Debra Bowen spending the morning in court?

Outgoing Secretary of State Debra Bowen posted this to Facebook about an hour ago:

At noon my service as Secretary of State comes to an end. In the morning, I should be present for the swearing in of Governor Brown and the State of the State address. But I may miss both. My husband’s attorney agreed to a short extension of time – but because I made a paperwork error, my husband is refusing to change the date. So I may miss my last morning as SOS in order to defend against a motion my husband has filed in divorce court. Pretty sad, huh.

A few dozen followers and friends have posted expressions of gratitude for her service and support for her in a difficult time.


Complaint filed about ‘Six Californias’ petitions

The “OneCalifornia” committee formed to oppose venture capitalist Tim Draper’s “Six Californias” ballot measure filed a complaint with Secretary of State Debra Bowen on Thursday requesting a voter-fraud investigation.

The letter included a copy of the blog item I posted Tuesday, which detailed voters hundreds of miles apart recounting how paid petition circulators told strikingly similar falsehoods about the Six Californias petition’s purpose. Lying to voters in order to get them to sign a ballot-measure petition is a misdemeanor.

“To ensure the integrity of the state initiative process is not tarnished by criminal behavior, we request an immediate investigation into these disturbing reports of voter fraud during circulation of the Six Californias initiative,” wrote Richard Miadich, attorney for the One California committee.

A Six Californias spokesman didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment Thursday afternoon.

Draper, 56, of Atherton, who in the past has given generously to Republican causes, filed about 1.3 million petition signatures Tuesday in order to qualify the measure for the November 2016 ballot. County registrars and Bowen’s office must verify that at least 807,615 of those signatures are valid and from registered California voters.

OneCalifornia spokesman Steve Maviglio, a veteran Democratic strategist, said Thursday that “it’s not surprising that high jinx were involved in trying to get voters to sign the petition for this unthoughtful measure, even when signature gatherers were getting paid $3 for each signature they received.

“We’ve been flooded with emails and Tweets who are echoing what was reported,” Maviglio said. “These allegations are serious and need to be thoroughly investigated by the Secretary of State.”


ACLU, LWV sue Debra Bowen over voting rights

Former inmates on post-release community supervision and mandatory supervision should be eligible to vote, civil-rights groups argue in a lawsuit filed Tuesday against California Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

Bowen issued a directive in 2011 that people in these categories – which were created under the prison realignment plan pursued by Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature – were ineligible to cast ballots.

But the lawsuit – filed in Alameda County Superior Court by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area on behalf of the League of Women Voters of California, the All of Us Or None inmate-rights group, and several individuals – notes the state constitution specifies that every adult Californian has a right to vote except while “imprisoned or on parole for a conviction of a felony” or mentally incompetent.

More than 58,000 people have been wrongly disenfranchised by Bowen’s “administrative fiat,” the lawsuit claims.

“Voting is a civic duty, and prohibiting people who are living in the community under these new forms of community supervision from participating in this critical part of our democracy serves no useful purpose and is likely to impede re-integration and rehabilitation into civil society,” the lawsuit says.

Also, Bowen violated the California Administrative Procedure Act by issuing her directive without giving any public notice or allowing comments, the suit claims. “These requirements are meant to ensure that people who will be affected by a government rule or policy can have a voice in its creation and to provide, as our supreme court has put it, some security against ‘bureaucratic tyranny.’”

UPDATE @ 11:47 A.M.: A similar lawsuit was filed in 2012, but the state Court of Appeal and Supreme Court both declined to review the case, so Bowen’s interpretation of the law stood. Bowen won’t comment on pending litigation, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.


Measure seeks special protection for Bible speech

A proposed constitutional amendment that would exempt Bible-based speech from the constitution and state law’s existing restrictions – including restrictions against discrimination and hate crimes – has been cleared to start circulating petitions.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen said proponent Allan Esses, a pastor from Irvine, must collect at least 807,615 valid signatures from registered voters by Dec. 2 in order to qualify the initiative for next year’s ballot.

Here’s the state Attorney General’s official title and summary for the new proposed measure:

BIBLE-BASED SPEECH. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. Exempts speech based on biblical authority from existing constitutional and statutory restrictions applicable to all other speech, including restrictions against discrimination and hate crimes. Repeals constitutional provision denying protection to acts of religious expression inconsistent with the peace or safety of the State. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Potentially minor increased costs to state and local governments to resolve legal issues pertaining to the effect of the measure. (13-0003.)

Article 1, Section 4 of the state constitution says, “Free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference are guaranteed. This liberty of conscience does not excuse acts that are licentious or inconsistent with the peace or safety of the State. The Legislature shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. A person is not incompetent to be a witness or juror because of his or her opinions on religious beliefs.”

Esses’ amendment would strike the second sentence in that section (“This liberty of conscience…”) and would add this section:

(b) We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to perpetuate His blessings do submit that it is not a crime, hate crime or unlawful for a person to use any part of the Bible’s content as authority: and do submit that a person using any part of the Bible’s content as authority may freely speak, pray, write, discuss, publish, preach, teach, hear, share his or her faith. to proclaim Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, engage in street witnessing, distribute written material or otherwise communicate any views on salvation, heaven, or abortion, adultery, alcoholism, anti-Semitism, astrology, bestiality, bigamy, bisexuality, blasphemy, civil unions, coarse jesting, cohabitation, coveting, cross-dressing., cults, drugs, drunkenness, extortion, euthanasia, evil, evolution, fornication, gay marriage, gender identity, hell, heresy, homosexuality, idolaters, idolatry, incest, lying, marriage, murder, necromancy, other religions, pornography, psychics, rape, reviling, sex, sexual immorality, sexual orientation, sodomy, sorcery, stealing, transgender, trans-sexuality, witchcraft, yoga, or sin at any public or private gatherings, school, church, or other place of worship, Bible Study group or sidewalk or in any communicative medium, the internet, satellite, television, film, theater, radio, videos, recording, newspapers, magazines, music, and periodicals or by means of a computer, electronic devise, telephone, cell phone or fax machine. These provisions shall not be construed to authorize actions prohibited by Section 302, Section 602.11 and Section 11412 of the Penal Code.

Penal Code Section 302 criminalizes the intentional disruption of a religious gathering; Section 602.11 criminalizes blocking entry or exit from a health care facility (such as an abortion clinic), place of worship or school; and Section 11412 criminalizes making someone refrain from religious activity by means of a threat.

Esses failed to gather enough signatures for a similar measure in 2011.

“Although the Bill of Rights guarantees religious liberty, recent restrictions on the free exercise of religion have compelled the organization to submit clarifications of citizen’s First Amendment rights, similar to the need felt by some of the nation’s Founding Fathers to clarify in the Bill of Rights what they believed existed in the Constitution,” Esses had said of that earlier proposed measure in 2010. “What is particularly ironic and disturbing is the growing intolerance of so many people who preach tolerance. Increasingly, Christians are expected to violate our beliefs and conform our religious convictions to accommodate those who support positions that are clearly unbiblical.”


California politicos on the Voting Rights Act ruling

Here’s how some California politicos are reacting to today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that voids key provisions of the Voting Rights Act:

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

“I strongly disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision today to limit the Voting Rights Act. The law successfully countered a century of aggressive limitations on minority voting rights, a fact that today’s majority decision acknowledged: ‘The Act has proved immensely successful at redressing racial discrimination and integrating the voting process.’

“After more than 20 hearings in the House and Senate, Congress in 2006 reauthorized key provisions in the Voting Rights Act for 25 years, a bill I was proud to cosponsor. By invalidating a key piece of the law, the Supreme Court departed from settled precedent and dealt a real setback for voting rights in this country.

“I believe Congress should move quickly to introduce new legislation to preserve voting rights for all Americans.”

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

Barbara Boxer“The Supreme Court’s decision flies in the face of the clear evidence we continue to see of efforts to suppress the vote in minority communities across the country. It is devastating that the Court’s conservative majority would strike down a central provision of the law that has protected the voting rights of all Americans for nearly a half century, and was reauthorized by Congress almost unanimously just seven years ago. I’ll be working with my Senate colleagues to restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act to ensure that every American can participate fully in our democracy.”

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

Nancy Pelosi“Today, the Supreme Court took a step backward on voting rights, on civil rights, on liberty and justice for all. This decision weakens the cause of voting rights in our time, disregards the challenges of discrimination still facing our country, and undermines our nation’s ongoing effort to protect the promise of equality in our laws.

“Even with this setback, the court did place the power to reinforce the heart of the Voting Rights Act in the hands of Congress. As Members of Congress, we know that changes in election laws can have discriminatory effects. That’s why Congress made the determination that advance review of changes in election procedures is required for jurisdictions with a history of discrimination. In 2006, Democrats and Republicans came together to reauthorize the law, garnering overwhelming bipartisan support in a Republican-led Congress – passing the House by a vote 390-33 and the Senate by a vote of 98-0, then signed into law by President George W. Bush. This year, we must follow in that same tradition, taking the court’s decision as our cue for further action to strengthen this legislation.

“Voting rights are essential to who we are as Americans, to the cause of equality, to the strength of our democracy. It is our responsibility to do everything in our power to remove obstacles to voting, to ensure every citizen has the right to vote and every vote is counted as cast. We must secure the most basic privilege of American citizenship: the right to vote.”

More, after the jump…
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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.