These ballot initiatives could be headed your way in November

Voting BoothsDirect democracy can be an exhausting business.

This year civically engaged Californians will be expected to have informed opinions about affordable housing and park funding, how best to divvy up cap-and-trade money, how to spend the state’s new gas tax money, and when new voter-approved laws ought to be enacted.

And those are just the measures on the ballot so far.

Joining those five—all of which come referred from the Legislature and most of which are destined for the June ballot—are the citizen-backed proposals, which must compete for spots on the November ballot. More than 40 have already been cleared to be passed around the state gathering signatures, while another dozen await the go-ahead from the state attorney general.

What’s on the menu this year? It’s still too soon to say for sure, but here are some major themes and a few examples of what you can expect to see:

Fiscal Fixers

California pioneered fiscal populism with voter-approved constitutional amendments like Prop. 13. So it wouldn’t be a California election without at least a few voter-backed proposals that take a blow torch to the state tax code.

  • Lower Taxes:

Last year, the Democrats kicked off the legislative session by passing a $5 billion-plus transportation plan, funded with new fuel and vehicle fees. There’s a reason they chose to raise the gas tax as far from election day as possible.

Now two initiatives have been proposed in response: One, backed by San Diego Republican Carl DeMaio, would require voter approval for this and all future fuel and vehicle tax hikes. The second, supported by Republican gubernatorial candidate Travis Allen, would simply repeal the fuel and vehicle fees. The DeMaio initiative has made more progress so far, but either way, the California GOP’s political good fortune in 2018 may rest on anti-gas tax fervor.

In the meantime, it’s an election year so expect another fight about property taxes. Prop. 13, California’s original tax revolt initiative, caps the rate that property taxes can increase on a particular homeowner from one year to the next. The longer a homeowner stays in an appreciating house, the stronger the incentive to stay put and keep your low taxes, even if downsizing or relocating might be more practical. The California Association of Realtors has proposed a solution: change the California Constitution to allow older or disabled homeowners to take a portion of their lowered property tax base with them when they move.

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, named for the father of Prop. 13, has proposed a simpler way to lower taxes: give qualifying homeowners and renters a $500 tax credit.

  • Higher Taxes:

While the Realtors push for an expansion for Prop. 13, a growing coalition of progressives will soon be campaigning for a partial rollback. This proposed initiative would strip the benefits of lower property taxes from certain industrial and commercial properties and use the additional revenue to fund schools.

The Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers has proposed a more straightforward source of revenue: hike taxes on millionaires by 1 percent and channel the money to hospitals serving low income Californians.

Nuclear options

For those who believe our politics are dysfunctional, and compromised beyond repair, these initiatives propose a new start for California.

  • Decentralization:

Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox has a vision to blow up the Legislature. That is, he wants to increase the number of legislators from its current 120 to roughly 12,000 with each lawmaker representing 5,000 to 10,000 Californians. Cox, who has already submitted the required number of signatures for the measure, believes the “neighborhood legislature” would make representatives more accountable and less beholden to outside campaign cash. Still, this small army of lawmakers would vote for 80 assembly members and 40 state senators to send to Sacramento, thus obviating the need to convert the state capitol building into a football stadium.

Or if 12,000 subdivisions of the state is too many, how about three? Tim Draper, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist who unsuccessfully campaigned in 2014 to split California in six, is now pushing for a more modest three-state solution. Under the proposal, the state would be divided into Northern California, California, and Southern California.

  • Separation:

The 2018 election is rapidly approaching, but many California progressives are still recovering from 2016. Thus, two nascent initiatives that would push the state toward a clean break from the other 49 states. One proposalwould call for a Constitutional Convention where California would submit a legal pathway to possible independence. The other, a constitutional amendment backed by Bush-era anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, would declare the state’s intent to become an “autonomous nation.” It is unclear how likely it is that either measure will make it onto the ballot.

Money Measures

This is where lawmakers and interest groups come to the voter, hat in hand, asking permission to borrow a bit of extra money. Voters decide whether the new investment is worth the extra debt—though historically, voters have seen more benefit than cost. Since 1986, Californians have approved $9 in fresh borrowing for every $10 requested of them.

  • New money for green things:

Last fall, lawmakers passed a bill to put a $4 billion borrowing planon the ballot. If approved, the borrowed money will fund a variety of natural resource projects: building new parks in low income neighborhoods, remediating soil and wetlands around the Salton Sea, revamping aging dams and levees, and funding grants to adapt to climate change. Voters will review the plan in June.

Conservation groups are gathering signatures for a $8.9 billion initiative exclusively to improve and expand water infrastructure—from drinking water to flood management to ecosystem restoration.

  • New money for housing:

Remember the package of housing bills the Legislature narrowly passed at the end of last session? One major component was a $4 billion bond measure placed by the Legislature on the November ballot. Roughly $3 billion would be slated for new affordable housing construction and $1 billion for below-market home loans for veterans.

  • Also in the running…

Two more bond measures were submitted last month: One plan would borrow $1.5 billion to fund new buildings and other improvements at children’s hospitals. The other would borrow $2 billion to fund cleanup of mold, asbestos, and lead at homes and schools.

Patch Ups

Sometimes legislators need to tie up legislative loose ends or keep promises made to political allies. Here’s the place on your ballot where the sausage gets made.

  • Legislative sweeteners:

When Democrats sought to renew the state’s cap-and-trade program last summer, they needed the votes of a few moderate Republicans. Under cap and trade, the state restricts greenhouse gas emissions and auctions off the right to pollute. Democrats offered an assurance to the GOP holdouts by putting a new constitutional amendment on the ballot: Any cap-and-trade auction revenue raised after 2024 would require the approval of two-thirds of both the Assembly and Senate before it could be spent, making Republican involvement more likely. In June, voters will decide what that assurance is worth.

Second, the gas tax. Earlier last year, when Democrats raised the tax on gasoline along with other vehicle fees to pay for road and transit improvements, they also passed a ballot-bound constitutional amendment alongside it. If approved by the voters, it will create a budgetary “lockbox” for the new gas tax money that can be tapped only for transportation projects. Putting this measure on your June ballot was intended to inoculate the transportation bill against future political attack. It didn’t.

  • Constitutional tweaks:

Unless otherwise specified, if a ballot measure gets over 50 percent of the vote on election night, it becomes law the following morning. But what if a vote is too close to call? Or called incorrectly only to be changed after absentee ballots are counted? This amendmentreferred by the Legislature, also up in June, would delay the enactment of new voter-approved laws until five days after the Secretary of State has called the result.

Workarounds

For special interest groups, the California ballot is a second chance. If you failed to convince enough lawmakers to advance your agenda during the legislative session, why not try the voters? At the very least, mounting a credible initiative campaign is a good way to force your political adversaries to the bargaining table.

  • Another shot at health reform:

Last year the SEIU-United Healthcare Workers failed to convince lawmakers to pass two bills that would have placed new pricing and staffing requirements on the state’s for-profit dialysis clinics. While the union tries to revive those efforts, they’ve launched a measure that would require clinics to pay payers (namely, health insurance companies) back for any charge more than 115 percent of the statewide average cost of care. Note that this is all happening as the union tries to organize the state’s dialysis clinic technicians.

A bolder health initiative campaign proposes to set up a health care fund exempt from the spending caps and revenue sharing requirements that constrain other areas of the budget. Most budget experts argue that this is a necessary first step before the Legislature can pass a state-run, single-payer health insurance program—an effort that was put on hold in the Assembly last year.

  • Another shot at the labor code:

From the other side of the political spectrum, three similar initiative proposals—still in the early signature gathering stage—take aim at the Private Attorneys General Act. Ever since the law was enacted in 2004, giving workers the right to sue their employers on behalf of the state for alleged labor code violations, business interests have argued that it gives too much power to workers and their attorneys to sue over minor infractions. Last year, three bills to weaken the law failed to gain traction. Each circulating initiative would make it more challenging to bring cases and less profitable for the attorneys who bring them.

  • Another shot at housing:

For more than two decades, California cities have been barred from passing rent control ordinances—rules that restrict the ability of landlords to raise rents. The state’s ever-increasing cost of living has put pressure on lawmakers to change that. They resisted last year, but 2018 brings fresh opportunities—a new bill in the Legislature and a proposed ballot initiative that would repeal the ban on rent control.

New Rules

California is often caricatured as the state hogtied with red tape—often applied by voters at the polls. Here are a few possible new ones, along with one regulatory rollback.

  • For companies:

In case those 10,000-word Terms and Condition policies don’t offer you the assurance of privacy, this measure would give consumers the right to learn about the kind of personal data a company is gathering about them or selling to third-parties. It would also prevent companies from discriminating against those who ask, either by denying them equal service or charging higher prices.

Another proposed initiative from the Humane Society of the United States would tighten regulations on livestock treatment—requiring farmers to provide a certain amount of floor space for confined cows, pigs, and chickens.

  • For workers:

In 2016, the California Supreme Court held that security guards in California cannot be considered on-call when on breaktime. Last year some Democrats in the Assembly unsuccessfully attempted to a pass a law that would guarantee undisturbed rest and meal time for ambulance drivers and technicians too. Now the industry is punching back with a ballot measure that would explicitly exempt them.

Of course, there are more.

To date more than 60 measures have been submitted to the attorney general’s office. Beyond those listed above, they include proposals to loosen felony sentencing guidelines, tighten felony sentencing guidelines, repeal the California’s “sanctuary state” law, tax estates to fund college aid, pay public school teachers more, defund public schools, change the state’s voting rules for primaries, criminalize abortion, and decriminalize magic mushrooms.

Would-be reformers and repealers have until late April to get their signatures in order for the November ballot.

This article was originally published by CalMatters.org

California ballot has record number of local revenue measures

As reported by Reuters:

A record number of local tax and bond measures will fill the California ballot this November, including over $32 billion of proposed funding for education, infrastructure and homeless services.

Some 650 local measures will go before voters, including 427 revenue measures. That is considerably more than the number proposed during any of the last five gubernatorial or presidential elections, according to data compiled by the local government finance consulting firm CaliforniaCityFinance.com.

Previously, the most measure-packed election was in November 2014, with 268 local revenue measures.

California is one of 24 states that allow initiative rights to its citizens. Voter-approved measures are used to raise revenues for specific construction projects, change tax policy, or create new laws.

In the Golden State and nationwide, a boom in bond proposals follows years of federal cutbacks to state and local programs, continued low interest rates and years of unmet infrastructure needs. …

Click here to read the full article

Study: DMV Auto-Registration to Add 2 Million New Voters

VotedCalifornia’s electorate could grow by more than 2 million voters once a new law implementing automatic registration through the DMV starts working in 2017, according to a new study.

The study, conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, predicts that as voter registration increases, so will diversity in the electorate among underrepresented groups.

However, determining how much the electorate will grow largely depends on the rate with which eligible voters decline automatic registration at the DMV, according to the study.

How it works

Under the new law, the DMV will transfer data on customers, who come in for a new license or a renewal, to the Secretary of State for automatic voter registration. However, the individual can decline to participate in the process. This process is estimated to start in July 2017.

As a benchmark, the study used statistics from Oregon, where 7 percent of eligible voters declined automatic enrollment under a similar law.

About 7.4 million Californians are eligible to vote but remain unregistered.

Increases diversity

The new law will increase the share of the electorate for underrepresented groups. Latinos would increase their share by 4 percent, up to almost 28 percent. Asian/Pacific Islanders would jump to 16.6 percent, an increase of 1.7 percent.

The gains made by Latinos and Asian/Pacific Islanders would have a diminishing effect on African American’s share of the electorate, as their share would decrease slightly to 7.3 percent — a loss of .2 percent.

The largest jump would be among Californians with no college education, who would increase their share of the electorate from 26.8 percent to 33.1 percent.

“In general, registering the unregistered population involves bringing a very different group of people into the electorate: one that is younger, more diverse, more mobile, poorer, and less educated,” writes the study’s authors Eric McGhee, a research fellow at PPIC and Mindy Romero, founder and director of the California Civic Engagement Project at the UC Davis Center for Regional Change.

Will it lead to turnout?

Despite the new law increasing the share of the electorate among underrepresented groups, gaps will persist. For example, voters with two foreign-born parents currently experience a 15-percentage-point gap between their share of the adult population and their share of the electorate. The new law would shrink that gap to below 11 points.

The study’s authors concede that it’s difficult to determine exactly how large the new electorate will be, with the rate of declining to register as the largest variable. And the larger registration rates will not necessarily boost voter turnout, which has been decreasing for decades, but was particularly low in the 2012 primary.

“Even if (the new system) does significantly boost registration, it does not solve the problem of low turnout; it simply removes one barrier to participation,” wrote McGhee and Romero. “Many of the new registrants will be coming from disadvantaged communities and will be disengaged from politics, never having been contacted by any candidate or campaign.”

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

In Four Weeks, Show Politicians You Care

Howard-JarvisIt’s election season and the media has made certain that voters’ attention has been focused on the presidential primaries. But there are hundreds of state and local races, critical to our future that garner very little media attention. On June 7, California Primary voters will take the first step in selecting those candidates who will be elected in November.

Candidates for Congress, the Legislature, county boards of supervisors, city councils, and school boards will become the officials who will have a great say over the caliber of service government provides and the quality of life for all. Some office seekers will be self-serving, interested in being somebody important. Others will genuinely want to accomplish something positive for their constituents. Some will want to provide good value for taxpayers’ dollars, while others will become beholden to special interests who benefit from higher taxes and more spending.

Deciding who is whom, is the challenge.

Most of us will never meet the presidential candidates, but the opportunities to meet and size up local candidates are fairly plentiful as they strive to be heard and to distinguish themselves from their opponents.

By now, it is clear that there is a lot of anger and frustration throughout our nation and our state over the performance of government. But keep in mind that, we, the voters, have the power to make changes.

Howard Jarvis, the father of the 1978 tax revolt, used to say that if we don’t like the direction of our government or elected officials, it is up to us to work together and use our votes to make changes.

The Primary Election is just four weeks away and it is time to think about our options and to take action to make sure our friends, our family and our colleagues are registered to vote and are informed of what is at stake.

In thousands of appearances all over the state during the Proposition 13 campaign Howard delivered the following message: The people of California are the government. The people we elect are not the bosses; we are. The elected officials are just temporary employees and this is your chance to tell them you’re fed up with their record of “Tax, tax, tax; spend, spend, spend; reelect, reelect, reelect.”

Howard would warn that most legislators seek to pass legislation and appropriate money for the simple purpose of getting themselves reelected. Further, he noted that government power comes from the ignorance of the governed whom the politicians and bureaucrats have set out to discourage from participating in the political process – the people in power would be just as happy if the people they rule didn’t even bother to vote.

And Howard Jarvis had a pithy comment that seems especially appropriate today: Only the knowledge that the people care will keep the politicians honest.

We can show the politicians we care by making sure all our contacts are registered to vote and they cast ballots. Registration information can be obtained from your county registrar of voters or you may register online at the California Secretary of State’s website. Remember vote by mail ballots will be in mail boxes in just a few days. Let’s get out and vote.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

Automatic Motor-Voter Law Places Heavy Pressure on DMV

The recent news out of Pennsylvania that 289 Adarians are registered to vote has the state’s elections officials red-faced. Unless you’re a sci-fi fan, you can be forgiven for not knowing that Adarians are main characters in a series of books related to the “Star Wars” franchise: a “species of bipedal humanoids from the planet Adari.” Adarians also happen to be a registered political party in Pennsylvania (one of nearly 100 certified political parties in the state) comprised of bipedal human voters. But how many Adarians are there…really?

Turns out, the answer is a lot fewer than 289. A humorous if concerning investigation by the Philadelphia Daily News revealed that dozens of previously registered Democrats and Republicans have been re-registered as Adarians. The culprit appears to be PennDOT – the state’s equivalent of our DMV – which is tasked with implementing Pennsylvania’s “Motor Voter” program. As the News reports, “the mistakes are likely the result of alphabetical happenstance and human error [“Adarian” comes first in the party affiliation list], either on the voter’s part or on that of the PennDOT photo technicians who processed the applications.”

The story got me to thinking about California’s own “Motor Voter” program outlined in a piece of legislation (Assembly Bill 1461) that sits on the Governor’s desk.

The bill, which will start automatic voter registration for all California citizens when they get their driver’s license starting next June, casts a spotlight on an agency that appears unprepared to take on the challenge – at least in the coming year. And while much attention has been paid over the last year to improving California’s voter participation, aside from a public complaint filed by the ACLU earlier this year, the DMV has received precious little consideration relative to the significant role it’s mandated to play on the issue.

This is not news for the Secretary of State’s office. As a state senator, Secretary Padilla, requested a State Auditor’s report on the spending of federal funds by then-Secretary Deborah Bowen’s agency. That audit, pleadingly titled, “Office of the Secretary of State: It Must Do More to Ensure Funds Provided Under the Federal Help America Vote Act [HAVA] Are Spent Effectively” was issued just about two years ago, and is one of the most damning study of state government performance I’ve ever read.

Washington provided over $300 million to California under HAVA, part of which was designated to support easier voter registration under the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The state audit inspected the efforts of a number of California DMV locations to register California voters as they applied for driver’s licenses. NVRA prescribes that personal information needed for both drivers license and voter registration (name, address, Social Security number, etc.) be entered only once to create both the license and voter registration.  But according to the auditors, “when we visited DMV offices in the Sacramento area, we noted that the voter registration form was attached to the driver’s license application and that it requested duplicate information.”

Despite these problems of inconsistent, and incorrect, application by the DMV, AB1461 places new, technological demands on the DMV. Data entered and (as in the case of PennDOT) sometimes re-entered by human hands is prone to error, and while the agency is struggling to improve its use of technology, recent events give one caution that the DMV can handle the effective and accurate transmittal of data to the Secretary of State’s office.

Less than three years ago, the Los Angeles Times revealed that after $135 million investment had been made in a “technology overhaul” around “registering vehicles and issuing driver’s licenses,” the project was scrapped for being “dogged by delays and faulty computer coding.” This debacle joins a series of less severe problems involving computer-generated delays in licensing and registrations.

The gauntlet thrown (rightly, I might add) by the Secretary of State onto DMV’s front steps through AB1461 also coincides with the largest overhaul of the state’s voter rolls in California history. The long-awaited implementation of VoteCal which will combine county voting rolls into a single statewide database in compliance with federal regulation has recently begun with completion scheduled for next summer. VoteCal is intended to bring much greater authenticity to a voter roll, currently estimated to contain over 1 million out of date voter files.

A possible further complication to the effort, California is one of only 10 states offering driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. Can a process that incorrectly registers Adarians in Pennsylvania, incorrectly register non-citizens in California? The Secretary of State is using Oregon, which just launched its first-in-the-nation auto register program earlier this year, as the model, but that state hasn’t had California’s DMV problems, nor does it offer licenses to undocumented immigrants.

The legislation acknowledges this prospect by granting immunity to non-citizens who are unwittingly registered to vote through this process.

To summarize, then, AB1461 proposes to get data from an agency with a recent history of technology and process failures, and add it to a brand new statewide voter database … in nine months … during a presidential election year.

To be clear, I support the Secretary’s hard work to fully and effectively implement the federal Motor Voter law, but given the scope and scale of the work to be done in the coming months, I can only echo the Adarians when I say to California’s DMV: “May the Force be with you.”

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Pete Peterson is executive director of the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement at Pepperdine’s School of Public Policy.

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.”

Why is California voter participation so demonstrably low?

VotedSure, it’s been more than half a year since California’s last statewide election. But Californians’ remarkable failure to participate still deserves some attention today as we start focusing on the 2016 elections. In last November’s midterm Congressional election, the largest state in the nation had about the lowest voter participation of any state in the country. Hardly more than 42 percent of California’s registered voters bothered to mail-in their ballots in the conveniently provided pre-addressed envelopes, or even show up at the polls. This dismal voter participation was even worse than voter disinterest in one of the state’s other previous bad showings in 2002 when just over 50 percent of participants elected Gray Davis, the Democrat, over the GOP’s Bill Simon. In neighboring Oregon, voter participation in the November 2014 election at 69.5 percent was more than half again by percentage the level of participation of California voters in the same election.

Why is California voter participation so demonstrably low? Some pundits have offered that last year’s election was not a presidential election when voter interest would be higher and that popular Governor Jerry Brown, who was on the ballot, was destined to cruise to a big victory over feeble Republican opponent Neel Kashkari anyway, thus lessening voter interest. Democrats have a big political registration edge in the state, control every statewide elective office, and have near two-thirds control of both Houses of the state Legislature. And even with low voter turnout, the state bucked the national trend in which the GOP picked up seats in Congress, and Californians who did vote actually expanded the number of Democratic Congressional seats in Washington, D.C., from California by two (though improving GOP representation in the state Legislature just above the critical 33 percent needed to thwart tax-increases).

Yet a recent Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll reveals that more Californians, by 46 percent to 45 percent, think their state is headed in the the wrong direction rather than the right direction.

One reason for low voter turnout, and even for failures of the GOP to have made more gains in California in the November 2014 election, could be a failure to give voters a really good reason to turnout and feel their vote will be counted and make a difference. There are after all plenty of GOP and middle-of-the-road, independent voters in the state, as the same PPIC poll says 65 percent of CA voters are center/right, with conservatives, at 35 percent, having the plurality. An earnest young political consultant might conclude these voters just need to be contacted and given a good reason to get fired-up to change the results of many elections in the state.

One election where better voter turnout, perhaps by more focus on core GOP voters who sat on the sidelines and who didn’t get inspired enough to vote might have made a difference was the 52nd Congressional District race in conservative San Diego County. Just four years ago this seat was represented in Congress by Republican Brian Bilbray. But a Democrat won the seat in 2012 and the Republican challenger in 2014 was Carl DeMaio, a former member of the San Diego city council who had lost a close race for Mayor of San Diego. Unfortunately, DeMaio’s campaign became embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal, some key aspects of which were found to have been manufactured against him. Scott Peters, the incumbent Democrat who was thought to be vulnerable in the GOP sweep in other states, ended up winning the election with 51.6 percent, to DeMaio’s 48.4 percent.

Yet a key factor in DeMaio’s loss was low voter turnout. At 49 percent, according to the California Target Book, some observers believe that if DeMaio’s campaign could have brought out the same level of base voter participation as even the lopsided victory of fellow Republican, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, (about 56 percent), if the campaign not seen the scandal in the press, and had the campaign perhaps redirected resources to simply inspire baseline Republicans to do their public duty and come out to vote in larger numbers, the result could have been quite different, a GOP victory. According to the Target Book’s analysis, voter turnout in the 49th Congressional District where Darrell Issa cruised to a lop-sided 60 percent victory was 47 percent. One need not have a political science degree to understand that voter turnout in the 52nd race was not remarkably different given all the political spending and emphasis of Republicans to win the race; and that many GOP voters had to just pass on making a vote in the race. This observer believes that the problem was a failure to give more focus on peer-to-peer direct-voter contact with core Republicans, and this issue might have repeated itself in several of the other close Congressional races the GOP lost in California in 2014. Hard-core Republican voters were just not given a compelling or convincing reason to vote in the numbers needed to win the races, and especially in the 52nd, which was a winable seat.

Even with comparatively lower registrations in California for Republicans than Democrats, the GOP has great opportunity to win elections in the state and bring reform in the current generally apathetic low voter turn-out environment. A few victories could help Republicans grow in numbers. Voters are truly unhappy with the direction liberal Democratic leaders are taking the state, and if the GOP can better seize on ideas, candidates, strategies and tactics that really motivate conservative and middle-of-the-road voters to return their millions of empty ballot, they can win. Will they?

This article is cross-posted by the Flash Report

Court Case Pits Voting Rights of ‘Citizens’ Against ‘Residents’

From the San Diego Union-Tribute, written by Steven Greenhut:

California legislators have over the years been softening the distinction between citizens and noncitizens through a variety of measures that make it harder to deport unauthorized immigrants — and provide them with access to state programs.

While a U.S. Supreme Court case won’t affect a state’s right to pass such measures, it could force state officials to make a firm distinction between citizens and noncitizens in divvying up electoral districts. This Texas voting-rights case, known as Evenwel v. Abbott, could shift power away from poorer, immigrant-heavy urban areas to wealthier and more Republican counties — and from Southern California to the San Francisco Bay Area.

Legal experts were surprised when, last month, the court decided to accept the case. Critics of that decision, including Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, argue it “could lead to a system of political segregation that only counts three-fifths of our population — and essentially ignores the rest.”

Click here to read the full column

California Assembly Democrats Seem Determined to Completely Eliminate Minor Party Candidates

VotedOn April 15, the Assembly Elections Committee passed Assembly Bill 372, a bill which seems motivated by a desire to completely rid the November ballot of minor party candidates. Even though the bill has a Republican sponsor, it received no votes from either Republican member of the committee. But it passed because four of the five Democrats on the committee voted for it.

Ever since the top-two system went into effect in 2011, there have been virtually no minor party candidates on the November ballot for Congress or partisan state office. There were only three such minor party candidates in 2012, and just three in 2014.  All six of the minor party candidates were running in races in which only one person had filed to be on the primary ballot. So, the minor party candidates noticed there was only one person on the primary ballot, and they all then filed to be write-in candidates in the primary. In all six cases, the minor person then placed second in the June primary, with write-in votes, and were allowed on the November ballot.

AB372 says if someone places first or second in the primary via write-in votes, that person still can’t be on the November ballot unless, after the primary is over, he or she pays a filing fee of 1 percent of the annual salary of the office (for U.S. House and Legislature), or 2 percent of the annual salary (for statewide office). California does not ask declared write-in candidates to pay a filing fee, because in 1972 the State Supreme Court enjoined the filing fee for write-in candidates, in Steiner v. Mihaly.

The bill’s author is Assemblyman Frank Bigelow, from the 5th assembly district in the Sierra Nevada counties. He had a Libertarian opponent on the November 2014 ballot who had qualified via write-ins. That Libertarian, 25-year-old Patrick Hogan, received 26 percent of the vote against Bigelow in November. Assemblyman Bigelow feels that since he had to pay a filing fee to get his name on the June primary ballot, therefore Hogan should have been required to pay the same fee after the primary was over.

If AB372 is signed into law, the effect will be that fewer minor party candidates file to be declared write-in candidates, in races in which only one person qualified to have his or her name on the primary ballot. And that will mean even more one-candidate races in November. One-candidate elections for important office like U.S. House and state Legislature are not good policy, especially when other candidates want to run. An analysis of the one-candidate partisan races from November 2012 reveals that, on the average, 25.3 percent of the voters who cast a ballot leave the ballot blank when there is only one candidate on the ballot. This is especially so, given that California no longer allows write-in votes in November for Congress or partisan state office.

The four Democratic members of the Assembly Elections Committee who voted for AB372, and who seem to like one-candidate elections, are Richard Gordon, Kevin Mullin, Henry Perea and the committee chairman, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas. At the hearing, no one mentioned that the California Constitution itself would seem to block this bill. Article 2, sec. 5(a) says, “The candidates who are the top two vote-getters at a voter-nominated primary election for a congressional or state elective office shall, regardless of party preference, compete in the ensuing general election.”  A mere statute cannot override the state Constitution, and the state Constitution seems to say that people who place first or second have a right to appear on the November ballot, whether they come up with $1,100 after the primary or not.

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

ditor of Ballot Access News

Independent voters on track to surpass state’s GOP voters

As reported by the Orange County Register:

California Republicans found a moment to celebrate last year when they broke Democrats’ two-thirds supermajority in the Legislature. But that may prove a fleeting diversion from ever-growing signs of doom.

Democrats hold every partisan statewide elected post, as well as large majorities in the Legislature and among the state’s congressional delegation.

New data shows that if current voter registration trends continue, the state’s independent voters will outnumber Republicans within four years.

Voters with no party preference now account for …

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