Politics, government and public life for Southern California

California lacks statewide online tools to help voters

Voting booth

Sharon McNary/KPCC

If you need to find your polling place, the state of California is of little help, according to a report from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

So, imagine it's Election Day and you need to find your polling place. In some counties, you can just look it up online from a computer or mobile phone, but in others, you'd have to call your county registrar to look it up for you.

California does not provide voters with statewide voter or election information websites, however,  a bill pending in the state Senate would change that, says David Becker, director of the Pew Charitable Trust's Election Initiatives Project,

The project reports that only California and Vermont have no state-provided tools. But Becker was in Sacramento Tuesday to testify on a remedy bill before the Senate elections committee.

Sen. Alex Padilla's bill SB361 would require the Secretary of State to create online sites to help voters find their polling places, check the status of their voter registration, vote-by-mail or provisional ballot.

The Secretary of State's office does maintain several pages of links to online search tools offered by counties, and where the services aren't offered online, to phone numbers voters can call.

Spokeswoman Shannan Velayas said the Secretary of State's office has maintained its one-stop shop of county links and phone numbers to find polling places, voter registration, vote-by-mail status, provisional ballot status since 2010.

Padilla's bill would also permit the use of driver's licenses, Social Security death records and post office address-change databases to help make voter registration records more accurate. Several states already permit those government records to be used to update voter rolls.

Becker said he did not know what it would cost California to put voter registration, polling place and ballot checking tools online, but he said he believed it would save county registrars the labor of having to staff phone lines to respond to public calls. 

Some California counties, including Los Angeles, have polling place websites. Several media outlets and non-profits in California also link voters to information about ballots and elections.


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