Category Archives: Reform

AB 1717 – Supporting the ecoVoter

Kudos to Assembly Member de León and Assembly Member Jerry Hill from San Mateo County on the successful passage of AB 1717!  With the stroke of a pen , the Governor signed into law a bill that will allow voters to choose to receive their Sample Ballot & Official Voter Pamphlet in an electronic format beginning in 2011.

We have a hunch that a group of “early adopters” will sign up to “opt-out” of getting their Sample Ballot & Official Voter Pamphlet in the mail. For many people,  using a computer is the most natural place to get information.  It’s easier  than looking for the Sample Ballot pamphlet that you put someplace…and it won’t matter if someone else in the household tossed it out. The beauty of an online Sample Ballot that can be viewed or downloaded and printed from a website is that it is always available whenever you need it, where ever you are. It does more than reduce our carbon footprint and save trees (and money); it’s really convenient.

And, for those voters who try it and find that it’s not for them – they can change their mind at any time and resume the practice of getting it delivered in the mail. We hope people will “opt out”!  Right now, we’re working out the options. If you’re somebody who prefers to access information electronically, would you rather get the pamphlet from a website or have it emailed to you? Would you like a text message that says when it’s available?  Let us know.

Celebrating 20 Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Today, the Commission on Disabilities hosted a very special 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Celebration at the County Government Plaza in

Redwood City with organizations, demonstrations, food, lawmakers, news media, friends and fun.

This prospective new voter gives the eSlate a "road test' as he votes the Famous Names Ballot.

San Mateo County Elections Office was there with our accessible voting equipment, voter registration forms, vote-by-mail forms, be a poll-worker forms, our grins and some helpful giveaways. We were joined by a SamTrans, the Hearing Loss Association, Hearing Dogs, Guide Dogs for the Blind, the Lions Club who sold barbeque and are famous for the work they do with the blind, and countless other organizations. The weather was beautiful, the mood festive, and the spirits were high. Every member of the Commission on Disabilities was there. We had a videographer on hand to capture some “B” roll for videos we’re working on. It was a fine day!

Here’s a little background. The ADA, signed by George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990, is a wide-ranging civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. It was then and is today,  landmark legislation that is making a difference in the lives of Americans. It’s impact is akin to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that made discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, and other characteristics illegal. Disability is defined by the ADA as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.”  It has changed our country for the better and made us a more inclusive place to live, to work, to play.  Today is a day to celebrate! Today is a day to be proud of the way our country reinvents itself to improve the lives of all citizens.

Election technology has the power to be “Transformative”

The proponents of the Marijuana Initiative to change California law to legalize marijuana turned in their signatures at election offices throughout the state in their bid to qualify for the November 2010 ballot.  So what!  It’s one of many initiatives in circulation. 

What’s different?  This is the first time in California history that an electronic signature has been submitted to qualify an initiative petition. The signature was turned in on a jump drive.

Chief Elections Officer Warren Slocum rejected the electronic signature on the basis that the signature failed to meet code requirements.  It won’t  invalidate the initiative’s other signatures, but it does open the door to a whole new ballgame.

Will the courts will allow this kind of technology to be applied in the world of elections? 

Slocum, a believer in technology, looks forward to bringing the world of Elections into the 21st century– if the court allows it.  He went on to explain, “Election law did not anticipate this method of signature gathering and it does not offer guidance in this area,” Slocum continued.  Different code sections and regulations offer divergent approaches to the use and acceptance of electronic signatures. 

“This form of signature gathering could be transformative,” said Slocum.

It will take less time and money to verify signatures – not to mention the mountains of paper petitions and energy used to make that paper and print the petitions.  And, this technology makes it possible for signature gatherers to widely distribute petitions at little or no cost – making the political process that much more accessible.  

We shall see.

www.wedrawthelines.ca.gov – the SuperBowl of Politics

Every ten years, most of the state’s political  boundaries are redrawn. It’s done following the release of the new census numbers as a way to make 

Redistricting California

sure that all of the people in the state of California are represented proportionately.  As the population changes, the number and location of the districts change.  

In the past, the redrawing of lines was the exclusive business of the majority party.  This year is different.  Way different. Right now, the State is taking applications for the new Citizens Redistricting Commission to help play a leading role in the 2011 electoral line drawing process. For more information on how to apply, and on the Citizens Redistricting Commission in general, go to www.WeDrawTheLines.ca.gov.  Applications will be accepted online until February 12, 2010. 

And why is it so different this year?  In November 2008, voters in California passed the Voters FIRST Act.  Now YOU (the voters of California) can apply to serve on an independent Commission that will draw district boundaries for the state Senate, Assembly, and Board of Equalization. 

And, why is this the SuperBowl of Politics?  Because new boundary lines can change the demographic and partisan makeup of a district. It all depends on where the lines are drawn.  Sometimes a previously “safe” seat becomes a “competitive” seat. Sometimes seats are collapsed in one area and added to another. Individual legislators have much at stake.  Last time California was redistricted (following the 2000 Census), the Bay Area lost population and seats; that’s how former Assembly Member Ted Lempert of San Mateo County lost his seat.  His old seat was drawn into a new seat in southern California where the population had grown. 

It’s the SuperBowl for the parties as well.  Think no further than the annual summertime budget gridlock.  It’s not just about terrible choices.  It’s about choices that 2/3rds of the members have to vote for.  That means compromise.  And that compromise is hard to come by.  That’s why the redrawing of lines is high stakes – for the voters, for the legislators and for the parties that govern. 

Bottomline: We’re hoping some  San Mateo County folks apply and are appointed to the Citizens Redistricting Commission.

Rebooting Democracy with Smart Phones

If there is one thing technological trend that we believe in it is this – mobile technology. The iTunes App Store has over 100,000 mobile applications, new smart phones like the recent Google phone will saturate the market and as all of that happens more and more business, personal productivity and lifestyle applications will get deployed.

The democracy space is not immune from the impacts of this confluence.

A new Silicon Valley company launched a smart phone app yesterday – called Verafirma – that will allow signature gatherers to collect your signature on a cell phone app!

California may become the first state in the nation to apply this kind of technology to the collection of signatures for initiatives, referendums and recalls headed for the ballot.

The new technology is catching some serious buzz, “I think it’s transformative,” said Warren Slocum, our Chief Elections Officer. “I’ve seen it – and from everything I know about it – it’s secure, has the necessary audit trail and provides controls that should give voters and election professionals confidence.”

Slocum cautions, however, that “Depending of the outcome in the courts, we could take a giant step toward the idea of an e-voter who is empowered to support legislation using today’s technology. Assuming it survives a legal test(s) in the courts, which is an inevitable result of the introduction of this new technology, we will know if registrars can take advantage of the efficiencies of the technology or not.”

Check out the video to see how it works!

According to Jude Barry, a San Jose political strategist and co-founder of the firm, the technology also works on an iPod Touch and the Verizon Droid and should soon work on other smart phones.

Slocum added that, “Gov. Hiram Johnson, the California governor who added initiative, referendum and recall to the practice of democracy in the state would be proud. Submitting signatures electronically could make it a lot less expensive for county registrars to verify the hundreds of thousands of signatures needed to qualify measures. This innovation is a good thing for the whole movement toward green voting because it reduces the carbon footprint and doesn’t involve having a piece of paper shoved at you in front of a supermarket.”

It’s up to the Governor now…

We’ve been supporting and tracking proposed legislation in this year’s session that,  if passed,  would make important contributions to the elections world.  Two Governor Schwarzeneggerbills were “enrolled” this week, meaning a majority of lawmakers in both houses of the State Legislature approved these bills. The only thing standing between an approved bill and law is Governor Schwarzenegger. We hope he supports and signs these two bills into law. 

AB 30 (Price) Allow registrars to pre-register 16-year olds to vote. Last year, we had 1,000 student poll workers sign up in San Mateo County. These students would definitely pre-register to vote, take this civic engagement step in school, and receive their voter information at home until they establish a permanent home of their own—after college, the military, or working. This bill could help increase the number of younger voters who participate in elections. Let’s give it a try!

AB 1228 (Yamada) Authorizes the participation of Yolo and Santa Clara Counties in a pilot program through December 31, 2016, that would allow them to fill a vacancy in a state office, the Legislature, or Congress in an ALL MAIL election if specified conditions are satisfied (it would not apply in statewide primary or general elections or special elections).

If approved, it will be an interesting test of voter participation in all mail elections as Yolo County is rural and more homogenous while Santa Clara County is diverse–in language, culture, education and socio-economic status. We wholeheartedly support this pilot.

And there was an honorable mention in this year’s list of bills that did not succeed.

AB 1121 (Davis), would have authorized a limited number of pilot jurisdictions to test the viability of rank choice voting, but it did not get through the Senate. We have supported this bill and appreciated the capable leadership of Rob Dickinson , a local Redwood City resident.  The bill failed due to opposition by the California Association of Clerks and Elected Officials (CACEO) who were concerned about adding cost and complexity to the election process at a time when registrars lack the resources (staff) and budget to take on new items. While we have been unwavering supporters of this bill, we understand that the budget crisis has all California registrars just trying to figure out how to deliver existing, mandated services.

AB 306 (Fuller) – A Green Step Forward for Elections

If AssemblymemberFuller’s bill, AB 306 (Fuller), is passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, it will give the Secretary of State the ability to let voters opt out of receiving a paper copy of the state sample ballot pamphlet in the mail and instead allow voters to get their sample ballot materials online.

This has the potential to save the state a bundle of money!  And, we need them to save money! IOUs won’t do.

We have asked Assemblymember Fuller to take the bill a step further and make it applicable to counties as well. And to conform county standards to the state standard.  These are the specifics of our request:

1. Allow counties to send one (1) copy of the county’s Official Sample Ballot & Voter Information Guide per household.  Right now, counties are required to send every voter his/her own copy. The state is only required to send one copy per household. Seems like the standard should be one and the same.

2. Allow county voters to opt out of receiving the county’s publication – the Official Sample Ballot & Voter Information Guide – online. We already provide this information online.  Why not give people the chance to get their materials online if they want to? 

3. And lastly, to get on the stick.  Let’s do this with urgency!  The savings are needed now. The coming election would be the perfect time to reap some savings and set things up for the gubernatorial in June 2010.

And, it should be mentioned, in any opt out scenario, voters could opt back in at any time. period.

Do us a favor – send a email to Assemblymember Fuller – tell her you think this is a great idea and ask her to add the San Mateo County amendments. Thanks!

Happy Fourth of July!