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.

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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.”

A New Voter Registration System for San Mateo County

The County Board of Supervisors approved the purchase of a new Voter Registration System on November 10, which will make way to much more efficient and cost-effective registration and election management processes.

The new system, DFM’s Elections Information Management System (EIMS), supports automated data entry using intelligent character recognition and will nearly eliminate the fully manual data entry process used today.

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New process helps make Election Day a success

We’re now in the midst of the Official Canvass, a process that takes place immediately following an election. This process is our time to update voting history in the voter registration database and audit and certify the election results, and must be complete within 28 calendar days.

Until the official results are published in our Statement of the Vote, semi-official results will be regularly posted on our website at http://www.shapethefuture.org.

During the Canvass, we also take an opportunity to reflect on Election Day and the days leading up to it. Narda Barrientos, Elections Supervisor, once said, “The Elections Office is all about change. We’ve been in a constant state of change, and we will continue to change as long as it makes our processes stronger.”

The biggest change this election? We did away with Receiving Stations. Was it successful? As Mattel’s Magic 8 Ball would say, “all signs point to yes.”

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Election Day morning

November 3 is upon us, and polls open at 7 a.m. for voters who wish to cast a ballot in favor of or against measures and/or candidates in the Consolidated Municipal, School & Special District Election.

No county measures exist on the ballot, meaning not all cities are participating in the election. To find out whether or not you are able to vote in this election and to find your polling place, visit http://shapethefuture.org/apps/voterlookup.

What’s happening right now? Almost the entire staff is already in and at work, supporting Election Officers as they prepare for the opening of the polls. The Election Day Call Center, a phone bank that we set up specifically for Election Officers to call throughout the day if support is needed, is staffed with a team of people ready to assist.

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The Day Before

It’s the day before the November 3 election, and final preparations are underway.

Supplies are being distributed to Field Techs, back up Election Officers are being secured for the polls, and final training for the Election Day call center was conducted. Election Materials Courier routes are finalized, and assignments have been distributed to all participants in the process.

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San Mateo County on Twitter

Hopefully you’ve already started following the Elections Office on Twitter at @smcvote. Did you know that a number of other government organizations and cities within San Mateo County have explored social media outreach?

Twitter utilizes hashtags (#) to mark tweets with a distinguishable phrase that allows users to search and easily find a string of conversations relating to the topic. A popular hashtag is #followfriday, where people recommend others for following. Often, the recommendation is supported by a reason for suggested follow.

Here’s our list of local entities to check out on Twitter in honor of #followfriday. And if we missed you, make sure to add yourself in our comments section!

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