SACRAMENTO (AP) — Immigrants who are not U.S. citizens could serve as poll workers in California under one of several election-related bills that passed the state Assembly on Thursday.
As many as five noncitizens could volunteer in a precinct under AB817 from Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda. Those poll workers must be legal permanent U.S. residents.
Bonta said allowing immigrants to serve as poll workers would increase the number of bilingual volunteers who could assist voters.
"In America, the right to vote is fundamental, regardless of the level of English-language proficiency of the voter," Bonta said.
The Assembly passed the bill Thursday on a vote of 48-22, sending it to the Senate. Several Republicans opposing the bill said serving as a poll worker is a responsibility that should be reserved for citizens.
Lawmakers also approved a bill that would prohibit paying someone to register voters for a particular political party and another that would determine whether a primary write-in candidate qualifies for the general election ballot.
The registration bill from Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, is in response to reports of voter registration fraud in Sacramento County involving organizations that paid employees for each registration card they collected signing up voters for a certain party.
Pan said voters have been tricked into signing up for a different party and registration cards have been altered. The fraudulent forms create extra work for county election officials, he said.
The bill, AB1038, passed to the Senate on a 41-18 vote.
The third bill, AB141, sets a minimum number of votes for a primary write-in candidate to qualify for the general election. Under the measure from Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, a write-in candidate finishing in the top two must receive at least 1 percent of the total votes cast to advance.
California switched last year from a party-based primary system to one in which the two candidates with the most votes face off in the general election, regardless of party affiliation. The threshold of write-in candidates needing 1 percent of the vote was not included in Proposition 14, which implemented the "top two" change.
The legislation heads to the Senate on a vote of 60-6.