Bill guaranteeing polling stations becomes law

'There Oughta Be a Law' contest winner was co-proposed by Palo Alto resident

A bill that guarantees California voters have a place in which to vote on Election Day has been signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Proposed by Palo Alto resident Lynn Silton and presented by State Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), SB 1342 addresses the recent trend of mail-in voting, which has affected the availability of polling stations.

Under current law, people who wish to vote in person must go to a specific polling location designated by their precinct. Precincts cover about 1,000 registered voters, many of whom are permanent mail-in voters and thus do not use the polling areas.

This causes scenarios in which "some voters walk into polling places that are overstaffed and virtually empty, while other voters are waiting in long lines at polling places that have the maximum number of Election Day voters," Simitian said in a statement. "This makes no sense."

In addition, if the number of in-person voters drops below 250 in a precinct, the county eliminates the local polling place completely, forcing voters to either cast their ballot by mail or find a polling station in another precinct.

The new law, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2011, allows election officials to subtract permanent mail-in voters from the precinct's 1,000-voter cap. As a result, officials can redraw precincts to accurately reflect the number of in-person voters and provide Election Day polling stations for everyone.

The idea was first developed by Redwood City resident Dennis McBride, who won Simitian's annual "There Oughta Be a Law" contest in 2007. Though Simitian later turned McBride's idea into a proposal that passed through the state legislature, the bill was vetoed by Schwarzenegger.

This year, Silton co-proposed the bill with McBride for the "There Oughta Be a Law" contest and was one of three winners.

"My concern was that I wasn't getting a choice," Silton said in a March 29 Palo Alto Weekly article. "I don't doubt the honesty of our current registrar, but whenever possible, citizens should be involved in the process."

She traveled to Sacramento twice to testify in favor of the bill.

"I'm hoping that the area where I live will have a polling place again," Silton said.

"I appreciate that the governor was willing to give this idea a fresh look."

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Like this comment
Posted by common sense
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 16, 2010 at 6:30 pm

This change sounds like common sense, but I guess they still need to formalize it in the law books.

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 16, 2010 at 7:01 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Now let's require photo ID, thumbprint on registration book and mandatory prosecution of fraudulent voting.

Like this comment
Posted by L3+
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 16, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Mandatory prosecution??? I've never heard of that for any crime.
Explain how that would work.

Like this comment
Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2010 at 1:00 am

The common practice of having the polling places in churches is blatant violation of the separation of state and church in the first amendment.

Like this comment
Posted by ODB
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2010 at 9:48 am

What??? The church isn't making you vote a certain way or casting your ballot for you -- there are laws against that. What a ridiculous notion!

Like this comment
Posted by ODB
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2010 at 9:54 am

Also, the First Amendment says nothing about separation of church and state, nor does any other Amendment.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2010 at 10:40 am

Rather a church with a parking lot than a school with children playing and no room to park, or even someone's trashy garage with minimal street parking. I think a church is an ideal location since they are usually not as busy on Tuesdays as they are at other times.

Like this comment
Posted by Mail in Ballots Only
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 17, 2010 at 1:55 pm

What a waste of money. Our State has a $20 Billion deficit and you want to pay for personnel to stay all day at empty polling sites.

Our ballots are longer than ever, the last one took me over an hour to fill out. Having a mail in ballot and the time to fill it out in my own home was a huge benefit.

Times are changing, we're in the 21st Century now; lets move on to all mail in ballots and save both Cities and the State money.

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Mandatory prosecution means that prosecutors are required to bring all voter fraud cases to trial. When Roberta Sanchez beat B-1 Bob by around 300 votes, more than 300 non-citizens admitted they voted, and yet none were charged or tried.

Like this comment
Posted by Quick note
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 17, 2010 at 8:25 pm

I hate mail in does one verify they are legitimate?


Like this comment
Posted by Wallis Makes False Statements on a routine basis
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 18, 2010 at 3:55 pm

As usual Walter E Wallis makes a demonstrably false statement. Back in 1998 -- when Sanchez beat Robert K. Dornan in an election, she won by 900 votes, more than the number of votes which were alleged to have been cast by noncitizens. See Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Geoff
a resident of Los Altos
on Jul 18, 2010 at 9:40 pm

In my view your headline "Bill guaranteeing polling stations becomes law" is misleading. Would it not be more informative/accurate to state "Bill alignes precincts to number of in-person voters"?

Like this comment
Posted by In defense of Wallis
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 19, 2010 at 8:27 am

Dear Wallis makes blah blah

I think you are missing the forest for the trees, aren't you?

By your own link, "Task force Chairman Vernon J. Ehlers, R-Mich., said investigators had found concrete evidence of 748 illegal votes by non-citizens,..."? Sanchez "won" by 900 votes...748 of them were "concrete evidence" of fraudulent. That is NOT 2, or even 10, that is 5/6th of the "winning" votes, or about 85%, were PROVEN fraudlent..this is unacceptable. How many more were fraudulent but not caught? If it is anything like all else in law, the number of guilty CAUGHT is much less than those who are actually guilty.

However, the Democrats know that the more they loosen ID legality issues, the more they get fraudulent votes, the more power they accrue.

We have to become more stringent in our voter ID laws.

So, "as usual", ( in reference to your snide "as usual" comment to the wise Mr Wallis), you miss the point of the consequences. Or perhaps you obfuscate on purpose, being on the side of fraudulent votes?

Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of another community
on Jul 19, 2010 at 12:01 pm

I think this is a great idea and I am glade to see it is a law now. My Wife and I live in Belmont and have one of these vote by mail only precincts. It felt like we where being cut out of the electoral process. For one I enjoy going to a polling place to cast my ballot it feels like we are doing our civic duty. As far as expense for polling workers, correct me if I am wrong (and I may be) but don't people volunteer to be poll workers?

Like this comment
Posted by cieboy
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 19, 2010 at 10:22 pm

Agree with "mail in ballots only". I know it is quaint to feel you are doing your civic duty and its a wonderful thing to do for the retired but most people who commute are too busy and also I feel like I am doing my civic duty just fine by mailing in my ballot from the comfort of my home. They even give you one of those "I voted" stickers if you are still unhappy....

Like this comment
Posted by virginia
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jul 19, 2010 at 11:47 pm

to Bob from Belmont: we poll workers do get paid - not a lot, but we do work from before the polls open at 7 am until after they close at 8 pm, so we earn what we get. Also, I agree, I like to go to a polling place. I fill my Mail-In ballot out at home, but it's nice to see some neighbors when I go deliver it (and that way I'm not relying on the Post Office to deliver it on time).

Like this comment
Posted by Ali Hassan
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jul 20, 2010 at 8:22 am

First Amendment:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . ."

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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