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Election Law @ Moritz Home Page

Election Law @ Moritz

Election Law @ Moritz

2008 Key Questions for Key States


The complete research by Election Law @ Moritz for California can be found below.

Institutional Arrangements

State Chief Election Authorities

Elected individual (D)

Chief election authority: Secretary of State. Cal.Elec.Code § 10.

Method of selection: Elected. Const. Art. 5, § 11.

Current officer: Debra Bowen (D). Bowen cast bold vote: Furor still boils over secretary of state’s touch-screen edict, Sacramento Bee, September 29, 2007. (Last updated 12/29/07)

State High Court Composition

R heavy/elected

Method of selection: Election. Ann.Cal.Const. Art. 6, § 16.

Justices: Carlos R. Moreno (D), Joyce L. Kennard (R), Kathryn Mickle Werdegar (R), Ronald M. George (appointed by Wilson (R)), Ming W. Chin (R), Marvin R. Baxter (R), Carol A. Corrigan (R) (Last updated 12/19/07)


  • Corrigan sworn in to California Supreme Court, Contra Cost Times, January 5, 2006.
  • Ruling: California’s religious school may receive bonds, AP Alert - California, March 5, 2007, Rachel Konrad.
  • Showdown looms as same-sex marriage heads to California justices, AP Alert - Political, October 7, 2006, David Kravets.
  • Supreme Court Tackles Same-Sex Marriage, A Cautious Chief Justice Guides California’s Highest Court, San Francisco Chronicle, May 23, 2004.  

Voter Registration

EL@M did not research this topic for California


EL@M did not research this topic for California

Provisional Ballots

EL@M did not research this topic for California

Early and Absentee Voting

EL@M did not research this topic for California

Voting Technology

EL@M did not research this topic for California

Polling Place Operations

Polling hours extension

No information

No information was found regarding whether courts or administrators are entitled to extend polling hours. The code does acknowledge that, pursuant to HAVA, ballots cast during extended hours should be cast provisionally. 14402.5. However, the code does not specifically authorize courts to do this.

Standard polling hours are from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. 14212.

People standing in line at the close of polls have a right to vote. 14401. Any person arriving "after the time provided for closing the polls" shall not be entitled to vote. 14402.

Polling place closing times - local times

8:00 PM local time

Polling place closing times - by Eastern time zone

11:00 PM Eastern time

Ballot Security

EL@M did not research this topic for California

Emergency Preparedness

What if touchscreens break down?

Touchscreen polling places have paper ballots

California requires that the election officials at each polling place using a direct recording electronic voting system provide paper ballots equivalent to 10% of the registered voters in the polling place. Cal Elec. Code § 14300(b). 

Election officials "shall establish procedures for the use of the paper ballots described in this section in the event the direct recording electronic voting system becomes nonfunctional."

Post-Election Processes

Election Contest Scenario #1: Unverified Ballots


No statute was found offering any guidance. The only case under which such facts appear merely held that it was improper to reject the entire vote of a precinct just because some unverified ballots made it into the count. Taft v. Haas, 34 Cal.App. 309, 310-12 (2nd Dist., 1917). There is no other information. 

Election Contest Scenario #2: Provisional Ballots with Technical Mistakes


California law does not say what types of voter error will invalidate provisional ballots, but merely says that these ballots should be counted if election officials establish “from the records in his or her office, the claimant’s right to vote.” § 14310. However, ballots will not be rejected solely because of “substitution of initials for the first or middle name” in the voter’s signature). §14310. The statutes do say that the law should be construed liberally in favor of the voter, but without more concrete guidance, whether to count provisional ballots with flawed paperwork still lies within the judgment of election officials and the courts.  

What Court Would Hear a Presidential Contest?

Trial Court

For contests involving an election recount (contests that allege an innocent mistake in counting), the superior court of the county in which the precinct is found has jurisdiction. Cal. Elec. Code § 16461. For Presidential contests not involving a recount (contests that go to a defendant’s eligibility for office, illegal disqualifying conduct in the election, or illegal voting), the contest may be filed in the superior court of any county in the state. Cal. Elec. Code § 16441. Superior court judges are elected. Cal. Const. Article 6, § 16.  

Who Performs Presidential recounts?


The physical recount is conducted by four-voter recount boards appointed by “the elections official.” s15625. The law includes no explicit constraints on the partisanship of the four-member boards. The “elections official” could be the city or county clerk, registrar of voters, election supervisor, board of elections, or any person “charged with the duty of conducting an election.” s320. The elections official oversees the work of the appointed boards. City and county clerks may be elected or appointed. s36503, 36508; s24009. California recounts are open to the public. s15629.

The administrative code contains no further information. 2 CA ADC ss 19001-22610.4. Neither does the Secretary of State's annual Election Officers Digest