253 voter suppression bills are not just happening in southern or midwestern states. California actually has two instances of “Bills Restricting Voting Access,“ according to the Brennan Center’s State Voting Bills Tracker. The GOP legislators behind them may just be suppression-signaling to their base, but a lot of mischief can happen when dull-titled legislation pass by without notice. (Note: If you don’t live in CA, check to see if your own state has bills on their suppression list.)
Action #1: First and everyday – Call your legislators to pass H.R.1/S.1!
The answer to these unAmerican voting suppression bills, along with the types of corruption in executive, legislative and judicial offices we saw under the Trump administration, is addressed in H.R.1/S.1.
SAYING AGAIN – WE ARE NOT THE ONLY ONES CALLING LEGISLATORS! From another Indivisible group member: “Just called Senator Padilla’s office at 202-224-3553. I got a staffer, who told me the office is getting lots of CON HR1 calls from the “Fox News brigade” (her words) after Fox personalities asked viewers to contact their MoCs to oppose especially HR1”.
Call/email your senators with scripts from here to get it done.
Action #2: Email your CA state legislators and tell them to vote “NO” on these bills.
Minimal script for email: I’m writing because I was shocked to see that the Brennan Center‘s State Voting Bills Tracker has identified two CA Senate bills that qualify under their category of “Bills Restricting Voting Access” – SB511 and SB597 (described below) and I would like Sen./Assemblymember [___] to vote against them.
- SB511 – Voter file maintenance: information from potential jurors – The Brennan Center has classified this as purge bill, which generally target minorities and the poor for removal from the voting rolls. This bill would require jury questionnaires to be sent to the elections office every 6 months to be examined for potential voter registration cancellation, an unnecessary taxpayer cost while duplicating resources the elections office already has, to solve no clearly stated issue. We understand the bill’s author may be turning this into a 2-yr. bill.
- SB-597 Elections: vote by mail ballots. – This bill would force voters to add additional ID qualifiers to their mail-in ballots, such as partial driver’s license, state identification, or social security numbers, to have their ballots counted. Adding more hurdles will lead to more tossed ballots and disenfranchised voters and there’s no evidence that adding these readily hacked identifiers to signature verification will make voting “safer.”
Both these bills imply that they provide extra voting “security” with no proof that they would accomplish anything other than to suppress voters and waste of taxpayer funds. Legislators should be required to first demonstrate a provable need, incorporating statistics and expert non-partisan analysis, for any voting bill that does not clearly emphasize making casting ballots more accessible to voters, or making the results more transparent to the public.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
- State Senator Monique Limón (SD-19): SAC (916) 651-4019, SB (805) 965-0862, OX (805)988-1940 email
- State Assemblymember Steve Bennett (CA-37): SAC (916) 319-2037, SB (805) 564-1649, VTA (805) 641-3700 email
- Not your people?: findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov.
- SB 597 referred to Coms. on E. & C.A. and JUD If you have senators on these committee, please email them!
Deeper Dive into the Muck...
SB-511 Voter file maintenance: information from potential jurors.
Despite it’s desert-dry title, SB-511 is designated by the Brennan Center as a purge bill. Six GOP state senators (Senator Pat Bates (SD-36), coauthors Sens. Grove (SD-16), Melendez (SD-28), Nielsen (SD-4), Ochoa Bogh (SD-23), Wilk (SD21)) were excited enough to sign on, perhaps inspired by the lawsuit by Judicial Watch against LA County for not thoroughly purging their rolls of inactive voters per National Voting Rights Act standards. Although we understand it’s being converted to a 2-year bill, we’re going to keep an eye on it, as purge bills inordinately effect poor and minority voters.
Here’s the full text and here’s a concerning excerpt:
SB 511: “Existing law requires the county elections official to cancel the registration of a voter for causes that include, among others, legally established mental incompetency. Under the Trial Jury Selection and Management Act, all persons are eligible and qualified to be prospective trial jurors, unless specified circumstances exist, that include, among others, the person is the subject of conservatorship. The act authorizes the jury commissioner to require a person to complete a questionnaire related to juror identification, qualification, and ability to serve as a prospective juror.
This bill would require the jury commissioner, every 6 months, to share with the county elections official for the same county the information that a potential juror provides about their qualification to be a juror and would further require a county elections official to use that information to cancel the registration of a person who is ineligible to vote.“
SB-511 seems deliberately confusing. It directs our focus towards people under conservatorship and mental incompetency, which are legally two very different issues and involves a very small group of people, while forcing all jurors to fill out a questionnaire which would be shared with the elections office for use in cancelling voter registration. There are separate lists of disqualifications for voting and jury service with some issues shared by both, like not being a citizen. Others, like simply being in a conservatorship, excuses one from jury duty with no further explanation required, but it in no way entitles a county elections official to summarily cancel that voter’s registration. (Per 2016’s SB589, a person is presumed competent to vote regardless of conservatorship status unless specifically disqualified as incompetent.) (Election code) (Jury Code)(Update. May be cancelled or converted to 2-year bill.)
Elections officials may cancel a registration for mental incompetency, felony imprisonment, death, ineligibility to vote (age and citizenship) and registration in a different state. Those in the “death” and “imprisoned felon” categories will certainly not be filling out questionaires in the juror waiting room but elections offices will still be informed of their status from sources such as the local registrar of births and deaths, death statistics from the State Department of Health Services and the court system. The courts also share records of those deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial or vote and the Department of Motor Vehicles, under the National Voting Rights Act, (Motor Voter Law) supplies up-to-date addresses, age, identification verification, citizenship status and other pertinent information. Same-day registration cleans up voter roll information even further, by allowing voters to conveniently update addresses. These voters are estimated to be 25% of Election Day registrations.
So what is SB-511 true purpose, with all it paperwork and expense to the taxpayers? Since current law already covers the overlap between conservatorship and mental incompetence, those six GOP state senators must either imagine that our voter rolls are filled with non-citizens or out-of-state voters, or they’re just suppression-signalling to their base. Either way, it’s on them to prove, with non-partisan voting experts, that there was widespread fraud or other issues that this bill would specifically resolve, and that they aren’t wasting taxpayer money to score points with their base.
SB-597 Elections: vote by mail ballots.
SB-511 (above) appears to concentrate on getting voters tossed. SB-597 appears to toss the ballots themselves. Introduced by Senator Grove (SD-16), one of the co-authors of SB511 above, this is another bill with a unnecessary solution looking for a problem. Despite the joint statement from CISA stating that “The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history,” despite the Brennan Center stating that it’s more likely for an American to be struck by lightning than to commit mail voting fraud, despite CA already having a system in place to detect duplicate votes, there’s not enough security if the GOP loses races!
“Existing law requires that the identification envelope for returning a vote by mail ballot contain specified information, including the signature of the voter, the residence of the voter as shown on the affidavit of registration, and the date of signing. This bill would additionally require that the identification envelope include a verification panel, concealed during mailing, setting forth the last 4 digits of the voter’s California driver’s license or identification card number or, if unavailable, the last 4 digits of the voter’s social security number. The bill would require the elections official to verify the accuracy of that information before counting the vote.”
The requirements to return a mail-in ballot in CA are currently pretty simple. Write your name and address on the envelope and sign – all on the outside of the envelope. Even with this low bar, 14,666 ballots out of 15.4 million mail-in ballots at the last election were rejected because they had no signature and 49,816 were not accepted because of nonmatching signatures. Luckily, voters who tracked their ballots could provide updated signatures to have their ballots ultimately counted.
So far, we don’t see a problem that needs to be fixed. But a requirement to add more voter identification, such as driver’s license or CA ID numbers as a condition for ballot acceptance, is a proven problem. These kinds of bills are actually hurdles that disproportionately target low-income, racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Such voters more frequently have difficulty obtaining ID, because they cannot afford or cannot obtain the underlying documents that are a prerequisite to obtaining government-issued photo ID card. Adding unnecessary steps to finalizing a ballot will create more opportunities for a voter to miss requirements, or be unable or uncomfortable sharing the requested identifying information. Even those who have the necessary ID cards can miss or forget the instructions to add the information before they seal up their ballot and mail it.
What about Social Security numbers? Everyone has those, right? Yes, mostly. But after years of being taught to protect their SS numbers, people are measureably unwilling to use them for voter ID. Many numbers are already compromised due to security breaches, and even with just the last four digits, the rest can actually be guessed based on known algorithms. People can unknowingly have more than one, or are inadvertently sharing a number with an identity thief. San Diego company ID Analytics analyzed 290 million Social Security numbers, and found that 40 million of them have been attached to more than one name. The odds that someone else has used a particular Social Security number was determined to be one in 7. And if the bill’s author thought that a SS# guarantees that only citizens can vote, they have forgotten that non-citizens can also have Social Security numbers as well.
Seriously? They want a privacy sleeve?:
“A security flap or sleeve to conceal the voter’s signature and identifying information during mailing.”
Doesn’t everyone remember the PA “Naked Ballot” kerfuffle? The GOP tried to reject 100,000 sleeveless ballots by claiming that the extra piece of paper was somehow crucial to preventing voter fraud, even though they couldn’t produce evidence of such while litigating the case, according to The Guardian. Official Lisa Deeley explained that secrecy envelopes are a “hold over” from when the state counted absentee ballots at public polling places. Now that ballots are counted on machines, they slow down the process, and create another barrier to the ballot box.
The bill’s author should be required to prove the extent of the problem they are trying to solve with this bill with a non-partisan expert analysis of that issue’s effect on the 2020 election, along with estimates of how the changes would effect “fraud” reduction for future elections and the potential for voter suppression. We believe that requiring nonsense like extra sleeves and flaps and indentification information that can be bought and sold online will disenfranchise real voters while creating potential for more voter fraud. Signature matching and the ability to personally “cure” issues with affected voters, along with vote-by-mail security measures, helped CA to deal with over 15 million mail-in ballots with minimal issues. And we ask again, why should we, the taxpayers, fund legislation to provide certain politicians with unproven talking points?
Brennan Center Tracker results for 2021
Brennan Center‘s State Voting Bills Tracker 2021.