California elections would be radically retooled, with neighborhood polling places replaced by “voting centers” serving much larger swaths and a vast expansion of early voting, under a bill announced Thursday by two lawmakers and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.
Padilla, along with state senators Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, and Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, say a similar system adopted by Colorado a few years ago has brought much better turnout because voters are freer to cast their ballots when and how they please.
Their SB 450 not only would let a voter cast a ballot at any voting center in his or her county, but also would require that all voters receive ballots by mail and that those voting centers be open at least eight hours a day for the 10 days before Election Day. Voters could mail in their ballot or drop it off at a vote center or a secure 24 hour ballot drop off box.
“California ranked 43rd in voter turnout nationally for the 2014 General Election. This problem cannot be ignored. Civic participation is the foundation of our democracy,” Padilla said in a news release. “SB 450 would provide citizens more option for when, where and how they vote. Providing more options will help more citizens vote, despite our often busy lives.”
Padilla and the lawmakers said that since implementing the vote center model, Colorado has been a national leader in voter turnout. For the November 2014 general election, voter turnout of eligible citizens in Colorado was 56.9 percent, compared to only 30.9 percent in California.
From 2006 to 2010, Colorado’s voter turnout was an average of 7 percentage points higher than in California; since implementation of the vote center model, voter turnout in Colorado has been an average of 20.7 percentage points higher than in California.
That’s not the only way Padilla is hoping to boost voter participation. The Assembly last week approved a bill that Padilla sponsored, AB 1461, to modernize California’s motor-voter registration system so that every eligible citizen who goes to a Department of Motor Vehicles office to get or renew a driver’s license or state ID will be registered – potentially adding millions to the rolls. Voters would retain their right to opt out or cancel their voter registration at any time, and the bill would protect those covered by existing confidentiality policies such as victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
Posted on Wednesday, June 10th, 2015
Under: Alex Padilla, California State Senate, Secretary of State, voter registration | 6 Comments »
As the election advertising reaches fever pitch, burning up your TV and clogging your mailbox, here are a few resources for cutting through the smoke:
Voters Edge, set up by MAPLight.org and the League of Women Voters California Education Fund, takes your home address and presents you with a virtual version of your ballot with click-throughs that not only informs you about the measures and candidates, but also provides a run-down of those measures’ and candidates’ biggest campaign donors.
California Choices, a collaborative effort by the nonpartisan, nonprofit Next 10 and UC-Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, has updated its website to include guides to the six statewide ballot measures, as well as a page where you can compare endorsements from unions, nonprofits, parties and news organizations.
The nonpartisan, nonprofit California Voter Foundation’s guide is pretty easy to navigate. And, though you should’ve received it in the mail already, the state’s Official Voter Information Guide is available online as well.
Don’t forget: Next Monday, Oct. 20 is the last day to register to vote in this election. You can do so online, or pick up a paper voter registration application at your county elections office, library, Department of Motor Vehicles offices, or U.S. post office.
Posted on Monday, October 13th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, ballot measures, voter registration | 3 Comments »
California Secretary of State Debra Bowen certified the June 3 primary election’s results Friday – and voter turnout, it turns out, was the worst ever.
Bowen reports only 25.2 percent of registered voters bothered to cast a ballot, the lowest voter turnout of any statewide election in California’s history. The previous low was 29.2 percent in June 2008.
“There is no doubt the turnout number is disappointing, but if ever there was a statewide election where every vote mattered, this was certainly it,” Bowen, the state’s chief elections official, said in a news release. “If there is any silver lining, I hope it’s a reminder to people who didn’t vote in June to take note of close results such as the State Controller contest and commit to going to the polls in November.”
California voters set another record last month: More than 69 percent of those who voted did so by mail-in ballots, beating the previous high of 65 percent in June 2012.
Bowen will publish a Supplement to the Statement of Vote by November 8, which will include details about how votes were cast by each city and each legislative, congressional, county supervisorial district, and Board of Equalization district.
Posted on Friday, July 11th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, voter registration | 9 Comments »
If you’re not yet registered to vote in the June 3 primary election, you only have one more week in which to get signed up.
The deadline is next Monday, May 19, Secretary of State Debra Bowen reminds Californians. “With the deadline to register to vote almost here, now is the time to get it done and check it off your ‘to-do’ list,” she said. “Registering to vote is now easier than ever for eligible Californians, so there is no need to wait.”
Eligible Californians can register online at RegisterToVote.ca.gov or get a paper application at local libraries, U.S. post offices, California Department of Motor Vehicles offices, and many more places. Voter registration closes 15 days prior to any California election.
A person must re-register to vote after moving or changing names, or to change his or her political party preference. Voters can check their registration status by contacting their county registars’ offices; a list of websites and phone numbers is available at www.sos.ca.gov/elections/registration-status.
Remember: If you don’t register and vote, you get whatever everyone else thinks you deserve and you have no right to complain.
Posted on Monday, May 12th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, voter registration | 1 Comment »
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 »
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.:
“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:
“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…
Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 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 »