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AB 308 - Ranked Ballots for Overseas Voters

June 10, 2010 -- CfER sponsored AB 308 in the 2009-2010 session of the Legislature. The bill was held in the Senate Appropriations Committee on August 27, 2009, effectively killing it for the first year of the session. On June 9, 2010, the bill number was re-used for an emergency measure on an unrelated subject. This is CfER's archived action page on the bill. The content below was last updated on June 29, 2009.

CfER-sponsored AB 308 would help overcome the frequent disenfranchisement of overseas vote-by-mail voters by providing them with a special ranked ballot whenever a runoff election might have to be conducted within 90 days of the preliminary round.

On June 29, the Senate Appropriations Committee placed AB 308 in its suspense file. It may be reconsidered at any time up to the end of August. There is a lot of important work to be done to insure tha the bill is sent to the Senate floor. Please see the important call to action below.

Action Page Index and Links


When the first and second rounds of a two-round runoff election occur close together, it can be difficult for voters located overseas to receive their second-round ballots (which aren't printed until the first-round results are known) and return them in time to be counted. Only a small number of California cities have second rounds within 45 days of the first round, but a larger number have second rounds 60 to 70 days after the first (details here).

Because the right to cast an effective vote is at stake, this is a significant problem even if it affects only some voters in only a few jurisdictions.

In the long run, CfER wants to replace two-round runoffs with IRV. In the meantime, providing ranked ballots to those voters who might not be able to receive and return their runoff ballots by a deadline, is a valuable reform. Under this bill, affected voters would receive both a normal ballot for the first round, and an optional ranked ballot. Only the normal ballot would be counted in the first round. The special runoff ballot would be counted only if there is a runoff and if the voter does not return a normal runoff ballot. It would count for the candidate who receives the highest ranking of those candidates who made the runoff.

Arkansas, Louisiana and South Carolina have already adopted this reform. A bill to expand it from active military to all overseas voters was passed in Arkansas, after one election cycle of experience, with virtually no opposition. In Illinois, new legislation was passed authorizing it in all cities, after the city of Springfield adopted a similar measure affecting local elections in April 2007.

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Talking Points

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August 28, 2009 -- The deadline for the Senate Appropriations Committee to approve AB 308 and send it to the floor is Friday, August 28.

June 29, 2009 -- AB 308 was heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee and placed on the committee's suspense file. Bills accumulate in Appropriations suspense files in both Houses until near the end of the session, when they are deal with all at once. Some are sent to the floor for debate and possible passage, while others are not. Technically the latter group are not defeated and remain on suspense until the second year of the session.

June 16, 2009 -- AB 308 passed the Senate Elections Committee on a 4-0 vote with one abstention.

May 14, 2009 -- AB 308 passed the Assembly, 74-0 with one abstention and five absent. It now goes to the State Senate.

April 29, 2009 -- AB 308 passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee by a vote of 15-0 with two absentions.

March 31, 2009 -- AB 308 passed the Assembly Elections and Reapportionment Committee on a 7-0 vote.

February 17, 2009 -- AB 308 was introduced in the Assembly by Paul Cook (R-65).

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More Details

Timing of California Runoff Elections

In special elections to fill vacancies in Congress and the state legislature, the runoff (when required) is either 8 or 9 weeks after the primary.

Cities that have runoff elections (this list may not be complete since we haven't looked at every city charter):

General law counties, and charter jurisdictions that have primaries in June and general elections in November, would not be affected by AB 308. Five months is plenty of time for a normal runoff.

What will it cost?

Our estimate of the cost of this new procedure is quite close to that of the Assembly Appropriations Committee, even though we use a different approach. The fact that these estimates are arrived by different methods should increase our confidence that they are valid.

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