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Online voter registration now in 10 languages

Californians can now do online voter registration in 10 languages, Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced Monday.

In addition to the English and Spanish versions already available, the Secretary of State’s office has now added Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Tagalog, Thai and Vietnamese. Also, the RegisterToVote.ca.gov has been redesigned to be simpler and more user-friendly, with better accessibility features for people with disabilities.

“After moving some mountains to quickly launch online voter registration in time for the 2012 presidential election season, I wanted to see what could be done to make it even better,” Bowen said in a news release. “This enhanced application is a result of in-depth collaboration among dozens of experts in cultural, language, disability access, elections and technology issues, along with local officials and the California State University Accessible Technology Initiative. I am grateful to them all for their valuable input.”

Community advocates had pushed for this expansion, noting that Asian Americans in California tend to have a relatively low voter registration rate.

“California has millions of immigrant citizens who are still learning English, citizens we need as full participants in our democracy,” Michelle Romero, director of the Greenlining Institute’s Claiming Our Democracy program, said in a news release. “This is an important step to help bridge the voter registration gap in communities of color.”

The information provided in a voter application still must be checked by a county registrar before an applicant can be added to the voter rolls; voters can check on their own registration status using the state’s portal to county offices. Monday, May 19 is the voter registration deadline for the upcoming June 3 primary election.

Posted on Monday, April 21st, 2014
Under: voter registration | 6 Comments »

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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Posted on Tuesday, June 25th, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, California State Senate, Debra Bowen, Dianne Feinstein, Leland Yee, Mike Honda, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, voter registration, Zoe Lofgren | 10 Comments »

Online registration grabs low-, mid-income voters

The new online voter registration system that California launched last fall isn’t just getting more people registered – it’s getting different people registered.

More registrants come from low- and middle-income neighborhoods than expected, according to a study just released by researchers Lisa García Bedolla, a Cal associate professor of education and of political science, and Véronica Velez, a postdoctoral research fellow at Cal’s Center for Latino Policy Research.

“Given voters in California are, on average, significantly more affluent than the general population, this study suggests that online voter registration opened up the … process to a wider range of voters in terms of their socioeconomic status,” García Bedolla and Velez reported.

Based on data from each of California’s 58 counties, the state’s online drive that ran from Sept. 19 through Oct. 21 generated 839,297 new registered voters. Some 22.6 percent were Latino, 11.1 percent Asian, and about 59.8 percent white – breakdowns similar to the state’s overall voter registration.

But the researchers focused on census-tract data for the newly registered voters in San Diego and Alameda counties, two regions with similarly diverse populations but contrasting political tendencies – San Diego tending more conservative, Alameda County tending more liberal.

In San Diego County, 71 percent of Latino, 57 percent of white and 50 percent of Asian American online registrants lived in areas with medium incomes under $75,000. In Alameda County, the numbers were 65 percent for Latino registrants, 52 percent for whites and 44 percent for Asian Americans.

Garcia Bedolla said this suggests that “when we make the process easier, like letting you register after you Google it on your phone, folks participate.”

The study also found:

  • Women of color, rather than white women, are driving the gender gap in Democratic party identification among the online registrants.
  • A significant proportion of eligible voters over age 35, particularly white men, registered online.
  • Latina and female Asian American voters were more likely to vote than were Latinos and Asian American men.
  • Only among white registrants and voters is there near gender parity in registration and turnout.
  • Posted on Tuesday, March 26th, 2013
    Under: voter registration | 1 Comment »

    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.

    Posted on Monday, March 25th, 2013
    Under: Debra Bowen, Democratic Party, Green Party, Republican Party, voter registration | 3 Comments »

    Yee aims to widen online registration’s reach

    Hot from the resounding success of the online voter registration system his legislation enabled, a Bay Area lawmaker now wants to expand that system’s reach.

    State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, today introduced a bill that would put a link to the online registration system run by the Secretary of State on every state government website.

    “The use of online voter registration was overwhelming, but we need to continue to find new ways to get as many citizens as possible involved in our democracy,” Yee said in a news release. “When Californians access their state government via the internet, we should encourage them to vote and have their voice heard at the ballot box.”

    “There are more than 5 ½ million eligible Californians who are not registered to vote. Senate Bill 44 will help us reach these individuals and significantly increase the voter rolls.”

    The new system, which went live in September, let nearly 800,000 Californians register online to vote in November’s election, helping to boost the state’s registered voters to a record 18.25 million and – some believe – contributing to Democrats’ success in reaching legislative supermajorities.

    Yee cited early numbers showing that those who registered to vote using the new online system were significantly more likely to cast a ballot in the November election.

    According to Political Data Inc. (PDI), turnout was 84.7 percent in Sacramento County from those who registered online – 10 percentage points higher than the county average. In Orange County, those who registered online turned out at 82 percent versus the county average of 72 percent. Fresno County saw an even larger uptick in turnout among those who registered online: 78.2 percent, versus the county average of only 63.8 percent. Figures for other counties are still being collected.

    “Not only were we able to increase turnout among those who registered online, but we significantly increased participation among young people and first time voters,” said Yee.

    UPDATE @ 4:19 P.M. THURSDAY: A quick clarification and amplification – these comparisons in Sacramento, Orange and Fresno counties are between those who registered online between Sept. 19 (when the new system went live) and Oct. 22 and all other voters in those counties regardless of when they registered. The turnout rates are much closer if you compare those who registered online during those few final weeks and those who registered on paper during the same time period. Also, it’s worth noting that while Yee sponsored the legislation authorizing the new system, it was Secretary of State Debra Bowen who secured federal funding and built a successful system in only about nine months, a very short time by state IT project standards.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
    Under: California State Senate, Debra Bowen, Leland Yee, Secretary of State, voter registration | 2 Comments »

    California poised to set voter registration record

    California is on track for a record-high number of registered voters, Secretary of State Debra Bowen said today.

    Yesterday was the deadline to register to vote in next month’s presidential election. Bowen said more than 679,000 Californians were added to the state’s voter rolls in the final 45 days leading up to that deadline, and that number will go up as county elections officials keep verifying the eligibility of tens of thousands more last-minute registrants.

    The last certified statewide data, as of Sept. 7, showed 17,259,680 Californians registered to vote. The record high for California – set in February 2009 – was 17,334,275 registrants, so all those from the last few weeks are sure to put the state well past that mark.

    “I must emphasize these are preliminary numbers and not the final confirmed roster of eligible voters in California because county elections officials are now hard at work verifying each and every application,” Bowen said in a news release. “After all 58 county elections officials send their registration data to my office, we will compile the certified statewide numbers and publish a final report of registered voters on November 2.”

    Of the more than 679,000 verified new voters so far, about 381,000 submitted their applications using the Secretary of State’s new online system and about 298,000 submitted paper applications.

    Posted on Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012
    Under: Debra Bowen, voter registration | 3 Comments »

    Online voter registration continues to surge

    More than 544,000 Californians submitted voter registration applications online in the new system’s first month, Secretary of State Debra Bowen said today.

    “Given all of the important issues on the November ballot, I am delighted so many Californians want to make their voices heard,” Bowen said in a news release. “Since registering to vote is easier than ever with the quick online option, there is no excuse for not being ready to vote on Election Day!”

    Californians must register to vote by October 22 if they want to participate in the November 6 election. Postmarks count for paper applications, but online applications must be submitted – not started – by midnight that day.

    Many more Californians have submitted paper applications in recent weeks, but county elections officials still must verify eligibility and check for duplicate records before adding someone to the official voter roll. And many of the online applications are registration updates and not first-time registrants, so this doesn’t mean there’ll be 544,000 new voters. Final, official statistics for all registrations will be available Nov. 2.

    Online voter registration is available at RegisterToVote.ca.gov; paper applications are available at post offices, public libraries, many government offices, and other locations.

    Posted on Wednesday, October 17th, 2012
    Under: voter registration | 4 Comments »

    Local Obama allies help fund fight against voter ID

    Even as a Pennsylvania judge ruled today to block that state’s new voter ID law from taking effect before next month’s election, some major Bay Area supporters of President Obama’s announced they’ll fund efforts to stop other, similar laws.

    The Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund announced it’ll give half a million dollars to combat what it calls voter disenfranchisement efforts in several states. The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Common Cause Education Fund, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Project Vote will receive $125,000 each.

    Douglas Goldman“Our response to voter suppression is strategic,” Douglas Goldman said in a news release. “By supporting these distinct projects, we want to bring a coordinated approach to ensure that voting rights are protected.”

    Douglas Goldman – a retired emergency physician, software company founder/chairman, and prominent philanthropist – is the son of Levi Strauss heirs Richard and Rhoda Goldman. He and his wife, Lisa, hosted a $35,800-per-person fundraising dinner for President Obama in May at their Atherton home. In thanking them for their hospitality, Obama said, “They have had my back from the get-go, at a time when not many people knew who I was.”

    Goldman’s news release today cited a study recently published by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, which said voter suppression tactics have multiplied since the 2010 mid-term election. Since then, about 38 states have instituted changes in voting procedures and requirements that include: proof of citizenship to register, shortened early voting timeframes, making it more difficult for third-party organizations to register people to vote, and photo ID requirements.

    Republicans have claimed the laws aim to curb in-person voter impersonation fraud, but instances of that are extremely rare. Democrats say Republicans are passing the laws to keep young, minority, elderly and low-income voters away from the polls.

    “Voter suppression is a wrong that must be righted,” Goldman said. “It is particularly sad to see special interests trying to encroach on America’s historical achievements in voting rights. Every grade-school student can recite the American maxim of ‘one person, one vote.’ Regretfully, however, these efforts direct us towards ‘one affluent, highly educated, longtime citizen; one vote.’ That is wrong! It is not the American way.”

    As I’d written in last week’s story about California’s new Election Day voter registration law, Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine, said Democrats have a partisan motivation, too. “Those voters who are least attached to the system — who move the most, who are poor, who are students — are the groups that have the most problems registering but are also the groups that are more likely to vote for Democrats.”

    Hasen said “the ideals of equality” suggest letting as many eligible voters as possible cast ballots, but “over history we’ve fought over how broad the franchise would be.” It took constitutional amendments, the Civil War, litigation and legislation to get where we are today, he noted.

    Recipients of the Goldman Fund grants intend to use the money to monitor polling places, manage voter hotlines, fund legal strategies, provide public education, and support other activities related to ensuring systematic and accessible voter registration, according to the fund’s news release.

    The Goldmans created their foundation in 1992, and it has awarded nearly $60 million to more than 500 nonprofits in seven areas: democracy and civil liberties, education and literacy, environment, health and recreation, the Jewish community, reproductive health and rights, and San Francisco Bay Area institutions. The fund’s assets now total about $170 million.

    Posted on Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012
    Under: 2012 presidential election, voter registration | 18 Comments »

    110,000 register to vote online in first week

    About 110,000 Californians registered to vote online during the first week they could.

    The state’s online voter registration system went live last Wednesday as a result of SB 397 by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, which was signed into law last October by Gov. Jerry Brown.

    Secretary of State Debra Bowen said today she’s “thrilled to see the high volume,” but it’s part of the usual presidential-year deluge. “At this time four years ago, we received as many as 191,000 paper registration applications in a single week just at the Secretary of State’s office – that’s not counting the 58 county offices,” she said.

    Still, Yee said in a news release today that he’s “ecstatic with the popularity of this new voter registration system.”

    “It is a game-changer for our democracy,” he said. “While some states are suppressing the rights of voters, here in California we are significantly increasing participation.”

    A slew of Republican-dominated states have enacted voter ID laws in recent years. Supporters say they’re meant to reduce the chance of in-person voting fraud, although there are extremely few documented cases of such fraud; critics say they’re meant to disenfranchise poor, disabled, minority and other voters who are likely to vote Democratic.

    Yee said California’s new law already is saving county election offices thousands of dollars: “Election clerks do not have to spend as much time and money entering data from paper registrations, which also results in fewer administrative errors.”

    The new system lets citizens whose signature is already on file with the Department of Motor Vehicles submit their voter registration form to their county elections office electronically.

    Only 44 percent 59 percent of eligible California citizens voted in the 2008 presidential election. Even now, more than 6.5 million Californians are eligible to vote but remain unregistered.

    The deadline to register to vote in this November’s election is Monday, Oct. 22.

    Posted on Wednesday, September 26th, 2012
    Under: California State Senate, Debra Bowen, Jerry Brown, Leland Yee, voter registration | 18 Comments »

    It’s National Voter Registration Day. Do it. Do it.

    Today has been National Voter Registration Day, and Bay Area officials and activists joined their peers across the nation in urging people to “register in September and make it count in November.”

    photo courtesy of Keith CarsonRep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson were among those who rallied at mid-day outside the Alameda County Administration Building in Oakland to urge all eligible voters to register and cast ballots this fall.

    The Oakland event was one of several held today across the nation by members of the Congressional Black Caucus as a part of the “For the People” Voter Protection Initiative. H. Res. 542 condemns “the passage of legislation that would unduly burden an American citizen’s ability to vote and opposing any State election law or proposed legislation that would have a disproportionate impact on vulnerable communities across the country.”

    “We are engaged in a battle to protect the fundamental, Constitutional right to vote,” Lee said later Tuesday. “Voter suppression tactics do nothing at all to prevent voter fraud, while disproportionately excluding and disenfranchising people of color, elderly and young adults from their Constitutionally given right to vote. By preparing all Alameda County residents to vote this fall, we are standing in solidarity with communities fighting intense battles against voter suppression efforts throughout the country.”

    Lee notes that at least 34 states have introduced laws that would require voters to show photo identification in order to vote, and at least 12 states have introduced laws that would require proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, to register to vote or to vote. The states that have already cut back on voting rights provide 171 electoral votes in 2012, 63 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency, she said.

    on Sproul Plaza (photo by Josh Richman)Meanwhile, groups at the University of California, Berkeley – including the Associated Students, Voto Latino and others – had tables on Sproul Plaza today in an attempt to register as many people as possible.

    Election Day is six weeks away. Still not registered to vote? You’ve got until Monday, Oct. 22, and you need not even get up from where you’re sitting right now reading this post: You can register online. Or, if you prefer, printed voter registration forms are available at many government offices, DMV offices, post offices, public libraries and other locations.

    Posted on Tuesday, September 25th, 2012
    Under: Alameda County, Barbara Lee, U.S. House, voter registration | 4 Comments »