Taught by Nathaniel Persily and Luciana Herman
California recently passed SB 759, the “Every Vote Counts Act,” to codify requirements allowing voters a chance to fix their ballot in case of a signature mismatch. SB 759 requires elections officials notify voters of mismatched signatures at least 8 days prior to the certification of an election. Ballots would be counted by elections officials if a signature verification statement is returned no later than 5:00 p.m. two days prior to certification. However, the law does not specify in great detail the steps that counties should take to contact voters. Prior to the bill’s passage, a report by the California Voter Foundation revealed substantial variation in how counties verified mismatched signatures and contacted affected voters. This Policy Lab research project will produce the first public report tracking how counties have implemented/are planning to implement the requirements of SB 759.
This project maps how the implementation of state statutes and guidelines dealing with vote-by-mail signature verification varies among California counties. Research questions for each county include: (1) What criteria does a signature need to meet to “not appear to be the same” (and therefore result in a ballot being invalidated)? (2) What remedial steps are taken, with regards to SB 759, if an election worker determines there is a “signature mismatch” before the statutory deadline? To answer these questions, students will conduct a survey of county election officials and administrative material and produce a final report with findings and lessons to improve county procedures. Students will research legal and policy frameworks, interview policy makers and state administrative officials, develop targeted policy recommendations, and brief policy makers on recommendations. The final report will be publicly available and will inform California county election officials, state policy-makers, and voting rights advocacy groups.