Record number of Californians register to vote

This just came out from the Secretary of State: A record number of Californians — 17.3 million — have registered to vote.

Decline to state voters continue to expand their share of the electorate while Democrats posted a 1.4 percentage point gain since 2004. Republicans lost ground as the party’s share declined 3.3 percentage points in the same time period.

Here is Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s press release:

SACRAMENTO – More than one million Californians have registered to vote since September 5, catapulting the state’s total number of registered voters to an all-time high of more than 17.3 million.  That’s according to Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s final report of registration for the November 4 General Election, which was released today.

“It’s great to see so many Californians taking an active role in their democracy,” said Secretary Bowen, California’s chief elections officer.  “Voter interest in this historic election is enormous and I expect to see a record number of Californians cast ballots on Tuesday. Thanks to everyone – including community groups, elections workers, campaigns, schools, and businesses – who helped register so many new California voters.”

The final report includes data gathered through the October 20 close of registration for the general election.  It reflects updates to voter rolls, including the removal of registrants who have passed away, moved out of the state, or have been determined to be ineligible to vote, as well as the addition of new registrants.

The state now has 17,304,091 million registered voters – almost 747,000 more than it had at this time before the general election four years ago.  The percentage of people who are eligible to vote and are registered is 74.6% now; it was 75% just before the 2004 general election.

The previous voter registration record in California was 16.6 million in February 2005.

Registration has been climbing all year, with more than 1.7 million new voters registering since January.

Following are the registration totals for the six qualified political parties and voters who have declined to state their political affiliation. Continue Reading


Plan to vote? Register by Monday

The deadline is Monday for Californians to register to vote in the June 3 primary election.
Pick up registration forms at election offices, most post offices, libraries, city and county offices and online at www.sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_vr.htm.

In the East Bay, a handful of key legislative and county races will be decided in June including two contested Contra Costa supervisor seats, state Assembly districts 14 and 15 and the state Senate post held by outgoing Sen. President Pro Tem Don Perata.

Statewide, two ballot propositions on eminient domain, Props. 98 and 99, are also on the ballot.

To be eligible to register, a prospective voter must be a U.S. citizen, a California resident and at least 18 years old by Election Day. People in prison or on parole for a felony conviction and people judged by a court to be mentally incompetent are not eligible to vote.

For more information in Contra Costa County, stop by the Elections Division at 555 Escobar Street in Martinez, call 925-335-7800 or visit www.cocovote.us.

The Alameda County Registrar of Voters is located at 1225 Fallon Street G-1 in Oakland. Residents may also call 510-267-8683 or visit its web site at www.acgov.org/rov/.

In Solano County, reach the Registrar of Voters office is located at 675 Texas St. in Fairfield, call 707-784-6675 or visit www.solanocounty.com.

Read more for Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s helpful list of do’s and dont’s in the upcoming election. (Don’t blame her for the snarky comments; those are mine.) Continue Reading


California voter registration numbers keep rising

Nearly 1 million more Californians are registered to vote than at the same time four years ago, according to new figures from Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

California now has 15.9 million voters on the rolls, a trend Bowen attributes to the nation’s intense interest in this year’s presidential election.

Democrats saw a slight increase in their share of the political marking, rising from 43.16 percent in 2004 to 43.54 percent this month.

Republicans lost nearly three percentage points, dropping from 35.67 percent in 2004 to 32.84 percent in April.

And the ranks of “decline to state” voters continues to rise with an increase from 16.28 percent of registered voters in 2004 to 19.31 percent in April.

Unfortunately, just about every political observer in the state concludes that many of those voters won’t show up to vote in the June 3 state primary election, which many predict will be among one of the state’s lowest turn-out elections in years.

The state Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stripped the presidential primary from from the June 3 slot and moved it to Feb. 5, arguing that it would finally make California relevant in the primary battle.

That didn’t happen. Instead, a bunch of other states moved up their primaries up, too.

Just think: With the race between sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama this close, what would be happening in California today if it had kept its presidential primary in June?

Just perhaps, perhaps the candidates would be holding public appearances with the voters and the press rather than flying into exclusive affluent enclaves for cash infusions.

Click here to read Bowen’s full press release.




Secretary talks election to local Dems

Predictions of widespread delays in the results of the Feb. 5 presidential primary due to a shift to paper ballots in nearly two dozen counties failed to materialize, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen told a crowd of several hundred people at the Lamorinda Democratic Club this week.

“In 57 of 58 counties, the election results came in roughly at the same time as they had in previous elections,” Bowen said.

In front of a visibly supportive crowd at the Jewish Community Center in Walnut Creek Thursday night, the secretary delivered a lively and humorous speech on a broad range of election topics including the presidential primary, unprecedented turnout, voting machine security and ways to attract pollworkers.

California operates an almost incomprehensibly large voting system with 23,000 polling places and more than 100,000 pollworkers engaged on Election Day.

Californians cast a record number of ballots in the presidential election, some 8.3 million and counting. It also saw an unusually high number of mail-in ballots dropped off at the polls as voters held onto their ballots to see what would happen in the closely contested presidential contests.

Voters also cast a huge number of “provisional ballots,” or ballots cast on Election Day by people who are probably not registered to vote but showed up at the polls in the heat of the campaign. Every one of the estimated 600,000 mail-in and provisional ballots must be investigated to determine if the voter is eligible and has not already voted by mail.

Bowen also outlined fixes to problems of the past election such as lack of a notification system in the event of a court order that extends poll hours.

The issue surfaced in Alameda County on Election Day after more than a dozen polls ran out of ballots and proponents sought a judge’s order to keep the polls open. A judge later determined that an order was unnecessary because the county, under existing law, could hold the polls open without an order for anyone waiting in line to vote.

If a judge orders hold polls held open anywhere in California, under state law, the state cannot release election results until all polls close.

But there is no system under which the Secretary of State is told when such an order has been issued, Bowen said.

“That won’t happen again,” Bowen said.

Much of Bowen’s talk centered around her decision last year to decertify electronic voting machines in 21 counties after conducting a “top to bottom” review of California’s voting systems.

County registrars criticized the move, saying a rapid switch could delay the outcome of Super Tuesday results for days or longer and form an embarrassing cloud over the state’s voting systems.

But this crowd got on its feet and loudly applauded Bowen for tackling what has become a national preoccupation over the integrity of its voting equipment.

“I was prepared to defend my decision … But I figured that if we were late, people would gripe for a few days,” Bowen said. “But if we were wrong, people would never forgive us.”

Bowen also made several references, although not by name, to Contra Costa Registrar of Voters Steve Weir.

As president of the state’s registrars’ association Weir has been one of Bowen’s most vocal critics although he sat quietly in the audience during her speech.

Weir has said the secretary failed to adequately involve the registrars in the equipment reviews and said the security study was conducted outside the registrars’ customary precautions and protocols.

But Bowen said vendors’ proprietary rights precluded the registrars’ presence during the meat of the analysis.

And voting machine hackers could come from inside election offices where workers could disable or work around security measures, she said.

In other comments, Bowen:

— Supported the use of open source, or non-proprietary, software on voting machines, which would permit election officials to change hardware without buying new software.

— Announced plans to conduct an analysis of the Feb. 5 election results in order to evaluate what went wrong.

— Opposed any move to make the Secretary of State a nonpartisan post. It is incumbent upon her to administer her duties in a nonpartisan fashion, she said, but voters deserve to know the political philosophy of the secretary of state.

— Discussed a pending analysis of the numbers of voters who do not have a photo identification. Some groups want to mandate a photo identification as a tool to thwart voter fraud but Bowen said she doesn’t want to disenfranchise citizens who don’t drive a car or possess photo identification.

— Doesn’t believe California will move to an all-mail voter system anytime soon, largely because election offices have a small, 15-day window between the registration deadline and Election Day in order to mail the ballots. And the state should give voters options, she said.

— Doesn’t view weekend voting as practical because of protracted security concerns for the tens of thousands of ballots in the thousands of polling places around the state.

— Called for corporations to routinely provide pollworkers on Election Day.


Bowen to speak in Walnut Creek on voting machines

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen will speak at the Feb. 21 meeting of the Lamorinda Democratic Club about her decision to decertify touch-screen voting machines in more than 20 counties.

First elected in 1992 to the state Assembly to represent constituents in west Los Angeles County, Bowen served three terms before being elected to the state Senate. She served two Senate terms prior to being elected in 2006 as California’s Secretary of State, the sixth woman in state history elected to statewide constitutional office.

The event begins at 7 p.m. at the Contra Costa County Jewish Community Center, Koret Auditorium, 2071 Tice Valley Blvd. in Walnut Creek. The cost $10 per person and it is open to all residents.

For more details, call 925-210-7337 or visit www.lamorindademoclub.com.


California counties predict slow returns Tuesday

Top California election officials predict election returns will be delayed Tuesday in the wake of Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s decertification of election equipment in some counties.

Those delays could be even worse in June and November, they said, which have far more contests to count.

This is the classic tug-of-war that election officials face on Election Night: Fast results vs. trusted results.

Activists want paper-based ballots and oppose electronic voting machines on the grounds that clever hackers could hijack election outcomes. But many election officials have argued that Bowen went overboard and instituted reforms with little or no proof of voter fraud.

Bowen spokeswoman Kate Folmar said the secretary has every confidence that California county election officials will conduct a professional and accurate election. Changes in election equipment law impacted 21 of the state’s 58 counties.

(As a side note, I laughed at the quote from Contra Costa Registrar of Voters Steve Weir about how numbers won’t be ready until early Wednesday morning. Does that mean I’ve been working for no reason in the past until the wee hours of the morning reporting on election results?)

Here’s what a press release sent a few minutes ago from the California State Association of Counties said:

SACRAMENTO – California’s county election officials are warning that the state’s election results will be delayed, despite bulking up on staff and volunteers needed to carry out the February 5th Primary Election – a result of actions taken by the Secretary of State last year.

“Counties are well prepared to conduct this election, and report results as soon as they become available,” said CSAC Executive Director Paul McIntosh. “However, because the Secretary of State decertified many counties’ electronic voting systems just six months ago, election officials have been scrambling to change election-day procedures for counting votes. Even with the sizeable number of additional volunteers who work tirelessly in precincts throughout the state, the process will take significantly longer this year.”

In addition, with close to 50 percent of the expected vote to be cast by mail, between 1 and 2 million ballots cast in this election will not be reported in election night totals. And, in any close race, it will take one to two weeks to have most of these ballots included in updated totals, according to elections officials.

“With the changes the Secretary of State has put into place, the fact is that it’s going to take us longer to get votes counted,” said Rich Gordon, CSAC President and a San Mateo County Supervisor. “We realize that California is a pivotal state in this election, and all eyes will be on our numbers, but, the fairness and accuracy of the election remains our primary concern. So, while our reporting may be delayed, we want to ensure that our results are correct.”

There are approximately 25,000 precincts throughout the state’s 58 counties, and about 16 million registered voters in the state. Counties need to recruit an estimated 100,000 poll workers across the state for this election, including more than 24,000 in Los Angeles County alone. The estimated statewide cost for counties to administer the February election is $110 million. Governor Schwarzenegger vowed to pay counties for these costs when he signed the law creating this extra election, although there is no mention of it in his January budget proposal.

“There are very few contests on the February ballot, which will help expedite the counting process,” said Steve Weir, Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder and president of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials. “However, we are still looking at early Wednesday morning before we’ll have our numbers ready. This does not bode well for the upcoming elections in June and November, when the number of contests will be substantially higher.”For more information, please visit the Elections section of the CSAC Web site: www.csac.counties.org/default.asp?id=301.