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September 6, 2002

For More Information, Contact:
Kristina Loquist at (650) 688-6384


SACRAMENTO - Assemblyman Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) announced today that Assembly Bill (AB) 400, which will allow candidates to use “Community Volunteer” as a ballot designation, has been signed into law by the Governor. Would-be candidates for whom volunteer work is their principal activity outside the home will now have a ballot designation that acknowledges and accurately reflects the work they do.

Current law only allows candidates to designate a principal profession, vocation, or occupation. A candidate may not be identified as a “Community Volunteer” on the ballot, even though that is his or her principal activity outside the home.

“AB 400 is one small way to recognize the real contributions that volunteers make in our community each and every day,” said Simitian. “It’s not fair to devalue their good works simply because they’re generous enough to contribute their services without compensation. Worse still, it’s a disservice to the voters. This is helpful information most voters would like to have.”

Simitian said he was surprised when he learned that community volunteers running for office were precluded from identifying themselves on a ballot as a “Community Volunteer”.  “I think the current law does a disservice to non-profits who do so much good work. It does a disservice to women, who have historically provided the bulk of such service. And perhaps worst of all, it does a disservice to the voters who are deprived of important information about the candidates.”

Dildar Gill Pisani, Vice President of the San Mateo County Commission on the Status of Women, said, “Assemblymember Simitian’s bill is good for women. Women shoulder a disproportionate share of volunteer work. Being a ‘mother’ and ‘homemaker’ are vital roles, yet some women may not find these adequately describe their community involvement and activities. Allowing a term like ‘Community Volunteer’ to be used as a ballot designation recognizes an individual’s unpaid contributions to our society.”

The County Registrar of Voters is the entity that first reviews a candidate’s ballot designation to determine whether it is permissible under the Elections Code. The current Code allows no more than three words designating a candidate’s principal profession, vocation, or occupation. Any ballot designation may be challenged by a member of the public.

Simitian noted, “The issue of ballot designations most recently came to my attention in a local school board race when a long-time community volunteer was not allowed to list her volunteer credentials. I thought it was a shame, and am happy to offer legislation that remedies the situation.”

Patricia Gardner, the Executive Director of the Silicon Valley Council of Nonprofits, said, “Through a ballot designation of Community Volunteer, dedicated individuals can stand up and be counted as contributing to the economic health and well being of our communities. Nonprofits, arts and environmental groups all rely on community volunteers to be integral members of our organizations, as board members, fundraisers, and professionals. Assemblyman Simitian’s bill rightly recognizes the contributions our community volunteers make.”

According to the California Association of Nonprofits there are 500,000 full time volunteers in California and over 10 million total volunteers.  “Yet,” Simitian notes, “this work is nonexistent as far as California Election Law is concerned.” In fact, the California non-profit sector represents roughly 7% of the State’s economic output.