Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 2218, authored by Assembly member Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), which will allow California voters to track their vote by mail ballots by 2020.
“If you can track your online purchase of toilet paper from the time it is shipped to the time it is delivered, you ought to be able to track something in the mail as important as your ballot,” said Assembly member Berman. “At a time when both participation and confidence in our elections are low, we ought to be using technology that can improve voters’ satisfaction with the voting process. I am proud to have authored AB 2218, which will provide assurance to voters that their ballots are counted and limit the number of ballots that are disqualified due to correctable errors.”
In all but one statewide election since 2010, a majority of California voters cast their votes using vote by mail ballots, and as of November 2016, 51% of California voters were registered as permanent vote by mail voters. That number is expected to climb as the California Voter’s Choice Act is implemented.
Under this bill, the Secretary of State would be required to develop a tool that allows vote by mail voters to opt in to receive email or text notifications about the status of their ballots. County elections officials would be able to send reminders to voters who have not returned their ballots and quickly contact voters who need to provide additional information – a signature, for example – in order to have their ballots counted.
“A vote by mail ballot has been the choice for a majority of California voters for several cycles now, and it continues to grow in popularity,” Secretary of State Alex Padilla said. “Meanwhile, consumers have become accustomed to tracking our e-commerce packages at every step until delivery. We should bring the same level of customer service to voters who choose to vote at home. Developing a statewide vote-by-mail tracking system would improve the voter experience and provide them confidence that their ballots are properly accounted for. AB 2218 will ensure the Secretary of State’s office can access federal funding to make this critical modernization to our elections.”
AB 2218 was inspired by the Denver Elections Department’s Ballot TRACE (Tracking, Reporting, and Communication Engine) System, which similarly enables voters to track their ballots and allows election officials to deliver important information about steps voters can take to ensure that their ballots are counted.