Memo from the office of Bill Jones, Secretary of State of the State of California
February 21, 1996
To: All County Clerks/Registrars of Voters (96082)
From: John Mott-Smith. Chief, Elections Division
Subject: Absentee Voting - Policy Clarification
It has come to our attention that some counties may be considering what has been called "early voting" for the 1996 elections. The purpose of this memo is to clarify the Secretary of State's interpretation of statutes affecting this alternate absentee voting proceedure
"Early voting", as it is commonly defined, involves setting up polling places and permitting voting by regular ballot prior to election day. The state of Texas has experimented with a program of this nature by setting up polling places in shopping malls and other locations.
While there is no state law which expressly authorizes this approach, Elections Code sections 3001, 3003, 3018 and 3021 can be read to permit an elections official to conduct an absentee voting program in this manner...
We would like to caution you, if you choose to implement an absentee voting program of this nature in your county, to be careful not to target the program to any one "voting group." To be successful, and in order to be accepted by the voting public at large, it is our view that the program must be universally available and equally convenient to all voters in your county.
If you have any questions on this subject, please feel free to call either me (916/653-3228) or Pam Giarrizzon (916/657-2180)
Editor's note: The four "special" polling places were opened in San Francisco Housing Authority Projects in the southeastern sector of the city, an area not "equally convenient to all voters in (San Francisco) county."
How the "special" polling places were promoted
From the June 17, 1997 press release from the Committee to Stop the Giveaway:
On May 31, 1997, a flyer was passed out by Yes on D & F worker Dee Minor, and others, from a motorcade/rally on city streets featuring the Mayor and dozens of other politicos in a parade of vehicles promoting a partisan position in favor of the stadium/mall. The flyer urged voters to vote early at the sites specified and featured the telephone number of the Yes on D & F campaign. The motorcade itself was an unauthorized use of city property, police and other city services. These "election polls" on Housing Authority property were shown on television and included poll workers wearing partisan emblems and clothing and even stadium proponent Eddie DeBartolo campaigning for his proposition. The sites were illegally placed in areas with a preponderance of unemployed people, and the main thrust of the campaign in the area was the promise of jobs.
When these sites were discovered by the No on D & F campaigns, calls were made to the Director of Elections to inform us of any early polls, their response was that early voting was allowed at the Department of Elections and at City Hall. "Those are the only sites?" A volunteer asked. "Yes," the employee responded. When Espanola Jackson, an African-American called the same number, the other four polls were disclosed to her.