Tag Archives: election reform

Bowen De-Certifies, Re-Certifies Voting Machines

Debra Bowen is doing what we elected her to do.  After her top-to-bottom review of the voting systems in California revealed serious flaws, she acted:

In a dramatic late-night press conference, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen decertified, and then recertified with conditions, all but one voting system used in the state. Her decisions, following her unprecedented, independent “Top-to-Bottom Review” of all certified electronic voting systems, came just under the wire to meet state requirements for changes in voting system certification.

Bowen announced that she will be disallowing the use of Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, usually touch-screen) voting systems made by the Diebold and Sequoia companies on Election Day, but for one DRE machine per polling place which may be used for disabled voters. The paper trails from votes cast on DREs manufactured by those two companies must be 100% manually counted after Election Day. DREs made by Hart-Intercivic are used in only one California county and will be allowed for use pending security upgrades.

The InkaVote Plus system, distributed by ES&S and used only in Los Angeles County has been decertified and not recertified for use after the company failed to submit the system source code in a timely manner to Bowen’s office. LA County is larger than many states, and questions remain at this time as to what voting system they will use in the next election.

Read the whole thing.  Bowen is going up against some really powerful forces and needs out support.  The registrars are going to scream holy hell about this, and we’ll hear that we don’t have the money to up and change everything now.  That dog shouldn’t hunt.  I think everyone in this state, or at least a vast majority, is willing to pay for the security of our democracy.

Keep it on the radar: Public financing for Congress

Where does Dianne Feinstein stand on “clean elections”?  We’ll soon find out.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate’s Rules and Administration committee—chaired by Sen. Feinstein–will hold a hearing on a “Clean Elections” bill for the first time in over a decade.  And this bill has some heft behind it: the sponsors of the Fair Elections Now Act (S.1285) are Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), no slouches. 

But one big question is whether Sen. Feinstein will use her leadership to lend support to this bill, and ultimately to help shepherd it through the Senate.  She’s been relatively mum so far—but here’s hoping she gets behind Fair Elections Now.

This bill creates a voluntary system of public campaign financing for congressional candidates. Instead of having to raise money from special interest groups, wealthy donors and big business, candidates who qualify under this system could opt to be publicly financed, freed from the constraints of constant fundraising and soliciting. Think about it: Candidates could trade in $2,000 a plate dinners and the unwritten quid pro quos from lobbyists for spending time with average voters and focusing on constituents, not contributions.

As chairwoman of the Rules and Administration committee, Senator Feinstein is in a unique position to support this important legislation. As a Senator who has worked hard to change the corrupting influence of million-dollar politics, we should be able to count on Feinstein to help support this historic legislation

Plus, she’s from California, a place that has seen its share of top-dollar, special-interest-driven campaigns—not to mention its share of corrupt elected officials, such as recent standouts John Doolittle and Duke Cunningham.

If you’re wondering what you can do to help, well, the best way is by calling the Senator’s office in D.C. at (202) 224-3841 and telling her that the Fair Elections Now Act is a terrific bill and an important reform and you urge her to support it.  If you’re afraid of the telephone, you can always opt for a petition: www.stopthemoneychase.org/feinstein.

State Senate Passes Voter Registration Fraud Prevention Bill

H/T to Orange Juice for this!

The California State Senate recently voted to pass SB 812, Lou Correa‘s (D-Santa Ana) legislation that would stop the type of “bounty hunting” that the Orange County Republican Party used to illegally switch unsuspecting Democratic and Independent voters to Republican against their will. Finally, something is being done to put a halt to this nasty practice!

Follow me after the flip for more on this important legislation, and how we can help it become law…

So what exactly would this legislation do? Here is how the Legislative Counsel explains it:

This bill would prohibit any person, company, or other
organization, except state political parties that reimburse their
central committees and clubs on a per-affidavit basis, from agreeing
to pay money or other valuable consideration on a per-affidavit basis
to any person who assists another person to register to vote by
receiving the completed affidavit of registration, would prohibit the
receipt of this per-affidavit consideration, and would make
conforming changes. A violation of these prohibitions would be an infraction, punishable by a fine not to exceed $500.

Wow, so that sounds good! So what happens next?

Now, this bill moves to the State Assembly. And if you’d like to end the type of bounty hunting that was part of the dirty tricks used by Orange County Republicans to win our competitive 34th State Senate seat (now Lou Correa’s), you can contact your Assembly Member and ask him/her to support SB 812. Now this type of illegal behavior occurred in Orange County last year, but this practice isn’t limited to Orange County.

We need to ensure that this illegal act doesn’t happen ANYWHERE in the state. That’s why we need Lou Correa’s legislation that would work to prevent this. Let’s help Lou get this passed, and let’s protect the voters in this state. : )

The Times Finally Gets It on Election Reform in LA

The LA Times gets downright progressive about voting reform, in the wake of the horrible turnout for Tuesday’s school board runoff, where $9 million dollars in voting infrastructure and campaign expenditures yielded a 6% turnout.

A much better solution is to use instant runoff voting, an electoral method that elects a majority winner in a single election.

Here’s how it works: Voters rank the candidates in their order of preference instead of just picking one candidate. If a candidate wins a majority of first rankings, the election is over, just like now. But if no candidate wins a majority of first rankings, voters’ other rankings are used to determine the winner instantly. The candidate with the fewest first rankings is eliminated, and voters who ranked that candidate first can now have their second choice counted. All ballots are recounted in the “instant runoff,” and the process of dropping the last-place candidate continues until one candidate has a majority of the votes […]

Because this method of voting would save millions of tax dollars, part of that money could be used for an expansion of Los Angeles’ public financing system, which might produce more candidates and more competition – which could induce higher voter turnout.

Los Angeles also could change to an all vote-by-mail system. Oregon votes this way, as does Burbank, and it has led to higher turnout in non-November elections. It also saves tax dollars by avoiding the high costs of setting up polling stations and hiring election workers.

Color me shocked.  over…

Maybe it takes a disaster like the school board election to make people see the light.  Of course, IRV and vote by mail and public financing have been around for decades.  They were seen as flaky Birkenstock ideas at one point; only some hippie commune like San Francisco could use Instant Runoff Voting, right?  But if the staid LA Times can figure out that IRV is efficient, smart and leads to better campaigning. 

I am very hopeful that this work will get done in Los Angeles to make voting more in line with the 21st century.  Now there’s one more hurdle to clear.  We just need the Governor to sign the National Popular Vote bill that would reform the electoral college by eliminating the outdated and anti-democratic idea.  The Governor has taken no position on the bill this year.  He ought to be urged to sign it.

Want to Stop the Bounty Hunts? Here’s How.

Have you finally had enough of the bounty hunting? Are you sick and tired of seeing the Republican Party pay workers to illegally switch unsuspecting voters from Democrats and Independents to Republicans? Are you just frustrated over hearing about any more about these nasty misdeeds that only serve to prevent voters from truly making the choice that they want?

Well, help is on the way! Lou Correa, my State Senator, has written legislation to take on these nasty bounty hunts. And I’d like to tell you all about it after the flip…

So what exactly would this legislation do? Well, I’ll let the Legislative Counsel explain it to you:

This bill would prohibit any person, company, or other
organization, except state political parties that reimburse their
central committees and clubs on a per-affidavit basis, from agreeing
to pay money or other valuable consideration on a per-affidavit basis
to any person who assists another person to register to vote by
receiving the completed affidavit of registration, would prohibit the
receipt of this per-affidavit consideration, and would make
conforming changes. A violation of these prohibitions would be an infraction, punishable by a fine not to exceed $500.

Wow, so how about that? Here’s a simple solution to a prickly problem. If we just cut off the incentive for paid canvassers to agree to bounty hunts that illegally re register people as something that they don’t want to be, then we actually get rid of these illegal bounty hunts. How can we not agree to this?

And oh yes, who better to introduce this legislation than someone who has actually experienced the repercussions of these horrid bounty hunts? Lou Correa had a tough enough race last year, but his challenge last year was only greater as the Orange County Republican Party resorted to dirty tricks to try to prevent Lou from winning. And yes, one of those dirty tricks was a bounty hunt that illegally switched Democratic and Independent voters in the 34th State Senate District to Republicans against their will. Unfortunately, Lou had to deal with all of this himself as he ran for State Senate…

However, he is now taking action to ensure that these dastardly misdeeds never happen again. SB 812 is a good piece of legislation that prevents any more abuse of voter registration drives. No more bounties, and no more illegal switching. This sounds good to me, and this works great to ensure that our democratic process remains strong, healthy, and free of manipulation. Now that’s a good thing. : )

Nunez Announces Redistricting Plan

Frank Russo has all the details about Fabian Nunez’ redistricting proposal announced today.  (It’d be nice if the Speaker would come around and announce it on this site himself, but hey, we do what we can.) Essentially it puts redrawing the state boundaries in the hands of the Little Hoover Commission, minus the legislators that normally sit on that panel.  This would have to go before voters as an initiative once it passes the legislature with a 2/3 vote (it’s a Constitutional amendment).

EDIT by Brian: The initiative that went our for signatures is not the same as ACA1, which the Speaker discussed yesterday. I discussed ACA 1 very briefly when the changes were first announced yesterday. Check out California Progress Report for more.

Without the lawmakers, the Little Hoover Commission includes 4 citizens appointed by the legislature and 5 citizens appointed by the governor.  Seven panel members would have to agree for a plan to move forward.

The Little Hoover Commission has a decent enough reputation as an independent study group; their report on California’s corrections crisis was well-done.  I’m a bit wary of subjecting district shapes to be subject to referendum, it seems to invite an endless series of low-information elections.  And overall, I don’t think redistricting geographically will have as massive an impact as everybody thinks.  People largely gerrymander themselves.

But there you have it, and I’ve seen worse plans in my life.  I ultimately believe that two candidates with the same basic money pool can overcome any gerrymander thrown at them, which is why I think that election reform begins and ends with public financing.

“Pupils to the Polls” Committee Vote this week

This is a somewhat interesting bill put forward by Loni Hancock, which will be brought to a vote in the Education Committee this week.  It would allow students to be excused from school to work on a precinct board during Election Day, making that work “independent study.”  Here’s how People For the American Way (which supports the proposal) describes the benefit:

Finding enough competent and reliable poll workers for California precincts (80,000 are necessary) is an enormous task for all counties. Student poll workers have proven to be vital to staffing polls throughout the state and most California counties have active student poll worker programs. However, under current law, when a student works at the polls, he or she receives an “excused absence” and the school loses state funding based on that absence. AB 466 would allow the student poll workers to be counted in their schools’ attendance figures for purposes of state funding, as long as the students complete all assignments and tests they may have missed, as well as a report on their activities as poll workers.

Anything that encourages more people to work on Election Day should be encouraged.  The average age of pollworkers can almost not be computed because the numbers are too high.  Exposing students to the inner workings of democracy (not compelling, but giving the option) is part of the civic education that all Americans ought to have.  If your Assemblymember is on the Education Committee, give them a call and ask that they support AB466.

I also would encourage your Assemblymembers to move on Election Day registration the way Iowa did this week.  EDR allows any citizen to register to vote on the day of the election.  They need to provide acceptable identification to register same-day, and then they’re in.  Every state that has implemented this has seen a massive rise in their turnout.  Right now California has a 15-day cutoff for registration.  That’s good but we should increase it.

Clean Money Update

We all know it’s going to be a long, hard slog to get a Clean Money Bill through the California Legislature along the lines of what’s been implemented in Arizona, Maine and Connecticut.  Heck, the CDP took a neutral position on the Clean Money initiative in 2006.  And it got obliterated at the polls.

But nevertheless, things are moving forward.  This week Assemblywoman Loni Hancock has re-introduced AB 583, essentially the same bill as the one which passed the Assembly last session.  So far there are 4 co-sponsors.  You can read all about the bill here.  It’s a public financing system for all statewide elections for candidates of all parties, provided they show a base of support with a set number of $5 contributions.

What I thought was interesting was this, from the CA Clean Money Campaign’s email:

Also exciting is the news that State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) will be introducing a pilot project bill to set up a Clean Money system for the Insurance Commissioner.

Interesting that they would pick the Insurance Commissioner race, no?  I mean, considering that the current officeholder contributed $13.5 million of his own money to win the job.  A pilot program may be the way to test the system that will be needed to prove its viability.

Petition to the CA Secretary of State

( – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

If anyone from the San Diego region is interested or if you know someone who might be, there’s a petition now being circulated asking the CA Secretary of State to investigate a complaint about the election process in San Diego County.

EDITED: for space by Brian.The petition is over the flip:

Petition to the CA Secretary of State
We, the undersigned, believe that citizens of a democracy are self-governing. Because citizens are the source of all government power, we demand that our government be responsive to our concerns and answer our questions.
We are concerned about the conduct of our elections in San Diego County as reported in the Complaint to California Secretary of State And Petition from San Diego County Citizens to Investigate Compliance with Election Laws filed regarding the November 7, 2006, election.
We hereby petition the California Secretary of State to exercise the authority given to her by the citizens of this state to investigate and report on the issues raised in the complaint.

Petition to the CA SOS

The full complaint is here.

To sum it up, it’s mostly regarding problems associated with the use of electronic voting machines and the lack of security. The SD registrar of voters pretty much thumbed his nose at the required chain of custody, and when questioned about it he claimed he doesn’t have to respond to accusations. Hello? Last I heard the people are in charge of elections. Elections are what the people use to transfer rights to the government…not a gift from the government to us. We do get to ask questions and demand the law is followed. I’ve been working with a local election reform group, and this is one of the avenues we’ve taken now that there is a SoS in Sacramento that cares about the problem.

Thus ends my (very small) political rant for the day.

Democracy. In Action.

San Francisco Board of Supervisors Committee meetings can be, well, how do I put this, uhhh, boring.  And today’s meeting of the Budget and Finance Meeting was exactly the same.  A few conversations about a city car barn, and some greening on Alemany Blvd.  The meeting picked up a bit when the topic of community choice aggregation came up.  Several speakers from the Sierra Club told the Board that global warming is real. (Good point guys, but, let’s not use Katrina as the right uses 9/11).

But the real reason I was there was an email from Democracy Action to get the Supes to force Sequoia to release their source code.  As I said then, and I stick to now, I don’t think that the city should be doling out about $9 million to provide business to a company that has already been shown to be unreliable.  And by unreliable, I mean a recent report that computer scientists at  Princeton have hacked Sequoia machines to flip votes from one candidate to another.

A report from the meeting over the flip…

The Sequoia agenda item was introduced by Supervisor Tom Ammiano who acknowledged the criticisms as he introduced the representative from the Board of Elections.  The contract calls for a four year term with plenty of liquidated damages clauses to allow Sequoia to plan for any contingency. And even though Sequoia has promised to introduced IRV software, there is still no guarantee that the system will be ready for the November 2007 mayoral election.

What followed could only be described as a public outcry.  About 20 people came up and spoke against the contract (including me).  After everybody had finished speaking, Supervisor Chris Daly went on to savage the Sequoia representative.  He asked, repeatedly, if Sequoia would hand over the code.  And for every time Chris asked, three times did Sequoia-guy evade.

At this point, Supervisor Daly pushed the approval vote off to next week, and with both Daly and Ammiano in opposition, plus my own Supervisor, Bevan Dufty also opposed, this contract seems far from a done deal.