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Legislation aims to modernize California elections, increase voter participation

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Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced landmark legislation Wednesday aimed at modernizing California elections to provide greater flexibility and convenience for voters.

SB 450, jointly authored by Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) and Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), will allow California counties to implement a new elections model that includes mailing every voter a ballot, expanding early voting, and enabling voters to cast a ballot at any vote center within their county.

“California ranked 43rd in voter turnout nationally for the 2014 General Election. This problem cannot be ignored,” Padilla said. “Civic participation is the foundation of our democracy. SB 450 would provide citizens more option for when, where and how they vote. Providing more options will help more citizens vote, despite our often busy lives.”

Under the new election model that would be created by SB 450, voters would have the freedom to cast a ballot at any vote center in their county instead of being tied to a single polling location. Voters could mail in their ballot or drop it off at a vote center or a secure 24-hour ballot drop-off box. SB 450 would require vote centers to be open a minimum of eight hours per day for 10 days before Election Day.

“We must fight to improve voter turnout in California,” Sen. Allen said. “SB 450 creates a common-sense approach to making elections more voter-friendly. Early voting, vote centers, and the expansion of secure ballot drop-off boxes will provide greater flexibility for busy voters. Similar reforms in other states, most notably Colorado, are significantly increasing voter turnout while simultaneously reducing the cost of elections.”

Since implementing the vote center model, Colorado has been a national leader in voter turnout, according to Padilla. For the November 2014 general election, voter turnout of eligible citizens in Colorado was 56.9 percent, compared to only 30.9 percent in California. From 2006 to 2010 voter turnout in Colorado was an average of 7 percentage points higher than in California. Since implementation of the vote center model began, voter turnout in Colorado has been an average of 20.7 percentage points higher than in California.

“In elections in California, government fundamentally thinks only about itself,” Sen. Hertzberg said. “This measure flips the situation on its head so that the convenience of voting is the top priority in our elections. As counties adopt this measure, government will have opportunity to think differently, to think about the voter.”

Source: Secretary of State’s office

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Legislation aims to modernize California elections, increase voter participation