1

Yee introduces online voter registration bill

Californians would be able to register online to vote, under a bill introduced today by state Sen. Leland Yee.

Some states already offer online registration but California has put it off, awaiting implementation of a “VoteCal” statewide online database system now delayed at least until 2015. Yee’s bill instead would allow online registration through county registrars’ offices.

Under his SB 397, citizens would input their voter information online and the county elections office would use the voter’s signature from the Department of Motor Vehicles to verify authenticity. That signature would have to match the voter’s signature at the polling place; currently, polling place signatures only need to match the paper registration signature, which Yee says potentially allows for greater occurrences of fraud. (Ed. note: Steve Weir, quoted below, correctly noted there’s no checking of signatures at the voting precincts against registration signatures unless there is an allegation of a problem with a voter; Yee’s office said it had misunderstood the process, but still believes matching registration signatures to DMV signatures will stymie fraud.)

“In the 21st century, especially here in California, it is long overdue to have online voter registration,” Yee, D-San Francisco, said in his news release. “SB 397 will not only help protect the integrity of the vote, but will allow many more individuals the opportunity to register and participate in our democracy.”

Yee says county elections officers believe this would save money and eliminate administrative errors from mistyping the data entry from a paper registration; after Arizona implemented online voter registration, he said, some counties saw their costs decrease from 83 cents per registration to 3 cents per registration.

If Yee’s bill becomes law, it would let counties start using online voter registration for the 2012 Presidential Primary and General Election. Paper registration would still be available.

Contra Costa County Voter Registrar Steve Weir agrees the bill would help with data entry error avoidance. “We make mistakes in data entry and sometimes, people’s handwriting is difficult. In addition, with the 15 day close of registration, we can still be receiving legitimate registrations 5 days before an election and for major elections, it is very difficult to get all registrations into our system so that the voters name appears on the roster (or supplemental roster).”

“I like the idea that people register themselves and don’t depend upon “drives” for registration and for signature gatherers as these folks bend the rules,” Weir continued. “We have a drive that did not pay the return postage. The SOS sent them to us this month even though the registrants actually registered in time for the November Gubernatorial General Election.”

But Weir said the DMV signature is key. People going to DMV for the first time must produce an identifying document – a birth certificate or some naturalization documentation, for example – whereas signatures on standard voter registration cards aren’t checked against citizenship/identifying documents.

“I am not convinced that the DMV is able (legally, we’re told that a private vendor owns those signatures) to physically attach those signatures to on line registrations,” Weir said. “So, in concept, we like this option, although we want to see the actual language of the bill. Our Association will have a Legislative meeting on March 4 where we’ll go over the details of the bill.”

5

Turnout in Contra Costa hits 66 percent

Voters surpassed by 11 percentage points Contra Costa Registrar Steve Weir’s turnout projections for the Nov. 2 general election.

In the final vote tally certified today, Contra Costa turnout was 66 percent, for a total of 352,687 votes cast at the top of the ticket for governor. It’s the highest turnout since the 1982 gubernatorial election. (The race at the top of the ballot is usually the contest that receives the most votes. Click here for the SOS county-by-county turnout list.)

Why? The credit, or blame, depending on your perspective, most likely rests with the Democrats. The party made a successful and huge push in the final week through TV and radio ads, and on-the-the-ground use of labor unions. The larger-than-expected turnout on Election Day really helped Democrats in close contests, such as Rep. Jerry McNerney in the 11th Congressional District.

Some Contra Costa cities posted higher turnouts than others. Orinda and Lafayette top the list, while San Pablo clearly needs a push. Here’s a ranked list:

  1. Orinda: 78.8 percent
  2. Lafayette: 76.8 percent
  3. El Cerrito: 75.3 percent
  4. Moraga: 74.9 percent
  5. Danville: 74.1 percent
  6. Walnut Creek: 73.4 percent
  7. Clayton: 73.5 percent
  8. Pleasant Hill: 69.8 percent
  9. Martinez: 69.3 percent
  10. San Ramon: 67.8 percent
  11. Pinole: 66.8 percent
  12. Concord: 65.5 percent
  13. Brentwood: 62.9 percent
  14. Hercules: 59.7 percent
  15. Richmond: 59 percent
  16. Antioch: 56.6 percent
  17. Oakley: 54.2 percent
  18. Pittsburg: 53.7 percent
  19. San Pablo: 49.5 percent

Weir sent over some additional statistics, which you may find interesting.

Historical turnout during gubernatorial elections:

Year Turn Out Turn Out, VBM State Turn Out

  • 2010 66.1%
  • 2006 63.4%
  • 2002 56.6%
  • 1998 63.1%
  • 1994 62.0%
  • 1990 61.3%
  • 1986 62.5%
  • 1982 70.5%
19

CD11: Harmer attends freshman orientation

Harmer

Harmer

Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney may have declared victory last week but that hasn’t stopped challenger and GOP nominee David Harmer from attending his party’s freshman orientation session in Washington, D.C.

“Since we don’t yet know whether I’ll become a new member of Congress, I’m participating with a unique blend of apprehension and hope,” Harmer wrote in a fund-raising appeal email late this afternoon.

As of today, McNerney holds a slim 1,751-vote lead over Harmer, or 0.76 percent of the total vote.  McNerney declared himself the victor last week, calling it statistically unlikely that Harmer could close the gap with the remaining uncounted votes. Harmer has refused to concede.

Alameda County has finished its count, while Santa Clara County had fewer than 500 ballots left to process in the 11th District.

San Joaquin County, where 55 percent of the 11th District’s voter live, had processed 3,500 of its approximately 9,000 uncounted provisional ballots as of this afternoon but not all of those ballots are in the 11th District.  (About half the county is in the 11th District.)

Harmer held a 4 percentage point lead in San Joaquin County. Unlike his counterparts in other 11th District counties, Registrar Austin Erdman said he has not segregated the congressional ballots due to close races in other parts of the county. Erdman said earlier today that he expects to post an updated countywide tally on Tuesday. (Update: Erdman said that figure will not include provisionals. He said he will post the provisional results when his office has finished processing all the provisional ballots. He hopes to finish before the Thanksgiving holiday next week.)

Contra Costa County will begin processing the 1,830 uncounted provisional ballots from the 11th District on Tuesday, said Registrar Steve Weir.  Harmer was holding a 0.2 percentage point lead in Contra Costa, or 118 votes.  In response to a lawsuit filed by the California Republican Party, Weir will set up observation stations for both sides to observe the provisional ballot processing for the remaining 11th District votes.

Here is Harmer’s full email, which serves as a plea for cash, too:

I’m writing from the Capitol in Washington, D.C., where I’m attending the orientation for new members of Congress. Since we don’t yet know whether I’ll become a new member of Congress, I’m participating with a unique blend of apprehension and hope.

Last night, at a dinner for the Republican freshmen in the Capitol’s magnificent Statuary Hall, I sat just a few feet from the site of John Quincy Adams’s old desk as Republican Leader and soon-to-be Speaker of the House John Boehner spoke of our charge from the American people. His watchword was humility; his counsel, servant leadership. He is determined to restore representation as the founders intended — a House that does the people’s business through the cumbersome, unpredictable, messy, but democratic means of legislation. He envisions a House where Representatives are actual legislators — not merely voters on proposals negotiated behind closed doors, but daily participants in the process of investigation, persuasion, negotiation, and debate.

For California to fail to contribute to this historic change in leadership, mission, and tone would be tragic, but it’s a very real risk. The wave that swept the rest of the nation, resulting in well over 60 net new Republican seats, seems to have washed up against the eastern flank of the Sierras without crossing their crest. So far Republicans haven’t picked up a single one of California’s 53 seats in the U.S. House. But the 11th District is still in play.

To ensure an accurate count of the remaining ballots, to prepare for a possible recount, and to do our best to complete the campaign successfully, we need to raise much more money. If you haven’t already done so, please consider contributing to our recount fund. Contributions of any amount are welcome, appreciated, and needed.

Yours truly,

David Harmer

P.S. Several of the freshmen here were already my friends. This wonderful week is giving me the opportunity to strengthen my relationships with them and to become acquainted with the others. They are tremendously supportive. They know how hard you’ve worked, how generously you’ve contributed, and how earnestly you’re praying for our campaign’s eventual success. Many of them are joining you in contributing to the recount fund — so you’re in very good company.

31

CD11: Court dispute continues Monday, McNerney holds small lead

Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney inched his way toward re-election as updated counts today showed him with a slim 548-vote lead over opponent and GOP nominee David Harmer.

But the outcome is still a long way from settled.

The gap represents a tiny 0.3 percentage points of the 176,108 votes counted in the 11th Congressional District, which remains one of nine House races nationwide still too close to call. The four county elections offices within the 11th District are plowing through the uncounted mail-in and provisional ballots but thousands of votes remain to be processed.

The fiercely contested race also had its first day in court today, as Republicans sought to force Contra Costa County Registrar of Voters Steve Weir to allow their election-count observers to challenge the veracity of signatures on vote-by-mail envelopes.

A Contra Costa County judicial commissioner declined to sign a temporary restraining order that would have stopped the signature verification process but kicked the dispute into Superior Court, where it is set for a full hearing Monday morning.

Weir said state law specifically allows pollworkers to challenge a voter’s right to cast a ballot and those who present proof before the election that an individual who was issued a vote-by-mail ballot is ineligible to vote. Election count observers, he said, are permitted only to question whether workers are following established procedures.

Every voter whose eligibility comes into question has the right to answer the allegation, Weir said, and allowing casual observers to challenge a voter after the fact is “not going to happen,” Weir said. “If a judge orders it, then we’ll have to see what we do next.”

GOP attorney Charles Bell argued that observation alone cannot ensure election accuracy. He told the court that Weir has failed to provide adequate access to the signature-verification process and observers should have the right to challenge a signature that doesn’t appear to match the original signature in the county’s voter registration database.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

I also thought readers might be interested in the county-by-county breakdowns as of this afternoon:

ALAMEDA COUNTY (15.5 percent of District 11 voters)

  • Harmer: 42.6 percent, 11,950 votes
  • McNerney: 57.4 percent, 16,086 votes
  • GAP: 14.8 percent, or 4,136 votes, in McNerney’s favor

CONTRA COSTA (24.6 percent of District 11 voters)

  • Harmer: 50.4 percent, 24,070 votes
  • McNerney: 49.6 percent, 23,718 percent
  • GAP: 0.7 points, or 352 votes, in Harmer’s favor

SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY (53.9 percent of District 11 voters)

  • Harmer: 52.5 percent, 45,958 votes
  • McNerney: 47.5 percent, 41,612 votes
  • GAP: 5 points, or 4,346 votes, in Harmer’s favor

SANTA CLARA COUNTY (5.9 percent of District 11 voters)

  • Harmer: 45.6 percent, 5,802 votes
  • McNerney: 54 percent, 6,912 votes
  • GAP: 8.7 points, or 1,110 votes, in McNerney’s favor

TOTAL

  • Harmer: 49.8 percent, of 87,780 votes
  • McNerney: 50.2 percent, or 88,328 votes
  • GAP: 0.3 percent, or 548 votes, in McNerney’s favor
67

CD11: Harmer taking Contra Costa to court

Harmer

Harmer

McNerney

McNerney

Congressional District 11 GOP nominee David Harmer will seek a court order in Superior Court in Martinez this afternoon to stop the vote-by-mail signature verification process in Contra Costa County.

Harmer, who ran against incumbent Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney on Tuesday, says his team should be allowed to challenge the signatures on vote-by-mail ballots.

Contra Costa Election Clerk Steve Weir disagrees. He says the county’s written procedures and guidelines clearly state that observers may challenge the process of counting ballots but not individual signatures.

Challenges to a specific voter’s right to cast a ballot must be made through a pollworker at the polls or through a challenge of a voter who has requested a vote-by-mail ballot, Weir said.  This allows the voter to respond to a challenge of his or her right to cast a ballot.

“While Harmer has claimed irregularities, not one instance has been presented to us,” Weir said.

Harmer spokeswoman Melissa Subbotin disagreed and said the other three counties in District 11 allow challenges of signatures on submitted vote-by-mail ballots.

“We just want to ensure that the signature review process is done openly, fairly and transparently,” she said. “Neither side is being afforded the opportunity to review and observe the signature review process.”

The backdrop of this legal dispute is the outcome of the 11th District election.

McNerney leads by 568 votes, an incredibly tight 0.3 percentage point advantage. The votes were breaking the Democrat’s way on Election Day, which means McNerney has little incentive to challenge the counting of ballots that arrived in election offices on Monday and Tuesday.

Harmer, on the other hand, could benefit if signatures on late arriving ballots are deemed invalid and thrown out, ensuring that potential votes for his opponent never show up on the tally.

Stay tuned.

4

State names I-680 for Boatwright

Daniel E. Boatwright

Daniel E. Boatwright

Caltrans unveiled this morning near Martinez a sign denoting Interstate 680 between the Benicia Bridge and the Highway 24 interchange the “Senator Daniel E. Boatwright Highway.”

The former Concord mayor and retired state senator led the quest for state money to expand Interstate 680 and build the Highway 24 interchange, construction that dramatically improved the commute through the heart of Contra Costa County about 15 years ago.

Click here to read my story of the ceremony and the luncheon.

I also captured some of the event on video, including portions of short ceremony on the shoulder of Interstate 680 near Martinez. At the luncheon in Concord, I recorded comments by state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, author of the naming bill, and those of the funny and charismatic 80-year-old Boatwright.

About two dozen people attended the dedication, including four former Concord mayors — Michael Pastrick, Bill McManigal, DeSaulnier and Steve Weir, the county’s election chief and a former Boatwright staffer.

In the first two videos, Boatwright is flanked by DeSaulnier, former congressman and state legislator Bill Baker and Caltrans Director Bijan Sartipi. The third video features DeSaulnier’s comments, followed by Boatwright’s comments in the fourth and final segment.