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Voter #s: Dems a smidge up, GOP a smidge down

Democrats made a tiny gain in recent months while Republicans continued a long, slow slide in new voter registration numbers released Monday by California Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

Monday’s figures show the state’s Democratic registration at 43.93 percent as of Feb. 10, up a fraction from the 43.66 percent stake the party held just before November’s election. Republican registration dropped to 28.94 percent as of Feb. 10 from 29.36 percent as of Oct. 22. And the trend toward nonpartisan registration leveled off somewhat in recent months, going from 20.94 percent in October to 20.86 percent in February.

In the last two years, the percentage of voters registered with the Democratic Party decreased by 0.1 percent and voters registered with the Republican Party decreased by 2 percent. The number of registered voters with no party preference has increased by more than 259,000 during the same period.

A few minor parties made minor progress in the past two years – American Independent registration rose from 2.43 percent to 2.64 percent and Libertarian registration rose from 0.54 percent to 0.61 percent – but they as well as the Green and Peace and Freedom Party will find it increasingly hard to get much attention and retain their ballot statuses under the state’s newly implemented top-two primary system.

Overall, 75.7 percent of eligible Californians are registered to vote – down from 76.7 percent as of last October, but up from 72.8 percent at this time two years ago. A total of 18,055,783 Californians are now registered to vote – an increase of 869,252 since the last off-year report, but down from the raw-number high of 18,245,970 in the fall of 2012.

“Voter registration often dips in an off-year when counties update voter rolls following a general election, but the good news is registration is still up by about 3 percent from this time two years ago,” Bowen said in a news release. “I built online voter registration, in part, to make it easier for the 25 percent of Californians who are eligible to register to vote but have not. It’s now easier than ever to participate; so if you haven’t yet registered to vote, or if you moved and need to re-register, fill out an application online right now.”

By law, statewide voter registration updates must occur 60 and 15 days before each general election, and 154, 60 and 15 days before each primary election. One update is published in each odd-numbered year with no regularly scheduled statewide election.

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Feinstein, Boxer endorse Mike Honda for 2014

Add California’s U.S. Senators to the cavalcade of Democratic stars giving early endorsements to Rep. Mike Honda as he tries to neutralize a potential challenge from a fellow Democrat.

“I’m proud to endorse Congressman Mike Honda,” U.S. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a news release issued today by Honda’s campaign. “He works tirelessly for the people he represents and is an important leader on issues such as helping to create jobs and improving our schools. He is a champion for Silicon Valley and I’m glad to offer him my support.”

“The people of the 17th Congressional District need Mike Honda’s strong voice now more than ever,” U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said in the same release. “I am proud to endorse such an effective leader for education, innovation, and families throughout the region and country.”

Ro Khanna, a former Obama administration Commerce Department official with $1.26 million in his campaign coffers, is rumored to be announcing a 2014 campaign against Honda soon. He declined to comment on the senators’ endorsements Monday, just as he had when Honda rolled out endorsements this year from President Barack Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the chairs of the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and others.

Honda thanked the senators for their support. “We all agree that the formula for growth in Silicon Valley jobs is straightforward. It requires smart and targeted incentives to help companies locate and grow here while accessing our unique and diverse workforce, and providing our students with the education they’ll need to compete.”

Honda issued poll results last week showing he had a 52-point lead over Khanna – not surprising, considering Honda, 71, has served in Congress since 2000 and Khanna, 36, hasn’t even declared his candidacy yet.

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Barbara Lee, Jeff Denham do immigration forums

House members near and far, and from both sides of the aisle, are holding forums to hear their constituents’ thoughts on immigration reform.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will join with community leaders and activists for a forum from 6 to 7:30 p.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, March 26, at St. Elizabeth’s High School, 1530 34th Ave. in Oakland, with testimony from East Bay residents.

Lee’s office says she “been a staunch supporter of comprehensive immigration reform to address our broken immigration system” and “is committed to developing a comprehensive immigration policy that is fair, preserves family unity, promotes long-term economic growth, and includes a clear roadmap to citizenship.”

Next week and far away, Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, will hold two similar forums – one on April 2 in Modesto, and another on April 3 in Manteca. He’ll be joined by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., who chairs the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, at both listening sessions.

“As your Congressman, I’d like to hear from you about the critical issues facing our country and our community,” Denham said in a news release. “From creating fair and respectful immigration policies, to helping to create good paying jobs, and improving our children’s schools, we have a lot of work to do, and the answers are going to come from people like you – not the bureaucrats in Washington.”

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USC/LAT Poll: Californians support gun control

California voters support a wide range of gun-control measures and say it’s more important to protect people from gun violence than to protect Second Amendment rights, according to a new statewide poll.

When asked whether they felt it is more important to protect people from gun violence than protect American’s right to own guns, a majority of California voters — 51 percent — said that they felt it is more important to protect people from gun violence; 46 percent agreed “strongly” with that statement. In comparison, 37 percent of voters said it’s more important to protect the right to own guns, with 32 percent agreeing “strongly.”

The University of Southern California Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll of 1,501 registered voters, conducted March 11-17 by two polling firms – one Democratic, one Republican – has a 2.9-point margin of error.

The poll found about a quarter of Californians own a firearm, compared to about 34 percent of American households as estimated by a recent General Social Survey.

“Politics is a natural outgrowth of culture,” poll director Dan Schnur, a former Republican strategist who directs USC’s Unruh Institute of Politics, said in a news release. “And because the percentage of Californians who own guns is so much lower than the ownership rates of guns in other parts of the country, it shouldn’t surprise us that Californian’s attitudes toward gun control are much stronger than places where people are more likely to own or maintain a firearm.”

The gap between those emphasizing gun-violence reduction and protection of gun rights in this poll isn’t as large as that reported by the Field Poll last month; that earlier poll found 61 percent preferred imposing greater controls while 34 percent preferred protecting gun rights.

Asked about potential ways to curb gun violence, 92 percent of California voters told the USC/Times poll that they support background checks for all gun sales, which the state already requires; only 6 percent were opposed.

On other proposed gun-control measures:

    89 percent favor updating the national database used for background checks by improving the reporting of mental health records, while 8 percent oppose;
    87 percent favor increasing penalties for those who commit crimes with guns, while 9 percent oppose;
    85 percent favor increasing penalties for those who illegally buy, while 12 percent oppose;
    79 percent favor requiring ammunition buyers to provide a thumbprint and ID for background checks, while 19 percent oppose; and
    71 percent favor requiring all gun owners to be registered, licensed and insured, while 26 percent oppose.

Lots more, after the jump…
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Assembly bill to seize assault weapons is dead

One of the most controversial gun-control bills introduced in California this year – a move toward taking the 166,000 registered assault weapons that are grandfathered under the state’s ban – is dead, its author said today.

When Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, introduced AB 174 in January, it declared the Legislature’s intent to end all “grandfather clauses” allowing ownership of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. The bill was gutted and amended Tuesday to address public-school health centers instead.

Bonta said Thursday that he realized his proposal was a non-starter.

Rob Bonta“It would be extremely expensive, for one – if you were going to take back guns that have were grandfathered in, you would have to provide market compensation for them,” he said. “I didn’t think that made the most sense from a fiscal perspective.”

Bonta also said he was very aware of the gun lobby’s assertion that any state or national registration of firearms is merely a prelude to confiscation – something his bill actually pursued.

“I didn’t want to have a bill that plays into that argument,” he said. “I wanted to concentrate on some other bills that I thought would be more focused and more effective.”

Bonta is carrying other gun-control bills including AB 187, a 10-percent tax on ammunition sales to fund crime-prevention efforts in California cities most torn by gun violence; AB 180, giving Oakland special dispensation to enact gun regulations more strict than the state’s; and AB 1020, requiring the state to send a letter to gun buyers during their 10-day waiting periods reminding them that “straw purchases” on behalf of those banned from owning guns are illegal.

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Zoe Lofgren introduces Refugee Protection Act

Rep. Zoe Lofgren and U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy introduced bills in the House and Senate Thursday that they said would improve protection of refugees and asylum-seekers coming to the United States to flee persecution in their home nations.

Their Refugee Protection Act would reform the expedited removal process for asylum seekers pursuing their claims before the Asylum Office of the Department of Homeland Security. The bill requires the immigration detention system to adhere to basic humane treatment for asylum seekers and others with access to counsel, religious practice, and visits from family.

It also strengthens the law so those with actual ties to terrorist activities will continue to be denied entry to the United States. But the authors say it will protect innocent asylum seekers and refugees from being unfairly denied as a result of overly broad terrorism bars that over time have inadvertently swept in those who were actually victimized by terrorists.

“Americans have long been a compassionate people, offering a safe harbor to victims of devastating calamities and survivors of tortuous, brutal regimes,” Lofgren, D-San Jose, said in her news release. “The legislation we’re introducing today not only continues that proud tradition, it makes several needed improvements to ensure we can help those seeking freedom from persecution and oppression abroad.”

Lofgren is the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security. Her bill is cosponsored by Reps. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton; John Conyers, D-Mich.; Keith Ellison, D-Minn.; Jared Polis, D-Colo.; Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.; and Peter Welch, D-Vt. The Senate version is cosponsored by Senators Carl Levin, D-Mich.; Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii; and and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

“The Senate will soon turn to comprehensive immigration reform and the changes to the refugee system contained in this bill are a critical component of fixing our broken immigration system,” said Leahy, D-Vt. “As we address the many complex issues that face our immigration system, we must ensure that America upholds its longstanding commitment to refugee protection.”