Legislative Analyst's Office

Analysis of the 2001-02 Budget Bill

Office of Planning and Research (0650)

The Office of Planning and Research (OPR) assists the Governor and the administration in planning, research, and liaison with local governments. The office has responsibilities pertaining to state planning, California Environmental Quality Act assistance, environmental and federal project review procedures, and oversees the Commission on Improving Life Through Service, which administers the California Americorps program.

The Governor's budget proposes expenditures of $100 million ($50 million from the General Fund, $48.7 million from special funds, and $1.3 million in reimbursements). This includes an increase of $41 million from the General Fund for a touch screen voting system pilot program, which is discussed below.

Touch Screen Voting Pilot Program Not Justified

We recommend the Legislature reject the request for $40 million from the General Fund to support a three-county touch screen voting pilot program because the Secretary of State already has certified these systems for use in California elections, and counties already have initiated pilot programs to test this equipment. The proposal fails to justify the need for an additional pilot program, nor does it provide information on how the program would be administered or evaluated. (Reduce Item 0650-101-0001 by $40 million.)

The budget proposes a one-time augmentation of $40 million from the General Fund for a pilot program which would provide local assistance grants to test touch screen voting systems. Specifically, the proposal would provide funds, on a dollar-for-dollar matching basis, to three counties of varying size.

Background. Touch screen voting systems allow voters to push on-screen "buttons" to record their choice. The system is designed to prevent voters from accidentally voting for multiple candidates for an office for which there can be only one winner. The machines, generally located in regular polling places, automatically count and recount vote totals, but can print out facsimiles of paper ballots for a hand recount if desired.

The Secretary of State (SOS) is responsible for testing and certifying all voting systems used in California elections, including touch screen systems. To date, SOS has certified three different types of touch screen systems for counties to use. In addition, six counties have used touch screen systems to varying degrees in actual elections, and one county has used touch screen voting for an entire general election.

We have the following concerns with this budget proposal.

Touch Screen Voting Has Already Been Tested in California. The budget proposal states that a pilot program is necessary to test the feasibility of using touch screen voting systems. The SOS, however, has already certified three touch screen systems and has completed three pilot projects to test the capacity of the touch screen voting system to handle ballot measures, recall elections, and one general election. Most recently, during the 2000 general election, Riverside County residents voted using touch screen voting equipment. Although the county encountered some problems, it has resolved these issues. The budget proposal does not explain what additional information OPR hopes to obtain through further pilot testing.

Proposal Lacks Important Details. Key program components necessary to evaluate the budget proposal, currently are unavailable. These include:

Analyst's Recommendation. For these reasons, we recommend the Legislature deny this proposal, for a General Fund savings of $40 million.

Return to General Government Table of Contents, 2001-02 Budget Analysis