During the 2008 election in California, 42 percent of voters cast their ballots by mail. Two years later, 60 percent did so. The San Francisco Chronicle reports on a budget development that may change this trend:
The California Legislature has approved the National Popular Vote compact, as AP reports:
Buried on page 620 of the state budget are a few small cuts that could change the way Californians vote.
To save $33 million, the bill suspended several state mandates requiring counties to provide voting services that many Californians take for granted. The state no longer requires counties to process all voter registration applications they receive by mail or to send out vote-by-mail ballots to anyone who wants one.
Counties still could provide these services, and many probably will, but they won't be reimbursed by the state.
Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature needed the savings to close a budget gap of $26 billion, said H.D. Palmer, deputy director for external affairs at the state Department of Finance.
"That required any number of difficult choices and reductions, this being one of them," Palmer said.
Secretary of State Debra Bowen opposed the mandate suspensions because they could cause "widespread confusion" and possibly disenfranchise some voters, said spokeswoman Nicole Winger.
"There is a risk to voters that they could be treated differently county by county," Winger said. "Some of these suspensions have to do with democracy itself, and some of them have had such minimal savings or even no savings, it wasn't clear why they had to impose them anyway."
The California bill, AB459, would commit a majority of electors to the candidate who receives the most popular votes nationwide. The proposed change is intended to guarantee that the winner of the national popular vote becomes president.
It was approved by the state Senate on a 23-15 vote Thursday, with all but one Democrat voting for it and Republicans opposed. The Assembly concurred on minor amendments with a 50-5 vote moments later, with 25 members not voting, as lawmakers rushed to complete their work before a monthlong summer recess.
"AB459 will assure that the presidential candidates actually come to California to campaign and discuss and address California's unique issues," said Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, who carried the bill in the Senate. "459 will give a voice to all California voters and assure that their votes will matter in every presidential election."
The effort gained momentum after Democrat Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000, but Republican George W. Bush won the electoral vote.