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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.

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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.”

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Worst. Turnout. Ever.

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.

worst turnout everBowen 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.

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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.

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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.

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SoS candidate Alex Padilla barnstorms Bay Area

State Sen. Alex Padilla, in the Bay Area today both on legislative business and for his campaign for secretary of state, says California should show other states how voting is done.

I had a brief chat with Padilla, D-Van Nuys, between some meetings he had in Oakland and San Jose, and asked him what people around the state have been telling him they want from their next secretary of state. Answers have varied, he said, though a common theme is better voting access.

Alex Padilla“One of the things that resonated with me … is watching what is happening in Texas and in Florida and in Ohio… when they were changing rules at the last minute on voter registration or early voting or voting locations,” he said. “I don’t think those efforts would gain any traction here in California, but you never know, and if nothing else California has the opportunity to be the counterexample.”

Padilla also talked about some of his successful bills this year including SB 135, requiring the state to develop a comprehensive statewide earthquake early warning system. The Legislature passed the bill unanimously, and Gov. Jerry Brown signed it into law Oct. 10.

The system’s estimated $80 million cost is “a small but wise investment when we think about the billions of dollars we associate with every major earthquake, let alone the injuries and fatalities,” Padilla said today. Depending on one’s distance from a quake’s epicenter, the proposed system could give from 10 to 60 seconds of warning, he said, urging people not just to think of what that means in their own homes but what it could mean in more precarious situations like construction sites, mass transit and so on. “A little bit of warning can go a long way.”

He also talked about SB 360, which lets county election officials develop, own and operate public voting systems, subject to approval and certification by the California Secretary of State. Brown signed this bill into law Oct. 5.

Counties currently can draw up their own specifications, but ultimately must pick a vendor; this bill gives them the latitude to develop their own, custom systems. Only larger counties are likely to have the technical wherewithal to do this, he acknowledged, but “it tends to be the larger counties with larger populations that are politically complex” and so have special voting needs.

Incumbent Secretary of State Debra Bowen will be term-limited out at the end of 2014. Other Democrats with active 2014 campaigns for the office include state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco; good-government activist Derek Cressman of Sacramento; and former Assemblyman Charles Calderon of Montebello.

Two Republicans are in the race: Pete Peterson, executive director of Pepperdine University’s Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership, and Roy Allmond, an employee of the secretary of state’s office. Green candidate David Curtis, an architect and activist from San Rafael, is seeking the office too.

Padilla led the fundraising pack at mid-year, raising almost $291,000 in the first half of 2013 and having more than $355,000 cash on hand and about $10,000 in outstanding debts as of June 30. Yee came in second, raising $332,000 in the year’s first half and holding $299,000 cash on hand with about $23,000 in outstanding debts as of June 30. Cressman raised $57,000 and had almost $45,000 in the bank with no debt.

Calderon raised $8,000 and had just $868 cash on hand with $2,900 in debts at midyear. But the red ink was deeper for Peterson, who raised $59,000 but had just $13,000 banked and more than $52,000 in debts. Allmond and Curtis have not yet filed any campaign finance reports.