In an era when there’s almost nothing that can’t be found out quickly, the long wait for final results from an election in California feels interminable. And yet, there’s a pretty simple reason why it takes so long to count all the votes. California is not just home to more voters than any other state in the U.S. But it also has more election laws designed to maximize a voter’s chances of casting a ballot. “We don’t put up any of the barriers that you see in other states,” said Kim Alexander, president of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation. Lawmakers through the years have taken a decidedly pro-voter approach when enacting new election laws, none more consequential than the expanded use of absentee voting. In some states, you still need a good reason to not show up in person on election day.
California: Southern California Election Officials Respond To Issa’s Allegation Of Vote Count Interference | KPBS
Registrars of voters in Southern California are defending the vote count in a tight congressional race after incumbent Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, questioned its validity. Issa is ahead of challenger Doug Applegate by two percentage points with about 20,000 more provisional ballots to be counted. In a fundraising email, Issa claimed liberals are trying to steal the election and that if his lead shrinks, they could “force the Registrars to allow thousands of illegal, unregistered voters to influence the election,” according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. In a post on Twitter, the Republican congressman asked followers, “Can you help me make sure this election isn’t stolen?” It included a link to a letter on his campaign website, but the tweet and letter have since been deleted.
California: Election officials across California still face as many as 4 million uncounted ballots | Los Angeles Times
California election officials continue their efforts to review and count as many as 4 million ballots from the Nov. 8 election, a daunting process that has kept a few closely watched races in limbo for almost a week. A report from the secretary of state’s office on Tuesday put the total number of unprocessed ballots at 4.1 million, down from the previous high of more than 4.5 million reported on Monday. But a closer look at the report reveals that it’s not entirely clear how to estimate the total number of uncounted ballots. Most notably, several counties have not updated their official count since the middle of last week. That could mean hundreds of thousands of ballots have, in fact, been counted — but just not reported to state officials.
California: Uncounted ballots mean Sonoma County election results may not be final until December | The Press Democrat
Sonoma County election officials still need to count at least 40,000 mail-in and provisional ballots cast as part of Tuesday’s general election and may not finish tallying the results until their state-imposed deadline in early December. About 169,600 ballots were counted when the county released results early Wednesday morning with all precincts reporting, reflecting a 62 percent turnout among local voters. The turnout percentage will move higher when the outstanding ballots are tallied, a process that elections officials said would take weeks. The uncounted votes consist largely of mail-in ballots that voters postmarked or delivered in person to polling places on Election Day. Bill Rousseau, the county’s clerk-recorder-assessor and election’s chief, estimated that up to 50,000 mail-in and provisional ballots remained uncounted. The county will have a more precise estimate of the outstanding ballots Thursday after reporting it to the California Secretary of State, he said.
The race to succeed retiring Senator Barbara Boxer is unlike anything American politics has seen. It’s California’s first fight for an open Senate seat in 24 years, and it is being waged between two Democratic women of color, state Attorney General Kamala Harris and Rep. Loretta Sanchez. The election of either would be a historic first: Harris would be the first biracial woman and first Indian-American woman in the U.S. Senate; Sanchez would be the first Latina. But there’s another way in which it’s groundbreaking: It’s a high-profile, open-seat Senate election without a Republican on the ballot. The Harris-Sanchez showdown could offer a glimpse into the future of national politics, not just because of who’s running but because of the radical way the whole race was structured. It’s the largest experiment ever for a new kind of election—California’s so-called jungle primary, in which the top two vote-getters go against each other in the general election, regardless of party—and it is exposing that model’s unexpected shortcomings.
The law is the law, no selfies allowed at the polls in California. That’s what a US district judge ruled Wednesday, rejecting the American Civil Liberties Union’s request for an injunction lifting the state’s ban on voters taking selfies of their ballot. The ACLU said the more than century-old law banning cameras at the polls violate voters’ freedom of speech. Nope, California voters still won’t be able to take these kinds of selfies at ballots such as this guy in Wisconsin two years ago. But Judge William Alsup took less than two hours to reach his decision, chastising the ACLU for filing a lawsuit Monday in federal court in San Francisco claiming voters’ First Amendment rights are being denied from expressing their political positions — with Election Day less than a week away.
The San Diego County Registrar of Voters office and city of San Diego leaders Wednesday confirmed that a design flaw with the ballot could impact voting in next month’s election. Officials say if voters use a felt-tip pen, or a similar type of pen, to fill in “Yes” on Measure E, the ink can bleed through to the other side, marking the “No” bubble for Measure K. Registrar of Voters Michael Vu “has acknowledged the issue and agreed to manually examine all the ballots while they are being counted, but voters should be informed of proactive measures they can take to ensure their votes are cast and counted as intended before a problem occurs.” San Diego resident Kaia Los Huertos supports Measure K, which would require all election processes for elected city offices to consist of a primary election in June and a runoff election in November for the top two candidates.
Californians in county jails for felony offenses will be able to vote next year, thanks to a new bill passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor Jerry Brown on Wednesday. The bill—introduced by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, a Democrat—is part of a growing nationwide liberal push against felony disenfranchisement for those in and out of prison. Among supporters, the bill has been presented as a way to reintroduce thousands of people in county jails in California back to civic life, while critics, mostly Republicans have framed renfranchisement efforts as a cynical partisan exercise designed to help Democrats win elections. During a floor debate over the bill, Weber argued that “civic participation can be a critical component of re-entry and has been linked to reduced recidivism.” Her argument draws on a body of evidence showing that restoration of civil rights to people with felonies can reduce recidivism, including a study by the Florida Parole Commission.
Legislation that would have allowed all cities in California to use ranked-choice voting, the system in San Francisco and three other Bay Area communities that lets voters rank candidates by preference and decide an election in a single round of ballots, has been vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown. Ranked-choice, also known as instant-runoff voting, gives voters the option of choosing multiple candidates in order of preference. After the ballots are first counted, the candidate with the fewest top-rank votes is eliminated and the next choices of that candidate’s supporters are apportioned among the remaining candidates. The process continues until one candidate gets a majority.
California will overhaul its election system beginning in 2018 so that voters have more options on when and where to cast their ballots in future elections, under a bill Gov. Jerry Brown signed Thursday. SB450 by Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, and Sen. Robert Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, allows counties to opt into the new system, and if they do, those counties would be required to mail all voters a ballot that can be cast at voting centers up to 10 days before election day. The ballots can also be returned by mail. “People lead increasingly complicated lives; we should provide them with maximum flexibility when it comes to voting,” Allen said in a statement. “Under this new law, people will be able to choose the time and place to vote that is most convenient for their lifestyle and their schedule.”
California: Felons in county jails to be allowed to vote in California elections | Los Angeles Times
Despite widespread opposition from law enforcement, Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday signed a bill that will allow thousands of felons in county jails to vote in California elections as part of an effort to speed their transition back into society. Through a representative, Brown declined to comment on the bill by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), who said it would reduce the likelihood of convicts committing new crimes. “Civic participation can be a critical component of re-entry and has been linked to reduced recidivism,” Weber said when the bill was introduced.
California: New voter database clears path for 16-year-old pre-registration, other laws | The Sacramento Bee
After years of technology glitches and vendor problems, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla made it official Monday: the state’s new voter registration database is finally complete. Padilla’s certification of VoteCal as the system of record for voter registration in California clears the way for the state to begin pre-registering 16- and 17-year-olds via paper registration forms. Starting in January, people will be able to register to vote on Election Day. Also, Monday’s announcement checks off a requirement of 2015 legislation to offer automatic registration of voters at the DMV when they apply for a new license or file a change of address . That system is scheduled to working by July 2017.
California: Secretary of state says counties don’t need to change their election audits | The San Diego Union-Tribune
As a court date for a lawsuit that could change how San Diego County audits its elections approaches, the California secretary of state has told officials across the state that they do not need to change their procedures for double checking the accuracy of their automated vote-counting equipment. The top lawyer for the secretary of state says counties do not need to include provisional and mail-in ballots when manually auditing votes. The “Secretary of State’s position is that neither provisional ballots nor all vote-by-mail ballots are required to be included in the one percent manual tally,” Chief Counsel Steven Reyes wrote in a September 15 letter. The memo was written in response to an effort by a San Diego-based organization that’s trying to get counties to use a different interpretation of the state’s laws on election audits.
The California state Legislature sent a bill to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk last month that would allow felons serving time in county jails the right to vote. Current California law only allows felons the right to vote after they have completed parole. The California constitution states that “The Legislature shall prohibit improper practices that affect elections and shall provide for the disqualification of electors while mentally incompetent or imprisoned or on parole for the conviction of a felony.” The legislation addresses this language in the state’s constitution by defining imprisoned as “currently serving a state or federal prison sentence.”
As more Californians skip the polls to mail in their ballots, a Bay Area county will become the first in the state to make voting-by-mail accessible to the blind. Under a Monday settlement in Federal Court, San Mateo County has set an “ambitious goal” of making its mail-in ballots fully accessible to visually impaired voters by…
California: More than 235,000 votes didn’t count in June’s U.S. Senate race, and some think ballot designs are to blame | Los Angeles Times
A bumper crop of U.S. Senate candidates and the resulting challenge in designing ballots may be why more than 235,000 California voters had their selections for the race rejected in June. “Our research shows a clear problem with complicated ballot designs,” said Philip Muller, an election data analyst whose firm creates online voter guides. Muller and partner Davit Avagyan sorted through election results from all but six California counties to see how many “over-votes” were cast in the U.S. Senate race — ballots on which voters chose two or more candidates. Because elections officials have no way of knowing which of those candidates was the preferred choice, those Senate votes weren’t counted. Election officials warned this past spring of potential confusion with a ballot listing 34 candidates who were in the race to replace Sen. Barbara Boxer. Under the state’s top-two primary rules, only Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris and Orange County Rep. Loretta Sanchez advanced to the Nov. 8 general election.
California: That letter that says you’re not a registered voter might be wrong | The Orange County Register
A voter registration drive by a national nonprofit has erroneously notified scores of voters throughout Southern California that they are not registered. That’s causing “absolutely unnecessary voter confusion,” according to Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley, whose office has received dozens of calls from voters who received letters from the group and wanted to verify that they were registered. Officials in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties also reported a recent rash of calls from puzzled voters, as the group has launched the latest phase of a mailing that has reached more than 4 million California households this year. “Whether by intent or by accident, it is clear that the organization that sent out these mailings used bad data and failed to compare that data with the existing voter file,” said Dean Logan, the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters.
California: This 224-page California voter guide is heftiest one ever, thanks to 17 ballot measures | Los Angeles Times
In a season replete with clothing catalogs and campaign flyers, the biggest item stuffed in mailboxes this fall may be the Nov. 8 statewide voter guide, coming in at a record-setting 224 pages. The information booklet covers all 17 statewide ballot propositions, a document that election officials believe is the most voluminous election guide in California history. And it hasn’t come cheap: The total cost for printing and mailing, done in Sacramento and taking seven weeks to complete, will come close to $15 million. “It could have been worse,” said Kim Alexander, president of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation.
A California judge restored the voting rights of a man with a traumatic brain injury after expressing doubts about his ability to communicate but saying she was bound by a new state law that makes it easier for people with developmental disabilities to cast a ballot. San Diego Superior Court Judge Julia C. Kelety raised concern that David Rector’s conservator and fiancee, Rosalind Alexander-Kasparik, might attribute a level of cognition to Rector that he lacks and that Rector’s votes may reflect her preferences, not his. But the judge said in her order dated Tuesday that she didn’t have evidence to support her doubts and lacked resources to investigate.
California: After recent national attacks, is California’s election system hacker-proof? | Press Enterprise
California elections officials are confident that the state’s voter data and election technology is secure enough to withstand cyber attacks such as those Russian hackers recently carried out against Arizona and Illinois. “We are agile and always evaluating and adapting our security posture to protect the confidentiality of voter data and to protect the integrity of our elections,” said Sam Mahood, a spokesman for California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. Mahood declined to provide specifics, but said there is no evidence of a successful hack of the state’s systems. “In California, voting systems – the equipment that you’ll see at polling places – cannot be connected to the Internet at any time,” Mahood said in an emailed statement. “All electronic voting systems must have a paper trail that can be audited.”
California: Measure phasing out neighborhood polling places goes to Jerry Brown | The Sacramento Bee
California is on the verge of sweeping changes to its election system intended to boost plummeting voter turnout. The state Senate on Monday sent a measure to Gov. Jerry Brown that would begin shifting California away from its network of neighborhood polling places to primarily mail ballots. Based on a model used in Colorado, Senate Bill 450 would authorize counties beginning in 2018 to conduct elections where every voter is mailed a ballot and drop-off locations are available up to four weeks ahead of time in lieu of polling places. Temporary “vote centers” would also be open starting 10 days before the election to register voters and accept ballots.
California: Election Officials on guard after cyber attacks on elections databases in two states | Los Angeles Times
California’s elections agency announced that there is no evidence that the state’s voter registration databases had been targeted by the foreign hackers who reportedly infiltrated elections systems in Arizona and Illinois. Yahoo News reported Monday that personal voter registration information for up to 200,000 people at the Illinois Board of Elections had been downloaded by foreign hackers. The FBI issued an alert early this month warning state elections officials about the data breach, according to the Yahoo report. A spokesman for California secretary of state said the agency, which oversees elections statewide, was aware of the cyber attack reports. “We have no evidence of any breaches or hacks of our system,” agency spokesman Sam Mahood said. Mahood declined to say whether any extra precautions are being taken, saying the agency does not disclose its security protocols. The secretary of state’s website has been down most of Monday but Mahood said that was not caused by a hack or breach. Unlike some other states, California counties have maintained their own databases of registered voters. However, the secretary of state’s office is in the process of centralizing voter registration information in a statewide VoteCal database, which is expected to be operational in September.
With the California primaries long over, a federal judge tossed a suit brought by Bernie Sanders supporters accusing election officials of violating their voting rights in the run-up to the June election. U.S. District Judge William Alsup dismissed the case as moot on Thursday, telling plaintiffs’ counsel William Simpich that “there is plenty of time to take an appeal.” The lawsuit was filed less than three weeks before the June 7 primary by a group of Oakland-based Bernie Sanders supporters calling themselves the Voting Rights Defense Project. The American Independence Party and two San Francisco voters joined in the lawsuit.
Legislation authored by Senator Ben Allen (D – Santa Monica) that will transform the way elections are conducted in California passed the state Assembly today on a vote of 42 – 28. “Our current system of limiting voters to one polling location on a single day has failed. It is time to implement a new voting model that allows people to vote conveniently, close to where they work, shop and congregate,” Senator Allen said. Under the new system, every voter will receive a vote by mail ballot that can be returned by mail, or dropped off at numerous locations throughout the county called vote centers. Voters will be able to vote in person at the vote centers for 10 days prior to Election Day, including two weekends.
California: Voting will never be quite the same in California if lawmakers pass reforms | Los Angeles Times
Sweeping legislation at the state Capitol would make the future of California elections dependent on a major expansion of absentee ballots, one that would give local officials the power to close thousands of neighborhood polling places. In their place, counties would open temporary elections offices known as “vote centers” sprinkled throughout communities, locations offering a wide variety of elections services including early voting and same-day voter registration as well as a limited number of in-person voting booths. “We’re trying to make it easier for people to participate, given the complexities of modern life,” said state Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), the author of Senate Bill 450. The proposal was passed by the Assembly on Tuesday on a party-line vote. It now heads to the state Senate and faces an Aug. 31 deadline to make it to Gov. Jerry Brown for his ultimate signature or veto.
A former producer at NPR who lost his ability to walk and speak asked a judge Tuesday to restore his right to vote under a new California law that makes it easier for people with disabilities to keep that right and regain it if lost. David Rector, 66, handed a letter to a court clerk shortly after an advocacy group filed a complaint with the U.S. Justice Department asking that California be required to notify people who have been disqualified from voting about the law in time for the Nov. 8 election. “How are these folks supposed to know about the right to get their voting rights back unless somebody tells them?” Thomas Coleman, legal director of the Spectrum Group, said outside the federal building in downtown San Diego. “The state judiciary has been dragging its feet.” For years, California judges had stripped away the voting rights of people with some disabilities, including autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy, “almost as a matter of routine,” Coleman said.
As the November presidential election neared, it looked like David Rector would once again be unable to vote. Five years ago, a judge ruled that a traumatic brain injury disqualified him. Then the 66-year-old former NPR producer learned about a California law that makes it easier for people with developmental disabilities to keep and regain the right to vote. The law, which took effect Jan. 1, protects that right if they can express a desire to vote. On Tuesday, Rector will seek to have his voting rights restored, and advocates representing him and others who have been disqualified will file a complaint with the U.S. Justice Department asking that California be required to notify them of the new law in time for the Nov. 8 ballot.
California: Ballot selfies are illegal, but this Bay Area legislator says they shouldn’t be | Los Angeles Times
Beyonce’s done it, Sean Hannity’s done it, and we all know Kim Kardashian has done it too. Now a Bay Area lawmaker wants all California voters to be able to do it too, without the threat of arrest. That is, take selfies in the voting booth. A new bill sponsored by Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) would legalize so-called “ballot selfies” and allow citizens to share photos of themselves voting on social media. “People are taking pictures of their dogs, they’re taking pictures of their dinner, so let’s take pictures of voting,” Levine said in an interview. “It’s time to make voting cool and ubiquitous, and ballot selfies are a powerful way to do that.”
A bill restoring the voting rights of convicted felons serving time in county jails is headed to California Gov. Jerry Brown. Democrats in the Senate approved the measure in a 23-13 party-line vote Tuesday. AB2466 stems from California’s criminal justice realignment, which led to some people convicted of low-level felonies serving time in county jails. Supporters say civic participation can be a critical component of reducing recidivism when people return to the community.
Nearly two months after the June election, the scene at the Santa Clara County registrar’s office calls to mind a high-stakes blackjack game without the bright felt table or the waitresses hawking drinks. The registrar’s official behind the table, Jason Mazzone, counts out the ballots from each precinct and then produces the questioned ballots, spreading them out like a dealer showing the house’s hand. A team of political operatives from the San Jose District 4 council race moves forward to photograph the results. This isn’t just an unprecedented second recount of votes in a stunningly close election. It’s also an extraordinary clash of generations and a test of faith in the political process in a district where both the incumbent and challenger are Vietnamese-American.