Capitol Alert

Measure phasing out neighborhood polling places goes to Jerry Brown

An El Dorado County voter in 2008 drops off her mail ballot. State senators gave final approval Monday to legislation that would phase in neighborhood vote centers and other changes as a way to increase voter participation.
An El Dorado County voter in 2008 drops off her mail ballot. State senators gave final approval Monday to legislation that would phase in neighborhood vote centers and other changes as a way to increase voter participation. lsterling@sacbee.com

California is on the verge of sweeping changes to its election system intended to boost plummeting voter turnout.

The state Senate on Monday sent a measure to Gov. Jerry Brown that would begin shifting California away from its network of neighborhood polling places to primarily mail ballots.

Based on a model used in Colorado, Senate Bill 450 would authorize counties beginning in 2018 to conduct elections where every voter is mailed a ballot and drop-off locations are available up to four weeks ahead of time in lieu of polling places. Temporary “vote centers” would also be open starting 10 days before the election to register voters and accept ballots.

“The idea, members, is that limiting voters to a single location on a single day within a single period of time simply no longer makes sense,” state Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, the measure’s author, said. “Many, many people who fully intended to vote don’t end up voting because of convenience.”

SB 450 is among a handful of new election laws pursued by legislators after historic low voter turnout in 2014. Last year, they approved a bill to authorize automatic voter registration through the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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