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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                    
July 16, 2010

For More Information, Contact:

Phil Yost (650) 688-6384
Melissa Figueroa (916) 651-4011


SACRAMENTO – Legislation to improve the Election Day experience at polling places,  which began as an idea presented to State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) by two of his constituents, has been signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The bill, Senate Bill 1342, provides more flexibility in designating precincts and polling places, increasing the likelihood that voters will be able to cast a ballot at a polling place close to their home that is not overcrowded.

The tremendous increase in voting by mail and, in some precincts, a dramatic drop in voters who cast ballots in person, means that “some voters walk into polling places that are overstaffed and virtually empty, while other voters are waiting in long lines at polling places that have the maximum number of Election Day voters,” said Simitian. “This makes no sense.” 

Furthermore, in some precincts, so few Election Day voters remain that registrars close the polling place, requiring every voter in the precinct to vote by mail. By changing the rules under which precincts are drawn, SB 1342 enables county registrars of voters to deploy Election Day workers more efficiently, avoiding polling place closings and overcrowding.

When Redwood City resident Dennis McBride investigated why his polling place had been moved from a half-mile from his house to 2.5 miles away, he wondered why the rules that forced the change couldn’t be more flexible, so that voting would be more convenient. McBride’s proposal in 2007, in Simitian’s annual “There Oughta Be a Law” contest, resulted in a bill identical to SB 1342 that passed the Legislature, but was vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger.

Simitian reintroduced the legislation this year following a proposal from Palo Alto resident Lynn Silton in the 2010 “There Oughta Be a Law” contest. Silton’s polling place was closed because the large number of vote-by-mail voters in her precinct left too few Election Day voters. Under current law, Simitian noted, “when the number of registered voters drops below 250 in a precinct, county registrars have the option to eliminate the local polling place.”
“I’m hoping that the area where I live will have a polling place again,” said Silton. “I’m really grateful to Sen. Simitian for having a contest like ‘There Oughta Be a Law’.” Silton traveled to Sacramento on two occasions to testify in favor of SB 1342.

“I appreciate that the governor was willing to give this idea a fresh look,” said Simitian.

McBride applauded Simitian’s willingness to try again to get the legislation passed. The new law, he said, “will give flexibility to counties in times of financial difficulty and also benefit the voters. Hopefully people will be able to return to their neighborhood polling places to vote.”

Existing law caps precincts at 1,000 registered voters, regardless of how many voters in that precinct have requested mail-in ballots. Senate Bill 1342 provides guidelines for drawing precincts that will enable registrars to distribute the number of in-person Election Day voters more equally among polling places.

The new law becomes effective Jan. 1, 2011.

For more information on SB 1342, visit