With the Presidential General Election coming up in less than two weeks, how about a quick summary of selected voting laws in the State of California for voters here in the Ventura County area. The following is a summary from the California Secretary of State's "Voting Law Compliance Handbook: A Voter's Guide to Safeguard California's Election Process" updated April 2016.
Voting at the Polls
Making the time to vote: The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day. If you work a long shift and are unable to get to the polls to vote in a statewide election, California state law provides up to two hours of paid time off to vote. These hours must be at the beginning or end of your normal shift and you must give your employer two working days notice.
Rewards for voting: Can the local donut shop offer a free donut if you show them that you've voted in the Presidential Election? NO! Say what!? No free donut?? Nope. Federal law prohibits anything of value given in exchange for proof of voting if there is a federal office (e.g. President, U.S. House, U.S. Senate) on the ballot. In a state or local only election, the donut offering would be o.k., just as long as it wasn't given to bribe you to vote (or not vote) for a particular candidate or measure. Speaking of donuts, or doughnuts, as it were, the new Krispy Kreme in Oxnard opened last month.
Electioneering: It is illegal to promote a candidate or measure within 100 feet of a polling place. So if you see signs or other promotional materials in the parking lot at a polling place, that is illegal. And on a side note, California law makes it illegal to "photograph, video record, or otherwise record a voter entering or exiting a polling place." So you best not be selfie-ing at a crowded polling place.
Voting by Mail
Death and Voting: Hypothetically, let's just say my spouse passed away two weeks ago but I received her absentee ballot in the mail. I knew who she planned to vote for, so I turned in her ballot along with mine. This is o.k., right? WRONG! You cannot vote for your deceased spouse, nor anyone else that is deceased for that matter. That said, if your spouse had completed the ballot and signed the envelope before passing, that would a legitimate ballot, as the vote-by-mail voting period opens 29 days before the election.
Returning Vote by Mail Ballots (from the Ventura County Clerk/Recorder): If you mail your absentee ballot in, allow for seven days' delivery if you can; that said, the ballot must be postmarked by Election Day and received no later than November 14, 2016. Otherwise, you can return your ballot to any of the 10 City Clerk offices in Ventura County, to the Ventura County Government Center in Ventura or at the Thousand Oaks Library. Or, you can bring them to any polling place by 8 p.m. on Election Day.
Counting the Ballots
Can I Watch? Yes, you can watch the entire process, from opening of the vote-by-mail ballot envelopes to the counting of ballots on election night, by law. But perhaps contact the Ventura County Clerk/Recorder first.
Campaign Do's and Don'ts
Use of State Seal: It is considered election fraud to use an official government seal in campaign literature. This should be reported to the Election Fraud Investigation Unit at 916.657.2166 or call the Ventura County Clerk/Recorder.
Paycheck Inserts: It is illegal in California to attempt to influence employees to vote for or against something by inserting something in your paycheck envelope.
These are just some of the elections laws in the State of California. For more complete information, visit www.sos.ca.gov/elections.