California Reconsiders Election Ballot Layout

Monday, October 14, 2019

SACRAMENTO – Yesterday Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 623, authored by Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), which would provide county elections officials more flexibility to update and improve ballot layouts for voters.

“Poor ballot design affects all voters and can result in the disenfranchisement of millions of votes,” said Assemblymember Berman, chair of the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee. “With the influx of state and federal funding last year to replace and upgrade aging voting equipment, and with recent changes to the voting process to make voting more accessible, the time is right to allow counties to review and update the design of ballots. AB 623 gives counties that flexibility and will enhance the voting experience for California voters.” 

AB 623 was inspired by a constituent from the 24th Assembly District who, when discussing an upcoming election with Assemblymember Berman, was under the impression he could only vote for one city council candidate, not the three votes that were permitted. This led Assemblymember Berman to realize that a lack of clarity may prevent voters from fully exercising their right to vote. 

Under California state law, ballots must follow certain requirements, such as instructions to voters, font type, font size, margin widths, spacing of contests, voting square size, and write-in spacing, among other prescribed formats and conditions. According to county elections officials, many of these requirements are outdated and can create barriers for elections officials to design ballots that comply with best practices for readability. Furthermore, these requirements can be incompatible with new voting systems and methods of conducting elections.

AB 623 requires the Secretary of State to establish a ballot design committee and work with county elections officials and ballot design experts to make recommendations for better ballot design and format. Additionally, AB 623 removes various outdated Election Code sections related to ballot layouts and font types.

AB 623 was sponsored by the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials and was supported by Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Disability Rights California, and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

 

Contact: Kaitlin Curry, (916) 319-2024