laughter)

MR. LINDBACK: If there is a ballot error, the ballots go out two weeks before election day. And ballot errors are inevitable with, as you can tell on the table here, people having to produce so many different ballot styles. If you have an error on a ballot style, you have time to correct it. When people get the wrong ballot style, you can quickly print the right one and get it back out to the voters and have them vote the correct ballot style.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: _______. (Laughter)

MR. LINDBACK: Okay. Well, we’re on a different scale than you are and some of your counties, but we have some large counties too.

Again, fraud is caught before a ballot gets counted, and I would say that we are forwarded in the average election, anywhere from, that gets forwarded to our office, 300 to 400 cases of non-matching signatures in which the county has never heard from the voters, that they were not able to resolve that situation. In most cases, we’re not able to find the voters either. But in the few cases where we do, we are able to prosecute those cases. We probably have three or four a year where we actually prosecute people for signing another person’s ballot, something in that order.

SENATOR BOWEN: How do you deal with overseas military voters?

MR. LINDBACK: The same way other jurisdictions do. They go out according to—if they’re so-called submarine ballots, they go out 60 days before the election. Other military and overseas ballots, they go out 45 days before the election.

SENATOR BOWEN: And the issue of disabled voters, now that Dan Kysor’s left the room, how do you deal with visually impaired voters?  I guess it’s not an issue for some kinds of disabilities because transportation is the primary difficulties.

MR. LINDBACK: We do resolve a lot of our disability issues by the fact that we don’t have polling places, and those folks with disabilities get their ballots at home. We do not have real ballots in Oregon for the very reason of the question that you answered earlier, that so few, less than 10 percent of the voters who are blind, can actually use them.

We go to sort of the conventional route of a lot of other jurisdictions in the country, that if a voter with a disability needs assistance, that the elections office will send out trained election workers to assist them in marking their ballot. It, of course, is not going to be compliant with the Help America Vote Act on January 1, 2006, and so we’re looking at all the different kinds of technology. Hopefully, some of it portable that we can take around to voters with disabilities in their homes.

SENATOR BOWEN: And the primary problem will be secrecy, I assume?


SENATOR BOWEN: If you’re helping someone mark their ballot, it’s no longer a secret?


Here’s just a quick glance at some of the turnout statistics. As you can see, at the top line, the voter turnout in Oregon, special elections, we had a couple of task elections—one in January 2003 and one in February 2004—49.3 percent, 45.1 percent—it sort of gives you a gauge of how it compares with your California special election for governor. The lowest turnouts in the country in the primary election for president—I look at some of those—LA, New Jersey, Rhode Island—some of the states are having serious problems.

Voter turnout in Oregon presidential elections, after Vote by Mail in 2000, we were 79.8 percent. In 2004, our voter turnout was 86.5 percent. Before Vote by Mail, you can see the statistics. In 1996, it was 71.3, and we had very healthy turnouts in ’92, 1988, and 1984. Oregon has a history of good turnout and elections. There’s obviously no suggestion that Vote by Mail is hurting that turnout, and the trend lines are we’re even improving on it a little bit. And that’s the end of the particulars that I wanted to bring up today, and I’d be more than happy to answer any of those specific questions.

SENATOR BOWEN: All right. Let me go to Stephen Weir from Contra Costa County and if we can go back to Kim Alexander for her discussion of absentee ballots, and then I expect, that between the two of them, they’ll generate some questions. And I’d also at that point like the other registrars to put in their two cents on the absentee-ballot issue.


SENATOR BOWEN: You definitely need a microphone. The Senate here is not very technologically able.  We’re not wireless.


SENATOR BOWEN: We’re actually going to have voice mail sometime this year, I’m told. So that’s a huge change.

MR. STEPHEN L. WEIR: Thank you, Madam Chair. Steve Weir, Contra Costa County Registrar of Voters. I also serve as the vice-president of the California Association of _____ election officials. I find myself in a way wanting to debate John. And at the end of my presentation, I think you’ll find I’m kind of moving in his direction but with some modification.

I’ve been tracking Vote by Mail since the November 1996 election in my county in which we had a moderately close Senate race between Richard Rainey, who was then an assemblyman, and one of our members of our board of supervisors, Jeff Smith. Out of 300,000 votes cast, there was about a 700-vote spread, which in our business is not close. But nonetheless, the Democrats started to do a recount. And so I went back and I looked at the Vote by Mail acceptance rate and was surprised to find that our rejection rate was close to 4 percent, which is very staggering.

SENATOR BOWEN: You’re talking about the number of absentee ballots that were not counted for one reason or another?

MR. WEIR: That were rejected for a combination of causes. And I have in the materials we provided to you, this chart, if I can just work off of this one now.


MR. WEIR: What we had was close to 4 percent rejection. If you’ll look at the green, it’s a little over 2.5 percent for simply being late mail, mail that arrived after the fact, and then the 1.2 percent for cause would be no signature, bad signature, not signed under penalty of perjury, improper third-party delivery, et cetera, et cetera, and I was stunned by that figure. And so we started informing our voters at the next election, You’re ballot has to be in by 8 o’clock election day, and you can see almost a percent drop in the rejection rate, 3 percent, certainly not happy about that, but we were happy that the voters read the material. So we flipped over the little flyer, which was color-coordinated, and said, hey, if you read the front of this, read the back, and the back says the other three reasons for rejection.

So after two notifications to our absentee voters, we basically cut the rejection rate in half, down to about 2 percent. I’m not happy with 2 percent, I have to tell you. And then over some period of time, we’ve actually gotten that number with one aberration down to about 1.3 percent. I’m not excited about having 1.3 percent rejection of the voters’ mail. And so we decided to start looking at the different categories of the issue type to see what those look like, to see if we could start letting our voters know where we were with this. So this is the ballot-type mail. That means you got your sample ballot; it has an application for an absentee. You send it back; we send it back to you.

Between March of ’04 and November of ’04, we saw that number close to 2 percent dropping down to a little over 1 percent. So a rejection rate that wasn’t stunning, mail precincts—this is where we said you have to vote by mail—and we were staggered to find that March 2, we had an 11.5 percent rejection rate in that category—voila—the explanation of why we jumped up so high. And I have to tell you about our postal service with whom we work well. We do pay the return postage because I think that it’s a poll tax if I make you vote by mail and I make you pay that. Not all registrars agree with that. And so I have business reply mail. Oakland Post Office has a clerk that deals with return mail. It so happened that that clerk was not on duty Monday the 1st and Tuesday the 2nd, and we literally had 500 pieces of mail sit for that credit requirement. And once having discovered that, we went back to work with the post office. And as you can see, we brought that number down to 1 percent, not happy with 1 percent late, but nonetheless some improvement.

SENATOR BOWEN: Let me ask you a question on the mail precinct issue. It’s actually one of the biggest complaints that I get in my district office, is people who, and it’s typically been places like a senior housing facility where the seniors have always voted in the rec room of their facility, and then now they’re being required to vote by mail. And the education problem, I found, is enormous and the subject of a lot of complaints.

Do you have more late ballots in that situation than you do among the general public where people are not choosing—you know, there are a small subset of people who are—it’s about the same?

MR. WEIR: One percent versus a little under a percent, but that requires a lot of education. I mean you’ve got to really work with those folks.

And quickly, just going through military is the highest, although it’s declining, overseas is declining. But here’s the one I want you to see, permanent absentee voters, .62. Now these are the voters that will typically get their ballots in California 29, 28, or 27 days ahead of time. I am not a fan of Vote by Mail. But if you’re going to vote by mail, I think that you ought to sign up to be a permanent voter and get your ballot four weeks in California before the election and have time to get it back to us because I think the statistics show you and show  me that that frequent voter is going to get their ballot earlier and able to cast it earlier. I don’t want them to wait till the last minute because in California, due to no fault of your own, you can find that rejection rate in front of you.        

Contra Costa rejected 446 ballots out of 158,000 ballots returned in this last election for bad signatures, and we do not so inform the voter because the concern is that you’re telling the fraudulent forger to try again. Now under Election Code Section 3000, we must liberally construe that section in favor of the voter, and we will qualify that signature if there is any way to do it. If it is obviously, one, where the age of the voter might dictate that, we’ll count that ballot and send them a new registration request, and we try our darndest. But I will tell you that there are matches that just simply aren’t matches, and there are some that go through where you in fact have a tracer, tracing that signature, and it’s a perfect match and it’s going to pass through, and that’s not a perfect way to stop fraud.

I personally like for the voter to vote at the polls. I think you stand the greatest chance of having your vote counted if you vote at the polls. Having said that, with almost 40 percent of my voters voting by mail, I want to encourage that voter to sign up for permanent or to go to what we, as elections officials in California believe, ought to be sort of regional voting centers where we could accommodate perhaps more voters just before election day or after.

If I have the time, Madam Chair, I did conduct an all-mail ballot in one of our poorer areas where, by the way, statistically they do have a harder time returning their mail and having it successfully cast. At June 8, ’04, and if you’re interested, I’d like to give you some stats because they surprised me.

The west Contra Costa area, which includes Richmond, San Pablo, the waterfronts around our industry, are lower socioeconomic; they have lower turnouts; they tend not to vote by mail. And when they vote by mail, they tend to have higher rejection rates. And just very briefly, we indicated the turnout of what we call our Supervisorial District 1 versus the county, lower in 2000 and 2004, and the percent voting by mail, lower in 2000 and 2004. They attempted in that school district on September 16 to have a bond measure. The turnout was 23 percent, and it’s immaterial as to how the election went, but the measure failed.  They tried to get in March 2 at the primary; 52.4 percent of those voting voted on that matter. Anecdotally, it failed. At the June 8 special election, we had the highest turnout we’ve ever seen from there, 52.9. And anecdotally, the two measures that were on the ballot— and again, that’s not our business—were successful.

The rejection rate for late absolutely stunned me. It was six-tenths of a percent, half of what our average is.

SENATOR BOWEN: In the special election, you mean?

MR. WEIR: Yes.

SENATOR BOWEN: Don’t you think that can have to do with the nature and the intentions of voters of that particular special election?

MR. WEIR: And getting their ballot early.


MR. WEIR: Everybody got their ballot four weeks out. They didn’t have to request it.

SENATOR BOWEN: California voters were paying more attention than they often do to that particular election.

MR. WEIR: Right.


MR. WEIR: But two things happened at that election that John cautions us about that I was surprised about. Number one, we have an eight-fold increase in the rejection for what were obviously bad signatures. They weren’t even an attempt to sign that person’s name anywhere near what one would try to do if one were tracing or copying. And for some reason, one out of a thousand, or about 50, ballots were rejected, because the voters were signing the ballot. Somehow, somebody heard, sign the back, sign the front, and in California that disenfranchises.

So the caution to us to go slow and look at these things, I think, has some merit. Just in summary from my perspective, not a fan of vote by mail, it is another option available to our voters if they want it, they like it. If we’re going to be successful with it, I encourage that voter to participate in the permanent absentee voting program. It’s easier for me as a registrar to facilitate them, and the success rate of them getting that ballot in and counted, I think, is irrefutable.

SENATOR BOWEN: Mr. Lindback, what do you do when you have a signature that you believe to be fraudulent about contacting the voter?  How do you address the issue that Mr. Weir has brought up with regard to encouraging fraud?

MR. LINDBACK: Well, each county is required to contact the voter whether or not you think it’s fraudulent or whether or not you think it’s innocent, and have the voter come in. And they come into the office and you say, We’re having trouble matching the signature on your ballot and, you know, have them provide another sample for you without showing them the original one.

SENATOR BOWEN: Have you found—have found an incident—have you done a statistical, longitudinal analysis to determine whether you get repeat-problem signatures from the same voters?

MR. LINDBACK: You know what happens in reality?  The people that are trying to commit fraud don’t show up.

SENATOR BOWEN: Right. They don’t show up. But the question is, Do you then get in the next cycle someone again trying to commit fraud with regard to that…

MR. LINDBACK: Those situations are marked in, like, computer systems. If you have a situation—they’re not allowed under our provisions to, if you have a signature not matching the situation to move that voter to the inactive list, so then we’ll get another ballot. But you flag it in your computer system that you got a signature match problem the last time and pay special attention to those ballots that are coming in. It’s very important. It’s very important if you’re going to conduct successful mail elections, that you give the voter the opportunity to come in and deal with that signature-not-matching situation. Most of them are innocent situations.

SENATOR BOWEN: Yes. I’m told that a lot of it is spouse, a spouse signing.

MR. LINDBACK: Or parent.

SENATOR BOWEN: Or parent—okay—signing or perhaps a young person for an aging parent. But it’s someone in the household signing, and then you don’t know who actually voted the ballot. I presume that’s a problem. So you will call or contact that person and they come in?  What do you do in Contra Costa County if it’s clear that a spouse has signed, the same person in a household, has signed two—you can tell by the signature that they signed both?

MR. WEIR: It goes to the DA. It goes to the DA right away. And we do think, that if there is any kind of fraudulent activity in California, it happens in the household, and mainly it happens with parents signing what appears to be kids that are at Stanford or Cal or at a college. But those are the ones you’re going to catch. What you don’t catch is where Freddie and I have access to each other’s signatures and we live in the same house and we don’t—we’re working on it. (Laughter)  We’re working on it.

SENATOR BOWEN: It’s a hypothetical.

MR. WEIR: And where Freddie just simply copies my signature. We will never catch that, ever, ever, ever, because we are not document, forensic document examiners. And that effort will make it through.

SENATOR BOWEN: So what do you do about that?

MR. LINDBACK: Well, we have the same situation in that, if you’re an excellent, simulated forger, there’s people that forge, trying to actually simulate the signature or there’s people that just don’t worry about simulation and just sign someone else’s name thinking it will get through, if you’re an expert simulated forger, you can probably get away with it.

SENATOR BOWEN: Well, I guess the person who’s ballot is being voted that way has to be not paying attention—right?—or it doesn’t work.

MR. LINDBACK: It is also in Oregon a crime to let someone else sign your ballot, and so we have had a case, actually a person who is quite well known, a county commissioner in one county, who was prosecuted because he signed his wife’s ballot, and his wife is prosecuted because she let him.

SENATOR BOWEN: Interesting.

Other registrars?  Oh, Kim. You’re sitting backwards now. Yes. Do you want to talk to us about absentee ballots?  Okay.

MS. ATKINSON: I’d just like to say Sonoma County has the second highest percentage of permanent absentee voters in the State of California. Interestingly, we also have the second highest percentage turnout in the November 2004 election, and I do think that there is a direct tie between the two. And for years, I have staunchly advocated for voting at the polls, been right there alongside Steve Weir saying, I believe in voting at the polls; I believe it’s good for the community; it creates a sense of community, a sense of ownership of the process. And over the past couple of months, I’ve gone to the other side. And I will tell you…

MR. WEIR: The dark side.

MS. ATKINSON: The dark side. I’m sorry, Steve, but I’m ready to go entirely by mail. I do think it increases turnout. I think we get a better response from our voters. I know that the voters in Sonoma County want to vote by mail. We did surveys before permanent absentees were opened up to all voters by including a page in the sample ballot. Overwhelmingly, voters said that they would be more likely to vote if they were able to be a permanent absentee voter. And interestingly, the things that didn’t go over as well would be to have either weekend voting or two-day voting, neither of those, nor to have a holiday on election day. None of them felt that those things would persuade them to be more likely to vote.

In Sonoma County, we have historically returned a ballot to a voter if they failed to sign it entirely. So if we get a ballot back and there is no signature, we’ll mail it back to the voter with a little letter and a little special tag that says, Sign here, and they mail it back to us.

Prior to the November 2004 election, I had done, returned a ballot for a signature that didn’t match. And in leading up to November 2004, I know that the emotions were running very high. Everyone wanted to vote, and I wanted to attempt to allow each one of these voters to correct their signatures. And so I mailed back to the voter, along with a letter of explanation, the ballot with the signature that did not match because, let’s face it, if I kept it, it wasn’t going to count anyway. And so if it didn’t get back to me, there was going to be no worse consequence than it not matching. And I gave them a new envelope. I explained, that if someone else had signed for them, please place their new ballot and return it. If their signature has changed over a number of years, please fill out the new registration form and return it along with the ballot. I did not return a copy of either the affidavit of the voter that was on file or the signature that didn’t match because I didn’t want to give anyone who was forging this the opportunity to trace or copy. I also felt, that if the voter filled out a new registration form, you know, someone might have been able to copy their signature, that they would have all the other information that was required on the registration form, but it’s probably not as likely.

SENATOR BOWEN: Didn’t you have a problem with the deadline, though, in that situation?

MS. ATKINSON: You know, we did. As time got closer—and we always run into this, as time gets closer to the election—we stop mailing back and we start telephoning. My experience with mailing back the signatures that didn’t match was very interesting, and I want you to know I learned a few new words, most of them directed at me. (Laughter)  Voters were actually outraged that we returned these ballots to them until we took the time to explain to them that we were trying to ensure that it was their ballot and that we were actually protecting them and not…

SENATOR BOWEN: So you had to redraft your cover letter, explain that better?    MS. ATKINSON:(Laughter)  Yes. Well, I took a lot of—I mean we had those words in there, but I don’t think they got past the fact that their ballot had been returned. And emotions were running high; everyone wanted to vote.

SENATOR BOWEN: So the idea that their ballot wasn’t being counted, not so much that it was being returned.

MS. ATKINSON: Returned and not counted—how dare you; how dare you reject my ballot.

But for those voters who did—actually, I had a couple of them who did take the time to come in, and they had actually filled out the new registration form. They had the ballot there. I then showed them the signature that we had on file. I mean the light came on; the understanding was right there. And it was either something about, you know, well, gee, they hadn’t registered in 20 years or one woman remembered that when she had registered, she had a broken arm and her arm was in a cast, and then they were very understanding. But it was an interesting experience, and I think in the long run voters are very grateful when you go that extra effort to make sure that their votes do count. But we have had great success with our permanent absentee program.

We are now mailing—we began in 2002 actually because of the 15-day close provisions. I was very concerned, that with the 15-day close of registration, we were going to have that peak workload of registration at the same time that we would normally have the peak workload of absentee applications. And so I looked to see what I could do to shift our workload, and we began mailing out an application to every voter in the county who was not already a permanent absentee voter at 60 days before the election. And it has been tremendously successful.

The first election, we went from 15,000 to 45,000 permanent absentee voters. We are not over 100,000 permanent absentee voters in Sonoma County. And in the November general election, between mail ballots and permanent absentee, over 56 percent of our ballots were cast by mail.

SENATOR BOWEN: Mr. Lindback, have you learned any new vocabulary words?  (Laughter)

MR. LINDBACK: These stories are very similar to what we were hearing from right here in Oregon, that people like it.

One thing that I’m not sure—I’m just sort of curious about—do you all have drop sites where people can drop their ballots if you’re doing an all vote-by-mail election?  For example, are your folks required to return their ballot by mail?

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: _____________ talked about. They drop them off--_________--excuse me, at the drop site that day, so that if you don’t have polling place, you have a drop site ______.

MR. LINDBACK: Yes. Our trends in Oregon, it can vary from election to election. For example, in those special statewide elections where it was a tax measure and we mailed those ballots out, people pretty much knew how they were going to vote. There was only one thing on the ballot, and we got very large returns early. In a presidential election, you’ll see a pretty healthy return early in that two-week period in a sort of horseshoe effect where it drops, and then you get a big return at the end at the drop site. And the drop sites are really important.


SENATOR BOWEN: Can you get yourself on microphone?  It’s okay.

One of the concerns in Los Angeles, in the greater Los Angeles area, has been the requirement that the drop have to be within the county where the voter is registered. And I’m sure it’s an issue in the Bay Area too where people tend to commute from one county to another to go to work. They realize, Oh my goodness, I didn’t, you know, I’m not going to be home in time to vote or there’ll be a long line, or they didn’t mail their ballot early enough, and they listened to Kim Alexander say, You should take your absentee ballot to the polling place, and they show up in Riverside, but they’re registered in San Bernardino.

It’s not county-specific in Oregon, I take it?

MR. LINDBACK: Yes. We have situations like that, and Portland has three different counties in the Portland area, and it’s not unusual at all that people will drop off a Washington County ballot in the county. Every one of our counties has a different-colored strip at the top of their ballot-return envelopes so that’s easily identifiable if you have another county’s ballot in the pile.  

SENATOR BOWEN: Can you turn in your ballot in other counties?

MR. LINDBACK: Yes. And then those are those ballots that are counted after election day, but those are shipped. The county shipped them to the other county.

SENATOR BOWEN: Oh, it’s an interesting thing for us to think about, another layer of complexity for our registrars.

MR. WEIR: Contra Costa had 53 such ballots dropped off in November, and I think that each county kind of kept track of that, not huge; but obviously in a close race, it can make a difference.

SENATOR BOWEN: All right. Ms. Alexander.

  MS. ALEXANDER: Thank you. Really interesting hearing. I’m learning quite a bit. It’s really great to hear about what’s happening in Oregon because I know a lot of us had questions about that.

We put together some statistics of the California Voter Foundation that were distributed, this handy chart that shows the percentage of absentee voting versus precinct voting, county by county, in the November 2004 election, because we had heard from Janice Atkinson that Sonoma was 50 percent. We were wondering how many other counties were that high. And you can see from the chart that there are a number of counties that are approaching 50 percent absentee voting rates in California, so it’s definitely increasing. Overall, in the last 12 years, it’s doubled from 17 percent in 1992 to 30. Well, it’s 34 percent in the March primary, and it dropped down a little bit in November, 32.6 percent.

The California Voter Foundation last year undertook a statewide survey of 2,145 infrequent California voters and eligible but unregistered Californians to find out what the barriers are and incentives are to voter participation. And I have—I’ll pass these around—the first round of data that we released from the survey.  A couple of the findings in it that I wanted to share today, we asked in an open-ended survey question, we asked the infrequent voters why they weren’t voting. And the number one reason, which is probably no surprise, is that they said that they were too busy; 28 percent of the infrequent voters we surveyed said they were too busy to vote. And then we asked about specific barriers to voting and whether these barriers were keeping, what the barriers were that were keeping them from voting. Forty-three percent of infrequent voters agreed with the statement, I’m too busy with work and my family to vote. So nearly half of the infrequent voters said, we’re too busy with work and family. And then we asked them, what is it specifically that makes them too busy with their work or family. They said job hours were the biggest factors, say the infrequent voters as the barrier, as the time barrier for them.

The second biggest factor in the time-barrier category was that voting itself takes too much time. Now we didn’t get into the details in talking about preparing to vote and doing all your homework or just the active voting. But the fact is that we do have longer and longer ballots in California. And when you go to vote, especially in a high turnout election, there may be a line. We hope there’s a lot of people turning out. So you may need to wait, especially if you vote after work when a lot of people show up at the polls. So it may be that—and I’m sure the registrars can tell you—that people are spending a longer amount of time standing in the polling place. And if you have not studied your entire ballot and done your homework—which, you know, some people do, some people don’t—and you go into the polling place and you’re trying to read the little, short description on the ballot measures that’s printed there on the ballot, you might spent ten minutes voting, which is a long time for someone to take up a polling place on a busy election day, but certainly not enough time for people to feel confident about their ability to make informed decisions about everything on the ballot. So I think that the length and complexity of California’s ballots does lend itself to the idea that we should promote absentee voting for that purpose.

When we asked the infrequent voters about absentee voting, 50 percent of those people that we surveyed said that they had never voted absentee. So what we took away from this is, that of the people who vote infrequently—this is people who voted once in the last four elections or not at all in the last four elections that they’re registered—they’re saying they’re too busy; they’ve got long job hours; voting itself takes too much time; but 50 percent of them have never voted absentee. I think that they’re simply not aware of the absentee voting option, as aware as they might be, and that if we did some outreach to, specifically to those infrequent voters who are on the rolls but aren’t showing up and inform them of the absentee-voting option, that it would be beneficial and that we’d be able to overcome some of those barriers and hopefully increase voter turnout.

As I mentioned, job hours is one of the significant barriers. Californians have the right to take time off work, but employers may not be advertising that right because they may not want to see their employees leave their work space during the election day. So one thing that we might consider in California is having employers promote awareness of absentee and early-voting options within the workplace. I think we have to be very cautious about setting up polling centers in workplaces because of concerns about coercion. And I don’t think employers should be involved in handing out absentee ballot applications. But certainly having employers, a big company like Sun or some other company invite the county registrar or someone from the registrar’s office, to come in, talk about absentee voting, hand out application forms, that might be a way to give employers the ability to help out with the voting process and make sure that the workday is not a barrier but also do it in a way that would not be problematic for them.

So some of the benefits that we see of absentee voting—it’s been said several times—you can take your time. And I’m sure that the voters in Oregon, where they face long ballots like we do—can attest to those benefits. One of the advantages of permanent absentee voting is that people can register as absentee voters now any time of the year. It used to be that you could only register as an absentee voter within a given window of time. Now the California Voter Foundation or some other group, the League of Women Voters, wants to do something in between elections. Well, there’s something that we can do. We can encourage people to become permanent absentee voters, and we can do that year around. So that may also help increase participation.

Some of the disadvantages to absentee voting, one is that you forfeit the right to have your ballot checked to ensure that you haven’t over-voted. This is a right that is coming through the Help America Vote Act, which is called second-chance voting. And I’m not sure how Oregon is going to meet that HAVA provision. But the idea is, and Sacramento has done this, has implemented a paper-based, optical-scan voting system that has increasing scanners and a voter can, after marking their ballot, run that ballot through the scanner. And the poll worker, if the voter’s over-voted, will tell them. And I actually in the last election deliberately over-voted on a race that I wasn’t concerned about because I wanted to test out the system. And the poll workers, sure enough, alerted me and said, Hey, you over-voted.  And I said, Well, I was going to skip that contest anyway, so I didn’t correct my ballot. But if you are voting from home, you forfeit the right to enjoy that benefit of second-chance voting.

You also forfeit the right to have the systems from poll workers, and some voters may get into absentee voting and discover they have a question or a problem, and they have no one to turn to. I think voters who vote absentee are enjoying the benefit and convenience, but they need to be made aware of the fact that they’re forfeiting some rights in the process. And I think, as long as we’re upfront with voters about what they’re forfeiting for the sake or the convenience of absentee voting, voters are grown ups; they can make their own decisions about whether they’re okay forfeiting those rights or not.

SENATOR BOWEN: Well, I think the difficulty is that people won’t know that it’s significant that they’re forfeiting one of those rights until they’re in a situation where it matters.

MS. ALEXANDER: Right. Well, it could be on the permanent-absentee-ballot application to say, if you do this, if you become a permanent absentee voter, you’ll need to call us for assistance on the phone if you get stuck. You won’t be able to have your ballot scanned for accuracy and make sure you haven’t over voted, so be sure to check it very carefully. I mean there are ways that you can compensate for some of those losses, but I think that we need to be mindful of the need to do that.

Another thing that’s happening in California and in other states is that voter signatures are being digitized to facilitate absentee voting, and it’s a great convenience. It’s a great use of technology except that there are currently no laws in California that I’m aware of that prevents someone from making a Public Records Act request for those digitized signatures. And once a county creates voter data, that voter data is accessible to people who are entitled to access it in their four categories. Now there may be some provisions in California law, other provisions that I’m not aware of, but I know that in Colorado a voter who was concerned about digitized signatures made a Public Records Act request, and his county elections office, Boulder, turned over 73,000 digitized signatures because there was no law against it. So maybe I’m worrying about something that is unnecessary, but I want to raise this issue because it’s something that we may have a problem with down the road.

SENATOR BOWEN: What does Oregon law provide?  Do you have a specific exemption for…

MR. LINDBACK: Oregon law, the signature is public, of course, because you want the signature to be public instead of, for instance, somebody being able to come into the office and look at it to make sure that we’re all doing our jobs on things like signature matching. But it is against the law to copy that signature. You cannot take a copy of it with you out of the office.

SENATOR BOWEN: All right. It seems to me like we need to get on that right away.

MS. ALEXANDER: Another concern with permanent absentee voters, something that’s different, is that they are not proactively requesting their ballot for every election. They’re just doing it once. And unlike Oregon where you can have a statewide voter-outreach effort to make everybody aware of the fact that the ballots are in the mail, keep an eye out for your ballot, our county registrars are handling lots of different kinds of ballots, and they’re all on different schedules so that it’s not easy to do some sort of a statewide notification process to say, hey, everybody, the permanent absentee ballots are in the mail. That means, that because voters haven’t asked for that ballot, the ballots are going to be arriving somewhat unexpectedly. Maybe they’re keeping an eye out; maybe they’re not.

So this can create some problems for voters. It hasn’t happened in California, but I want to tell you a story about what’s happened in Texas. In our voter registration database, we identify which voters are registered as permanent absentee voters, and that is part of the voter data that campaigns can access, and this knowledge can be used to political campaigns’ advantage because, as the campaign knows which voters will be receiving a ballot by mail before the election, it can target those voters early and not bother to call them on election day. But it also can play a role in facilitating absentee ballot fraud. And in Texas, a voter’s absentee status is made public as well as the date when absentee ballots go out in the mail. These two pieces of information together enable campaigns to anticipate where and when an absentee ballot are received by voters. And in South Dallas, campaigns have long utilized “voter assistance” who show up on the absentee voters’ doorsteps the day their ballots arrive and assist those voters with casting their ballots. And Texas law also permits campaigns to return absentee ballots on voters’ behalf. So the combination of these laws and practices have enabled campaigns to engage in such dirty tricks as completing absentee ballots for residents in nursing homes and stealing ballots out of voters’ mailboxes.

There is a great July 2002 National Public Radio story that reported on this, that talked about ballot brokers sometimes obtaining stacks about absentee ballots, marking them, and then attempting to sell the marked ballots to political campaigns and threatening to destroy ballots that favor the candidate if the candidate didn’t buy the ballots. Fortunately, we haven’t seen these kinds of practices here in California. But we’re setting ourselves up with a system where we have to be very careful to make sure that the campaigns don’t get so much data on the voters, and particularly when absentee, those absentee ballots go out, that they can start engaging in these kinds of practices here.

It would be helpful to note from the county registrars whether the increase in permanent absentee voters had led to an increase in the number of absentee voters who say they lost their ballots or they didn’t arrive, whether the fact that the permanent absentee is no longer proactively requesting a ballot and therefore awaiting a ballot right before the election has resulted in some of those permanent absentee voters not being mindful of the fact that they need to keep an eye out for those ballots, and we need to think about what we can do to prevent those kinds of problems.

The last thing I want to mention is on voting equipment trends, and this has been brought up earlier, the fact that an increasing number of voters are voting absentees. What has kept several counties from purchasing electronic voting systems, and they’re wondering, understandably, why they should spend millions of dollars on voting machines for polling places when an increasing number of their voters prefer to vote by mail.

During the 2004 election cycle, the California Voter Foundation encouraged voters who live in counties using paperless electronic voting machines to obtain and vote paper absentee ballot, and we will continue to urge California voters to use absentee ballots for this purpose in electronic voting jurisdictions until the new voter-verified-paper record requirement is enacted in 2006.

Just in conclusion, I want to mention what I alluded to earlier, is that we, I really appreciate having this hearing, Senator Bowen, and I think we need to all think creatively about where we’re going with out voting systems in California. The fact is that a number of counties have already spent million and millions of dollars on electronic voting systems. More will buy those systems, the counties that have paper voting systems, like Sonoma, like Sacramento, will buy probably one electronic unit per polling place to allow for sight-impaired and disabled voters to cast a secret ballot without assistance as required under the Help America Vote Act.

But if we looked at moving more toward high-tech voting centers and more toward mail balloting, I think that it would reduce the burden on the county election officials tremendously, and it would help us streamline our election systems because right now, the voters and the election officials are dealing with six or seven different kinds and flavors of ballots. You know, they’ve got the early-voting ballot, the polling-place ballots, the absentee ballots, the late-absentee ballots, the provisional ballots, the military ballots. This becomes very complicated for everybody, and I’m envious of Oregon’s system to the extent that it’s streamlined, their process, and they have uniform procedures. In California, we have different procedures for how absentee ballots are handled. And as a voter educator, it’s difficult for us to say to all California voters, if you vote absentee, you’re going to need to follow this process.

The steps that were laid out for how Oregon is handling this were very clear. I really like in particular the signature on the back where they put the four statements that you need to attest to and then letting people know, hey, if you’re signing this, you’re signing this—it’s a felony if you sign these statements and you know them to be false. That’s the kind of security measures we might look at.

One anecdotal story I wanted to share is, I did a radio interview with a representative from Sacramento County on KXJZ prior to the election, and we had a phone call from someone asking about absentee voting. And she asked, How do I know that someone’s not looking at my ballot?  And the spokesman for the county—this is Al Fawcett ??—said, Oh, well, you put it in a secrecy envelope. And she said, I don’t know about any secrecy envelope. And that just reminded me that, you know, counties have different procedures for how they’re following. Some may use the secrecy envelopes. I don’t know if all of them do. But it would be great if we could standardize those procedures statewide so that the counties are all following the same set of procedures. And at the state level, organizations like the California Voter Foundation, the League of Women Voters, and the Secretary of State’s Office can give voters the same message for what procedures they need to follow so that everybody’s votes will be counted.

SENATOR BOWEN: Interesting. Okay.

Jill LaVine, comment, feedback.

MS. JILL La VINE: Thank you. Yes. Well, of course, Sacramento County, just to give you kind of a history, we have about 650,000 registered voters, so we’re not the biggest but we’re not the smallest. And the increase we have seen is that definitely our voters like absentee.

In November 2000, we had 19 percent of our voters voting absentee. The law changed and we were able—for November of 2004, it was 33 percent. And part of this is due to the permanent absentee law, and a lot of it, Kim was talking about. We were proactive, like Janice, sending out a postcard. From March of 2002, we had 9,000 permanent absentee voters. By the time we got to November with that postcard, we had 114,000. So 12 times as many people decided that they wanted to be part of it.

One of Kim’s comments was that, Do they know they’re getting their absentee ballots and when?  We always try to make a press release, you know, letting them know. Of course, not everybody listens to the press. But I will tell you that the perms, you know, you’re concerned about them losing their ballots…


MS. LaVINE: We call them the perms, permanent absentee voters.

SENATOR BOWEN: It’s like new vocabulary words, but it’s one I can put on my website.

         MS. LaVINE:We call them our permies. And our permanent absentee voters return their ballots; 84 percent of them return; whereas, if you take the entire election, our return rate was only 74 percent. So I’m sure some lost them; the dog ate them. We get some real creative, What happened to my ballot?   But usually, you know all our data shows us that the people that are permanent absentee are the ones that truly want them, are active. And even though they haven’t actively asked for it this time, they want to be on that role. And they do return them, 84 percent, so that was great.

A couple of the other comments, it is like running multiple elections when you have a really high, permanent absentee, or an absentee turnout, and a polling-place turnout. You’re really running two elections, and that makes it extremely difficult. All the different ballot types that Kim was talking about, it just adds to the mess.

And just to kind of give you an idea, as these permanent absentees and our absentees grow, the laws need to change, and I want to thank you for introducing a bill, I understand is coming up here.

SENATOR BOWEN: Three-eighty?

MS. LaVINE: Yes. Thank you.

Because, for this special March election right now, we have a polling place. It has 314 voters because of the ballot typing and the way we had to put it together. But in that 314 voters, 109 of them are perms. Had we been able to subtract that out ahead of time, we would not have had to order the ballots for them to be at the polling place and as a perm, and we could have made that a mail-ballot precinct because it would have fallen under the 250 voter threshold.

Quite often—I’m looking at some of our other polling places, 28 percent perms from the voters. We know they’re not going to the polls; we know that they’re going to be returning their ballots by mail; but we have to anticipate both locations. And so some of the laws are going to have to allow us, you know, as this increase happens, not to set up quite as many polling places. You know, we’re not serving the voters. We’re not disserving the voters any more because they’re not showing up there. They are going and…

SENATOR BOWEN: I think the goal is to avoid the situation in Ohio where, you know, a limited number of machines, and you’ve got long, long lines in some places. And to be able to better anticipate what’s actually going to happen in a given precinct and deploy equipment personnel and resources to the places where people—the neighborhoods where you know you have more people who vote in person. So we’ll continue to work on that. I will continue to be concerned about, with all-mail precincts, how people know and the kind of education that has to happen when people are used to voting in a polling place. And all of sudden, their precinct falls below the threshold and they’re not expecting to vote by mail; they didn’t ask to vote by mail; and all of a sudden, they don’t have a choice.

MS. LaVINE: We sent out a postcard 45 days before the election to those voters that had been designated a mail-ballot precinct. That’s usually when you get the calls and we get the calls of why. And we’ll be glad to explain it, and part of it is just, you know, the makeup of the election—who’s running, who’s not running, and the district lines.


MS. LaVINE: No explanation of why in that case I find it’s very powerful for voters who believe that they haven’t frequently—I know you’ve heard this. They believe they have a constitutional right to go to the polls. And they believe they’re being deprived of a right when they’re forced to vote by mail. I think that that’s sort of a change in psychology that would have to occur over time and with practice and in small increments, as you did in Oregon. We have a lot of all-mail-ballot precincts in Yolo County because we have vast tracks of agricultural area where, for one reason or another, precincts are too small or too remote to have a polling place. And one of the solutions we present to people is, you can drop your mail ballot off at a polling place on election day. And that gives them the little psychological pleasure of actually going to a polling place which they think is really important sometimes. But I think there are going to be an irreducible number of people who are not happy with it. And I’m very surprised any time any irreducible number falls below 5 percent.

So, Steve, all your unhappiness of your 2 percent is just—I’m a statistician and you’re a whiner. (Laughter)

SENATOR BOWEN: But I guess the question of, you know, the question of small precincts is, Why not change the way the precincts are?

MS. LaVINE: Because of districts. One of the things that I wanted to mention about California and the way that it’s governed is that historically, California is built not on counties but on districts. The original California governmental entities were districts so that we have, for instance, in Yolo County, a cemetery district that have maybe 90 voters in it, they’re a separate ballot type. I know, and they’re all alive. We don’t have the dead ones. (Laughter)  They’re a separate ballot type. They can’t, in some elections, they can’t be combined with anybody else. So that’s an all-mail-ballot precinct out in the wilds of Knights Landing, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Well, there is. We can put a polling place out there, but it would be pretty inefficient to do so.

With respect to notifying voters to look for their mailed ballot, I just wanted to mention that we put a notice in our sample ballot which voters get first. We put a big, yellow splash on the front of the sample ballot for an all-mail ballot precinct. And it says you vote in an all-mail ballot precinct to keep an eye open for your ballot.

SENATOR BOWEN: What are you going to do about the—have a requirement with those precincts?  What are you going to do with the secrecy?  Are you going to send people out to assist with reportable equipment to assist disabled voters?

MS. LaVINE: In all honesty, we haven’t given that any consideration. And clearly, we’re going to have to do that. And I presume that that will be the solution we approach. Or, my preferred solution would be a vote-by-phone solution for folks who need to do that. But, Steve, you’re shaking your head. What are you thinking?

MR. WEIR: The folks that are going to be a mail-only ballot are going to either come into our office and vote on accessible unit or vote by mail.

MS. LaVINE: Really?  See, I’m thinking that the incidents is going to be so low that we can probably equip the League of Women Voters in Yolo County. Well, that’s what they do. They’re fabulous. We’ll get a couple of units to League members, and they’ll go out and take care of these people, the same way they go out for us now and read the ballot to people who are blind and don’t want to use the tape.

SENATOR BOWEN: Mr. Mott-Smith.

MR. MOTT-SMITH: The accessibility requirements only apply to polling-place voting. It doesn’t apply to absentee voting…

MS. LaVINE: Well, we’ll do it anyway because we do it now, and that’s the beauty of being a rural county. We can do this stuff.

SENATOR BOWEN: Mr. Lindback.

MR. LINDBACK: Just a couple of thoughts based on numerous things around the table here. I think Kim asked the question about what will we do about the HAVA requirement in regards to people being able to check their ballot. HAVA has a section that’s specifically for all vote-by-mail jurisdictions in which you are required if you, if you don’t have polling-place equipment, to do an education campaign for the voters on how to accurately mark their ballot, how to check it for any errors, and make sure that to the greatest extent they can, they don’t have any mistakes.

MS. ALEXANDER: Can I just add to that?  Actually, you reminded me, LA County has a system they’re using, called InkaVote that does not allow, doesn’t have a precinct scanner, and they’ve had the same policy issue, and they’re planning to continue to use it, and I remember their registrar, Connie McCormick, said that they did an education campaign, and they brought their residual vote rate down from 8 percent in March to 2 percent through an education campaign. So they didn’t have second-chance voting, but they did what you suggested and it seemed to work pretty well.

SENATOR BOWEN: Yes. They did have an education campaign. I took note of it as a Los Angeles County voter.

MR. LINDBACK: Our residual vote numbers from November were very good, and frankly the biggest reason why they were good is that we cut off punch cards. The optical-scan numbers and residual vote were way lower. Plus, I think our pre-inspection process that we have in Oregon, I think, is pretty unique. It helps.

The other thing is, I think it’s very important. I think both California and Oregon can learn a lot from the Washington elections officials, and I’m going to try and arrange a meeting with them. And I’ve been convinced by listening around the table that we ought to include California as well. After their litigation settles, I want to meet with their elections officials and figure out what sort of issues came up in the course of their litigation because I know of one, and it sounds like, based on what I’ve heard here, it could be an issue here as well, and that is, the issue of signature-verification standards.

If you do not have a matching signature, what is the required effort by each individual county to contact that person and try to clear up that problem?  This became a big issue in Washington where they had only 129 votes in their big governor’s race. And it was very clear, that if you were a voter in a rural county in Washington, the chance that you would get contacted and that you had time to come in and clear up that problem and that your vote would get counted was better than if you were in an urban county where they were dealing with more voters and didn’t have as much time to contact all those people.

Now we’ve tried to address that in Oregon through our Vote by Mail manual, but I think we do have discrepancies in Oregon, and that is a project we are working on this year to clear up those discrepancies. But I think there’s other issues lurking beneath the surface in Washington that they’ll be able to talk about once the dust in their litigation settles. I think it would be very worth it to have a conference of sorts, even if it’s just for one day, to talk about lessons learned with the Washington County auditors.

MR. WEIR: A meeting of the Left Coast elections officials?  I think that would be a good idea.

MS. LaVINE: That’s a great idea.

SENATOR BOWEN: Well, you know, if we go from border to border, we can go from bubbles to signature requirements and have an interesting discussion about the problems that come up that are not anticipated.

Ms. Atkinson, and then we’re going to wrap very soon here.

MS. ATKINSON: I just wanted to mention, in regard to mail-ballot precincts—and Sonoma County has a lot of mail-ballot precincts, we have 44 school districts in our county and 50 special districts that all go at the general election, go to the election then, and our poor ?? county is just chopped up between legislative districts and these local districts. And I wanted to say, as the oldest-living election official in the state (laughter), it didn’t used to be this way. And what changed was consolidation and the legislation that allowed local districts and school districts to consolidate their elections with the statewide elections. They used to be held on separate dates, and we did not have all these little mail-ballot elections, our little mail-ballot precincts, to deal with. And we also send a postcard. We send a postcard actually now both to our mail-ballot voters and our perm AV voters. Before we mail the ballot out, saying, Watch in your mail; this is coming, just so that they’re aware. But, you know, I’ve tried for many years to advocate, bifurcating the local elections from the state elections for simplicity’s sake and also for the convenience of voters who, you know, are very offended.

SENATOR BOWEN: Although, they then have to go to the polls an extra time, so I don’t know if that’s convenient or not. There’s always a discussion at the municipal and city level about consolidation because, you know, another person comes.


MR. WEIR: Madam Chair, a quick wrap. Our experience on the return rate of absentee ballots is somewhat different than Sacramento. If you sent me a card or a letter saying you wanted to vote by mail, 91 percent of those came back. If were a mail-only precinct where I made you vote by mail, 75 percent came back. And the permanent ABs was 85 percent. So the ones that sent me that card had the highest proclivity to send it back. The perm ABs came in second. And if I made you vote by mail, you came in third in terms of your return rate.

SENATOR BOWEN: Right. And I think again, that’s my concern about those mandatory mail precincts because very often the voters are not expecting to vote by mail. They’re not looking for that in the mail. Even if they get a card, I mean you really have to do some serious voter education. When this happened, one of the senior housing complexes in Marina del Rey, it was difficult.   And I think the County of Los Angeles ended up opening a polling place there because the degree of confusion among the seniors who are residents there, who had voted in their rec room, was just, it was very problematic. It turned out to be easier to open the polling place than to deal with the confusion surrounding the required all-mail-vote, particularly when it was a particular parcel. I mean it must have been some strange chop-up with the districts. But on all four sides, there were people going to the polls in the normal manner. So it was not a rural situation like you have at Knights Landing. It was in a particular area that’s fairly dense in population and where there were voters surrounding it.

Public comment at this point. If there’s anyone who has anything to add, we’ll hear from you know. And seeing none, I’d like to thank everyone who came. Mr. Lindback, coming down from Oregon, thank you very much.

We are going to have—we’ve got a lot of work going on in the area of voting systems and some interesting ideas came out. I learned a lot today, and I look forward to working with you all to try to create for California, for the future, a system that best reflects how voters actually want to vote and what gives us confidence in our system.

Thank you. The hearing is adjourned.

Committee Address