Senators Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) and John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) announced that they have jointly introduced the “Voter Roll Accuracy Act” (Senate Bill 994) to increase the accuracy of county voter rolls by requiring jury commissioners to share relevant changes in a prospective juror’s voter registration data with county election officials.
“Election integrity is integral to a thriving democracy,” said Senator Bates. “It is paramount that county voter rolls be carefully and accurately maintained to ensure only eligible citizens can vote. County voter rolls that include duplicate names and deceased individuals are susceptible to fraud and abuse, and SB 994 presents a simple fix to that problem.”
SB 994 would require jury commissioners to share relevant updates in voter registration data, as received from prospective juror questionnaires during the jury selection process, with county election officials. Jury commissioners currently use county voter lists as one method to randomly select potential jurors.
“Jury Commissioners have access to data that could effectively be utilized by county election officials to maintain and clean up the voter rolls,” said Senator Moorlach. “SB 994 is a common sense solution that allows for communication and collaboration between the officials tasked with upholding two of the most critical civic duties: voting and serving on a jury.”
Senators Bates and Moorlach authored SB 994 because state courts disqualify thousands of people summoned for jury service each year after determining they do not meet basic requirements. Disqualifying factors include death, not being a U.S. citizen, not being a resident of California or the county issuing the summons, and for being under 18 years of age.
According to 2017-18 Jury Data Report numbers obtained from the California Secretary of State’s office, state trial courts sent at least 8,976,414 jury summons. Of that amount:
- 796,023 summons were returned undeliverable,
- 425,814 people were disqualified for not being U.S. citizens,
- 1,785 were disqualified for being under 18 years of age,
- 269,185 were disqualified for not being a California resident or the county in question, and
- 24,799 were disqualified for being deceased.
The statewide juror disqualification rate for the reasons above was 16.9 percent. Disqualification rates were higher than the state average in counties such as Orange (20.1 percent) and Los Angeles (23.7 percent), while lower in others such as San Diego (13.8 percent).
While individuals summoned for jury service are not necessarily registered to vote, the high number of juror disqualifications makes it likely that some of them are registered voters. If they are registered, that information should be shared with county election officials.
Current law does not allow jury commissioners to share any updates they receive regarding a person’s voter registration data. By allowing for the mutual sharing of information between jury commissioners and county election officials, those officials will be better equipped to accurately update and maintain their voter rolls. This information would be kept confidential and used solely for voter roll maintenance purposes. By providing this avenue of communication, SB 994 protects the integrity of elections in California.
SB 994 is pending a hearing from the Senate Judiciary Committee. Should the bill become law this year, it would take effect on January 1, 2021.