A bill to permit a voter to change their party preference or update their residence address without reregistering to vote has been passed in the California Legislature, but has not been signed into law.
California’s Primary Election is right around the corner on March 3.
California Globe interviewed G.V. Scott, a longtime election worker, about these last minute pending legislative changes to California election law.
Scott has grave concerns about California’s upcoming March 3 Primary Election, for many reasons, not the least of which is Senate Bill 207, which has been passed by both houses of the Legislature.
“It’s called the ‘Voter’s Choice Act‘ even though California voters didn’t vote for it,” Scott explained. “With less than two weeks until Santa Clara County vote centers open on February 21st, Democrats are anticipating Governor Newsom’s signature on SB207 turning it into law.”
According to the bill’s author, State Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger), SB207 “will streamline the polling place process for last minute changes to residential address and party preference, provided certain safeguarding conditions are met.” Hurtado also claims, “We don’t want to make it harder to vote.” But that is exactly what the bill may do says Scott – “make it harder to vote for the Registrar of Voters, election workers, and all voters, if implemented prior to the March 3rd Primary.”
Santa Clara County is one of fifteen counties which will be implementing a new Voter’s Choice election for the March 3rd Primary with all electronic vote centers.
Scott said January 31, the county started training election workers on SB 207, even though the bill has not been signed into law. Scott said she sent letters to the Secretary of State and the county, questioning why they were training on a bill not yet signed into law.
“Classes began training January 6, 2020,” she said. “Over 700 election workers have already been trained and assigned to work in the 115 vote centers in the county. If Governor Newsom signs SB207, who will pay to retrain the hundreds of election workers? Will they be retrained? How will the changes affect the voting process at vote centers?”
Scott said so many of the election workers being trained are young people who don’t ask questions. “2020 election workers must now learn to correctly enter voter information into a live database to register and change voter information,” she said. “They will also learn to print out the correct ballot for a voter’s precinct or activate a card for an electronic touch screen vote machine called a ballot marking device.”
“Training for election workers has increased from the previous 4-hour training to three 8-hour days for Election Aides, or seven 8-hour days for Election Leads. Election Workers are trained to assemble/disassemble and operate various pieces of electronic equipment (e.g. E-Poll pads, laptop computers, printers, ballot marking device, tabulator) and how to identify the correct form or envelope (e.g. CVR (conditional voter registration, PV (Provisional Voter), VARF (Voter Action Request Form), necessary to process voter updates or changes.”
She said in mid-January election workers were advised of pending legislation that “could” change the process for voters wanting to change their residential address or political party.
“Current law in Santa Clara Co. requires voters to complete a conditional voter registration envelope with the changes and sign the affidavit on the envelope,” Scott said. “It is then placed into a pink bag at the vote center and sent to the Registrar of Voters Office for verification. Once approved, the vote is cast.”
But Scott warns that SB207 would eliminate the verification process, allowing a voter to complete and sign a Voter Action Request Form, which trainers were told has yet to be updated or approved for training use, instead of the conditional voter registration, and then cast a non-provisional ballot directly into the vote tabulator. “In other words, vote now, check for errors later, well maybe,” she added.
“Since both methods require voters to fill out the changes and sign an affidavit, Senator Hurtado’s statement that SB207 ‘will streamline the polling place process’ is false,” Scott said. “Voters still have to fill out a form or envelope with the changes and sign. It takes the same amount of time for either. It is actually faster to deposit a conditional voter registration, envelope into a bag than to insert multiple ballot pages through a vote tabulator.”
“As for Hurtado’s statement ‘providing certain safeguarding conditions are met,’ it’s not clear what the safeguarding conditions are,” Scott said. “Removing the verification process may make processing votes easier for the Registrar of Voters and election workers, but it is less accurate and fails to improve the voting time for voters at the polls.”
Vote by mail ballots were mailed out to all registered voters on February 3rd and early voting at the Registrar of Voters has already begun. “So the questions now are; will Governor Newsom sign SB207 into law prior to March 3rd primary and if so, how will it change the results of election that has already begun?”
The county Registrar of Voters training indicates that “everything is subject to change” according to Scott. “But they haven’t finalized anything.”
G.V. Scott has worked numerous elections in Los Angeles County and also Santa Clara County spanning more than 30 years, has been a poll watcher for the Election Integrity Project, and a temporary worker for the Santa Clara Registrar of Voters.