California’s ‘sanctuary state’ law could be blocked by voters

From the Sacramento Bee:

Opponents of California’s recently approved “sanctuary state” measure have launched an effort to overturn the law.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced Monday that a referendum on Senate Bill 54, the controversial law limiting state and local police agencies’ ability to work with federal immigration authorities, has been cleared to gather signatures.

Introduced by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León in late 2016, shortly after the election of President Donald Trump, SB 54 aims to prevent California police resources from being “commandeered” by the Trump administration as it ramps up deportations.

Ben Bergquam, a spokesman for the referendum campaign, said those efforts to “undermine” the federal government amount to “sedition.”

“It’s lawless. It’s politicians protecting criminal illegals at the expense of law-abiding citizens,” he said. “It’s a slap in the face to American sovereignty and the citizens of our country.”

Proponents have until Jan. 3, 2018, to collect signatures from at least 365,880 registered voters. If they are successful, the referendum will appear on the November 2018 ballot, where voters will be asked whether or not to uphold SB 54. Bergquam said the campaign has no major funders yet, but it is reaching out to law enforcement groups that oppose the law. …

Click here to read the full story from the Sacramento Bee

CA Secretary of State denies NSA report of 2016 election hack

vote count electionWho will Californians believe: Secretary of State Alex Padilla or the National Security Agency?

That’s one way to boil down a flap that’s emerged this week over the sanctity of California’s 2016 elections.

Beginning shortly after November’s election, Padilla has pushed back hard at any claims of voting irregularities in the nation’s largest state. The former Democratic state senator representing part of Los Angeles – elected in 2014 to be the state’s chief elections officer – was most irked with President-elect Donald Trump’s claims that he would have won the popular vote if not for massive voter fraud in California and other states. On Jan. 25, soon after taking office, Trump repeated his claims and again specifically alleged problems in California.

Padilla called that a “flat-out lie.” He said his office reached out to Trump aides asking them to provide evidence for his claims and never heard back. In a press release issued then, Padilla said Trump’s leveling of harsh allegations without having a case is “frankly dangerous to people’s faith in our democratic system.”

In May, after Trump aides announced the creation of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, Padilla again responded with outrage.

“The commission’s mandate is deeply flawed and its motives suspect,” the secretary of state said in a statement. “The only purpose this commission serves is to distract from critical investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election. And I fear that it will serve as pretext for the administration’s efforts to roll back the voting rights so many fought so hard to obtain.”

But Padilla has also flatly rejected the idea that Russian operatives or operatives from any nation “hacked” any of the state’s election systems.

Bloomberg News: California election contractor was infiltrated

Yet early Tuesday, citing a classified NSA report obtained and released by The Intercept, Bloomberg News reported that “Russia’s cyberattack on the U.S. electoral system before Donald Trump’s election was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed, including incursions into voter databases and software systems in almost twice as many states as previously reported.”

U.S. intelligence agencies investigating a hack targeting Illinois election operations found telltale evidence that enabled them to uncover similar attempts to infiltrate voting systems elsewhere.

“Thirty-seven states reported finding traces of the hackers in various systems, according to one of the people familiar with the probe,” Bloomberg reported. “In two others – Florida and California – those traces were found in systems run by a private contractor managing critical election systems.” In Florida, Bloomberg wrote, another leak had established the contractor was VR Systems.

In response, Padilla’s office issued a statement that suggested the NSA report was based on outdated information.

“There is no evidence of any breach of elections systems in California. VR Systems, which is headquartered in Florida, does not provide services to the secretary of state,” Padilla said. His statement asserted that while VR Systems once provided some election services to Humboldt County, it was not involved in tabulating votes in California in 2016.

Separately, KPCC – the Pasadena-Los Angeles National Public Radio affiliate – reported that it had contacted election officials in the counties of Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Riverside and Ventura, and all denied knowledge of having been hacked.

Meanwhile, there’s been little news on what Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity has done to investigate the president’s claims. The order creating the commission contained no timetable for it to issue interim findings or a full report.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

All of California’s voters are now in one online database

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

A single, instantly updated list of registered voters in California became reality on Monday, as two final counties plugged in to an electronic database mandated by a federal law enacted in the wake of the contentious 2000 presidential campaign.

In other words, a database that was long overdue.

“It’s been more than a decade in coming,” Secretary of State Alex Padilla said.

The $98-million project allows elections officials in each of California’s 58 counties to easily track voters who move from one place to another and to quickly update their records in the event of a death or a voter deemed ineligible after conviction of a felony.

The database will allow voters to check if they are …

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Brown Signs Bill Creating Automatic Voter Registration at DMV

VotedSecretary of State Alex Padilla has succeeded in his quest to automatically register Californians to vote.

Partisan privileges

The bill he sponsored, passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, touched off a fresh round of controversy over the wisdom and benefits of the approach to increasing turnout, which in California has sunken to historic lows. Last year, the state’s midterm elections mustered a 42 percent turnout, as NPR observed.

Recent polling by the Public Policy Institute of California indicated that, while two thirds of respondents supported the legislation, “49 percent lean toward the Democratic Party and 22 percent toward the Republican Party; 29 percent lean toward neither party or are unsure.” The imbalance has led many Republicans to express frustration that Democrats were supporting automatic registration for their own benefit. Slightly complicating the picture, however, the PPIC poll also indicated an ideological tilt to the right among unregistered adults: “37 percent are conservative, 31 percent are liberal, and 31 percent are moderate.”

Easing the vote

Proponents of the law argued that its mechanics were straightforward and efficient. “Eligible citizens are registered to vote when they show up at a Department of Motor Vehicles office to obtain a driver’s license or state ID,” as the Huffington Post explained. “The DMV gives the eligible voter a chance to opt out if they prefer not to register. If the person does not opt out, the DMV electronically transfers their voter registration information to the Secretary of State’s office, rather than making election officials enter data by hand from paper registration forms.”

“Citizens should not be required to opt-in to their fundamental right to vote,” Padilla said in a statement. “We do not have to opt-in to other rights, such as free speech or due process. The right to vote should be no different.” Voters, NPR noted, “retain the right to opt out, cancel or change party affiliation at any time,” adding that Padilla’s office pegged the number of eligible but unregistered potential California voters at 6.6 million.

Brown signed the bill in conjunction with a suite of others, including “a bill permitting county elections officials to offer conditional registration and provisional voting at satellite locations during the 14 days immediately preceding election day,” another that will install secure ballot drop boxes “at shopping malls, libraries and other spots,” and one billing the cost of election recounts to the state, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Rights and risks

Together, the new laws were intended, the governor’s office said, “to help improve elections and expand voter rights and access in California.”

But critics said the law wouldn’t properly distinguish between citizens and noncitizens during the registration process — a point of contention amid the ongoing debate over efforts to reduce the legal consequences of unlawful entry into the state. Catherine Engelbrecht, founder of True the Vote, warned that state databases “lack the necessary safeguards to keep noncitizens off the voter rolls,” according to The Washington Times. True the Vote spokesman Logan Churchwell went further, the Times added, asserting that California officials “specifically chose not to make noncitizen license holders searchable in their DMV database.”

On Fox News, Judge Andrew Napolitano, a libertarian commentator, raised the specter of mass voting by noncitizens. “So if you are an illegal alien in California, get a driver’s license, register to vote, you can vote in local, state and federal elections in California and those votes count,” he said.

But other libertarians have claimed that the changes would heighten virtually the opposite sort of risk. The American Civil Liberties Union joined Republican lawmakers in opposing the bill. “Since California’s DMV now issues driver’s licenses to immigrants who are living in the country illegally, the group fears those drivers will be registered to vote mistakenly, risking their ability to stay in the country,” reported the San Jose Mercury News. “State and federal laws strictly forbid illegal immigrants from voting.”

The bill, passed as Assembly Bill 1461 and authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, will take effect this coming January.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Voting rights to be restored for tens of thousands of felons in CA

As reported by the San Jose Mercury News:

Los Angeles County probation Chief Jerry Powers said he hasn’t heard the question over allowing low-level felons to vote posed better than by his 12-year-old son: “Dad, what part of voting makes us less safe?”

“Only a 12-year-old can put it that way. There’s not a single part of allowing these individuals to vote that is going to make our society less safe,” Powers said Tuesday on the steps of an Oakland courthouse, where California Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced the right to vote will soon be restored to tens of thousands of low-level felons in California serving out their sentences under the community supervision provisions of the state’s recent criminal justice reforms.

“If we are serious about slowing the revolving door at our jails and our prisons and serious about reducing recidivism, we need to engage, not shun, former offenders,” Padilla said. “And voting is a key part of that engagement. It is part of a process of becoming vested, having a stake in the community.”

Secretary of State 2014: Tight race, cautious candidates

It’s one of the few competitive statewide races in California. And befitting a close contest, Democrat Alex Padilla and Republican Pete Peterson share remarkably close visions for the job of secretary of state.

CalWatchdog.com asked the two candidates a half dozen questions about the job. The responses from both candidates, which are posted in their entirety below, show frequent agreement on the major issues as well as a similar level of caution in the curve balls we threw their way.

Both Padilla and Peterson intend to use technology to improve the office that oversees everything from the state’s election system to business registration. Both the Democrat and the Republican want to increase transparency in the state’s campaign finance disclosure system and promote greater civic engagement in the political process. Both candidates believe it should be faster and easier to start a business in California.

The pair are so similar on the issues that editorial boards have resorted to tacit endorsements of both candidates and consider each to be an improvement over the embattled incumbent, Debra Bowen, who is leaving due to term limits and has admitted having problems with depression.

“Whether you select Pete Peterson or state Sen. Alex Padilla, our expectation is that a problem-plagued, underperforming office will receive the caliber of leadership that has been lacking under two-term Democratic incumbent Debra Bowen,” the Fresno Bee observed in its editorial endorsement for Peterson.

Alex PadillaPraise for Bill Jones, Jerry Brown

The similarities even extend to their opinion of recent secretaries of state.

“Bill Jones successfully used technology to increase transparency, placing campaign finance information online, and posting live election results online in statewide elections,” Padilla said of the Republican who held the job from 1995 to 2003. Padilla also offered praise for Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, who held the post from 1971 to 1975.

In response to the same question, Peterson, who has said he is modeling his campaign off of Brown’s past secretary-of state campaign in 1970, offered similar praise for Jones.

“Bill Jones is my Honorary Campaign Chair, and in several ways, it feels that we are both approaching the office in similar environments,” Peterson said. “Bill came to an office that had become bureaucratic and antiquated. Over his two terms, he transformed the office into one that used technology (like Cal-Access) to make government more transparent and responsive.”

Pete PetersonBoth cautious, avoid strong positions on controversial issues

On civic engagement, Padilla said he’d “prioritize greater civic education through schools and community groups.” That’s not far from Peterson’s belief that the state “can be doing a better job in civics education at the high-school level to encourage greater youth civic participation.”

But everyone supports improving civics education. What about a controversial proposal to increase youth involvement in politics by lowering the voting age?

In last month’s Scottish independence referendum, 16 and 17 year olds were allowed to vote. It was a resounding success. Young people took the franchise seriously, registered to vote and then turned out in droves.

“Across Scotland, 90.1 percent of 121,497 16 and 17-year-olds have registered to vote,” one U.K. newspaper reported.

According to the Guardian, “Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmond, was so impressed, in fact, that he declared there was ‘not a shred of evidence for arguing that 16- and 17-year-olds should not be allowed to vote’.”

Polling showed a huge disparity in public opinion between younger voters who supported independence and older voters who opposed it.

Here in California, neither candidate for the state’s top election post was willing to embrace lowering the voting age. Both candidates demurred — only going so far as to embrace pre-registration for young voters.

Neither candidate champions disenfranchised voters with disabilities

Padilla and Peterson were similarly reluctant to champion the cause of advancing voting-rights complaints by people with disabilities.

VIDEO: Pete Peterson — Modernizing the secretary of state & cutting red tapeEarlier this year, a complaint filed by the Disability and Abuse Project alleged that Los Angeles Superior Court judges used literacy tests to deny voting rights to thousands of people with autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities.

The group’s analysis of 61 conservatorship cases in Los Angeles County found that 90 percent of individuals were denied voting rights. With more than 40,000 conservatorships in California, the group extrapolates that thousands of Californians could be illegally deprived of their franchise.

Surely, the candidates for secretary of state would have an opinion about this denial of voting rights?

Padilla seemed completely unaware of the problem, offering a generic statement. “Every citizen has the right to vote and to have that vote counted,” he said. “While many people with disabilities prefer the convenience of vote-by-mail, there are privacy concerns, and some prefer to go to the polls.”

But his reply doesn’t begin to address the disenfranchisement occurring across the state, nor does it offer an opinion on whether “competency tests” should exist.

Peterson proved to be more familiar with the issue but said only that “he was hoping a court or Justice Dept decision might bring clarity to what the appropriate level of capacity should be.”

Peterson offers more specifics on transparency, business fee

About the only difference between the candidates was Peterson’s willingness to offer more specifics about his plans if elected to the position.

Peterson said he’d work to lower the business registration fee from $800 per year to $100, a level comparable with other states. He also definitely pledged to post his calendar online, a move that would aid the press and public, who currently are required to submit formal public records requests to get that information.

“I am committed to putting my calendar online so Californians know what their SoS is doing,” Peterson said.

Padilla didn’t directly answer the question, saying, “I will comply with the Public Records Act.”

While Peterson had more definitive positions on openness and transparency, he was less forthcoming about his vote for governor in the June 3 primary. In the new Top Two system, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown got the most votes. For the second slot, the battle was between two Republicans: Assemblyman Tim Donnelly and Neel Kashkari. Kashkari won and faces Brown on Nov. 4.

Padilla voted Brown.

Peterson has refused to endorse a candidate, but said he likes Kashkari’s stance on education issues.

Text of the CalWatchdog.com interviews

What follows is the full Q&A CalWatchdog.com conducted with the candidates.

Question: In the June Primary, whom did you vote for governor?

Padilla: Jerry Brown

Peterson: While I’m not endorsing candidates, I can repeat what we discussed in an earlier email exchange, that I like Neel’s focus on jobs and education. And, more recently, I was disappointed with Governor Brown’s decision to oppose the Vergara verdict, which I view (as the judge did, and Neel does) as a civil rights decision.

Question: In Scotland, 16 and 17 year olds were allowed to vote on the independence referendum. Should we lower the voting age in California?

Padilla: I support legislation to allow 15-, 16-, and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote, so that they are automatically eligible to vote when they turn 18. And to increase turnout among young voters, I will prioritize greater civic education through schools and community groups.

Peterson: I don’t support lowering the voting age, but we can be doing a better job in civics education at the high school level to encourage greater youth civic participation, and I will be making proposals in this area. I do support the pre-registration of 17 year olds, and know we must reform our motor-voter registration system to make this easier to do.

Question: Business documents: As secretary of state, will you commit to putting all business registration documents online? Right now, there’s a processing delay and fee for copies. It’s unclear why the documents cannot be posted online. What other changes can we expect in the area of the office’s business programs?

Padilla: We need to make it easier and quicker to start a business in California. The first stop for entrepreneurs starting a new business is the Secretary of State’s office, and the business filing process should take no more than five business days. In the past, business owners have waited weeks, or even months, to get their registrations approved. That’s unacceptable. And yes, I will work to enable businesses to file online.

Peterson: I am committed to transitioning as many business filing processes to an online platform as soon as possible – particularly business registration and the filing of Statements of Information by LLCs. I am also committed to bringing transparency to how the $800/yr Business Franchise Tax is “spent” in Sacramento, then I will fight to reduce to $100 – similar to other states we compete against for small business jobs.

I am also exited about reforming the SoS office into a data gathering office on our “small business climate”, modifying our business registration and dissolution forms to survey businesses as to why the starting up in, and (unfortunately) leaving the state or closing. I want to make this data available on an annual basis.

Question: Openness and Transparency: Will you promise to post your calendar online? How will your administration interpret the California Public Records Act? Under what circumstances will you pursue an exemption from disclosure? What can voters expect in the area of openness and transparency?

Padilla: I will comply with the Public Records Act. I have proudly sponsored legislation to increase transparency and help restore trust in government, including requiring weekly disclosure of all campaign contributions and online disclosure of all advertisements. I will continue to push for greater disclosure if elected Secretary of State.

Peterson: First, I am committed to putting the SoS budget up online in a format that’s understandable by a 10-year old and an 80-year old. I have done some of this work with cities, and advise a data visualization company in Mountain View called OpenGov.com. Whether that platform or similar, we need transparency to how money is being spent in this agency.

I am committed to putting my calendar online so Californians know what their SoS is doing.

I’m not sure how to answer the PRA question. I have been a long-time advocate for government transparency, and promise to bring this perspective to the SoS office.

On a related matter, I am committed to fully cataloging the data resources compiled by the SoS office (in both voter engagement and business engagement), and making that data available (in a secure but “open” format) to all Californians who want to develop their own applications and visualizations. I look forward to working with civic tech organizations (like MapLight, others) to help them develop applications that are helpful to all Californians – whether in campaign finance reporting or business data reporting.

Question: Of recent CA Secretaries of State, who do you think did the best job, and most closely reflects your approach to the office?

Padilla: I admire Jerry Brown for sponsoring legislation to reform campaign finance reporting, and when that failed, he worked with citizen groups to pass the Political Reform Act of 1974.

I respect Bruce McPherson [Republican secretary of state from 2005-07] for visiting with election officials in each of California’s 58 counties, as I have during my campaign. Listening and learning from local elected officials is crucial to understanding how our elections work on the ground.

Bill Jones successfully used technology to increase transparency, placing campaign finance information online, and posting live election results online in statewide elections.

Debra Bowen did the right thing in decertifying unauditable electronic voting machines when legitimate questions were raised about the reliability and security of the vote.

Peterson: Over the last 20 years, Republicans have proven to be excellent Secretaries of State. Bill Jones is my Honorary Campaign Chair, and in several ways, it feels that we are both approaching the office in similar environments. Bill came to an office that had become bureaucratic and antiquated. Over his two terms, he transformed the office into one that used technology (like Cal-Access) to make government more transparent and responsive. He’s also known by “good government” advocates as conducting the operations of the office in a non-partisan way. He worked well with staff, and demonstrated a real commitment – again, over two terms – to the office.

I also know that Bruce McPherson was an excellent Secretary of State in his (almost) two years in the office. He, too, brought a non-partisan commitment to the office.

Question: In late July, Pete Peterson said he was “looking into the story” of disabled citizens being denied their right to vote. The complaint alleges people with disabilities were barred from voting. What are your thoughts on the disenfranchisement of disabled voters?

Padilla: Every citizen has the right to vote and to have that vote counted. While many people with disabilities prefer the convenience of vote-by-mail, there are privacy concerns, and some prefer to go to the polls. For those who prefer poll voting, counties are working to accommodate people with disabilities. In some counties, for example, there are provisions for curbside voting.

Peterson: I think what I said is that I wanted to “[follow] the case” as I was hoping a court or Justice Dept decision might bring clarity to what the appropriate level of capacity should be.

Question: Should Debra Bowen resign? Are you concerned about the administration of the upcoming election?

Padilla: The nuts and bolts of elections are administered at the local level, by county clerks and elections officials. I’ve met with elections officials in every one of California’s 58 counties and they are prepared for the November 2014 election.

I do not think it is necessary for Secretary Bowen to resign and I believe it would be disruptive this close to the election. During Secretary Bowen’s eight years in office, we have had 7 regular elections and 46 special elections, and we have not had controversies such as butterfly ballots or hanging chads. I intend to be a more active and visible Secretary of State as we work to modernize the office.

Peterson: The premise of my campaign has been that the office has not had committed, creative leadership for many years, and has regressed (relative to other states) in both voter engagement and business engagement. As of today, I don’t think we have a clear sense of how much time the Secretary is committing to the operations of the office, so I can’t say to what degree administration of the office is suffering.

This article was originally published on CalWatchdog.com