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Padilla launches program to honor vets by voting

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla offered yet another solid reason Monday why you should vote – because someone you love fought or is fighting for your right to do so.

Padilla rolled out his new “Honor Veterans. Vote” program by holding a news conference with veterans and state military leaders at his office in Sacramento. The program will let Californians dedicate their vote in honor of a family member or friend who has served or is actively serving in the military.

“Throughout our nation’s history, brave service men and women have dutifully served and sacrificed to secure our most basic rights — including the right to cast a ballot during elections,” Padilla said in a news release. “The right to vote is more than an opportunity — it is a duty. We should honor our veterans and active duty service members by participating in the democracy that so many have fought to preserve.”

California citizens can visit honorveterans.sos.ca.gov to submit information about the veteran or active duty service member they wish to honor, including branch of service, rank, and years of service, and to give a brief dedication that may be included on the Secretary of State’s website. Those who participate can choose to receive a certificate or a lapel pin to proudly display appreciation for their honored veteran or active duty service member. Participants also can choose to have an email notification sent to the veteran/service member they’re honoring, notifying them of the tribute.

Although 16 other states operate similar programs, California could become the largest by far – nearly 2 million Californians are veterans, about 10 percent of all veterans living in the United States.

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GO REGISTER TO VOTE. NOW.

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.

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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.

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New law allows non-citizen election workers

County elections officials can use non-citizens as polling-place workers in order to translate for voters who don’t speak English, under a bill signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Rob BontaAssemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, said his AB 817 will help counties meet federal and state law requiring language assistance at polling sites by drawing upon California’s pool of lawful permanent residents. Bonta issued a news release saying Brown “clearly understands the challenges faced by the increasingly diverse voters in our state related to civic engagement and participation.”

Eugene Lee, voting rights project director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles – which was among the bill’s sponsors – said his group looks forward to working with elections officials to implement the law next year. “The bill will improve opportunities for voters who face language barriers to receive the assistance they need to fully participate in our democracy.”

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund also was among the bill’s sponsors, and executive director Arturo Vargas said it also will “provide lawful permanent residents a new opportunity to become more civically engaged.”

The bill emulates rules already in place that allow elections officials to appoint up to five high-school students per precinct as poll workers before they’re old enough to vote. The Assembly approved AB 817 on a 49-23 vote in May; the state Senate approved it 22-10 in July; and the Assembly concurred in the Senate’s amendments with a 49-25 vote earlier this month.

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Good-government activist to run for sec’y of state

A veteran good-government activist declared his candidacy for California secretary of state today in Sacramento.

Derek Cressman, a Democrat, said he’s seeking the office “to make elections count for Californians. “We need real leadership to limit the role corporations and big-moneyed special interests play in our elections.”

Derek CressmanCressman, 45, of Sacramento, has worked for the past 18 years with nonpartisan groups including Common Cause and the Public Interest Research Group. He said his priorities as secretary of state – a position which, among other things, is the state’s top elections officer – would include challenging the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that has opened the floodgates to unprecedented political spending.

He said he also would seek to modernize California’s voter registration and small business registration systems to reduce bureaucratic barriers to voting and enterprise, and upgrade the state’s voter guide to offer Californians better information on candidates and ballot measures.

“Derek’s not just another career politician looking to move up one rung on the ladder,” Michael Keegan, president of People For the American Way, said in Cressman’s news release. “He is not indebted to special interests and will fight tirelessly for fair and transparent elections.”

Cressman’s campaign will be run by San Francisco-based 50+1 Strategies, led by Nicole Derse and Addisu Demissie; consultant Parke Skelton of Los Angeles will serve as a senior advisor to what Derse says will be “a truly grassroots campaign across California, engaging voters in their communities and online about their vision for our democracy and our state.”

Secretary of State Debra Bowen is term-limited out of office at the end of 2014. Next year will be the first time that this and other statewide offices are subject to the new “top-two” primary system, in which candidates of all parties compete directly for primary votes and then only the top two vote-getters advance to November’s general election, regardless of their party affiliation.

Other Democrats who’ve filed statements of intention to seek the office next year include former state Sen. Elaine Alquist of Santa Clara; former Assemblyman Charles Calderon of Montebello; former Assemblyman Mike Davis of Los Angeles; voting transparency and accountability activist Alan Jay Dechert of Granite Bay; 2012 Assembly candidate Mervin Evans of Los Angeles; state Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton; state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys; and state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco.

Also in the race are Republican Pete Peterson, executive director of Pepperdine University’s Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership, and Green Party candidate David Curtis, an architect and activist from San Rafael.

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George Miller proposes bill to reduce wait to vote

Inspired by the plight of battleground-state voters who had to wait in lines for hours to cast their ballots, a Bay Area congressman today announced he’ll carry a bill requiring early voting and adequate poll machines and staffing.

The forthcoming Streamlining and Improving Methods at Polling Locations and Early (SIMPLE) Voting Act from Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, would require early voting in all states for federal elections, for a minimum of 15 days before Election Day. Currently, 15 states lack any form of early voting; those with early voting allow it for varying periods, and in some states such as Florida – where some of the nation’s longest lines occurred – the number of days was shortened in last week’s election.

Miller also intends to require that states ensure all voting precincts have adequate resources – meaning voting machines and poll workers – so that no voter must wait in line for more than one hour to vote. And states will have to develop contingency plans for resolving situations in which long lines develop anyway.

“The right to vote is among our nation’s most sacred rights, surely we can do a better job of ensuring that voters do not have to choose between meeting their daily responsibilities to their families or employers and exercising this solemn responsibility,” Miller said in a news release. “There are a number of well-documented impediments to voting that must be corrected. My bill is in no way intended to solve all of our voting problems but it does offer two simple and clear-cut solutions that experts agree will make voting easier and help to reduce inexcusably long wait times for people casting their ballots in person.”