California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said Tuesday that his office is working to verify claims that confidential voter information had been publicly posted online. Padilla said the records were not posted by the California Secretary of State, and that he is collaborating with Attorney General Kamala Harris’ office to provide any necessary assistance. Harris’ office would not comment on a potential or ongoing investigation, to protect the integrity of any probe, a spokeswoman said. CNET, citing DataBreaches.net researcher Chris Vickery, reported that a massive trove of voter data was found on a publicly available Web server. The database of 191 million registered voters, including many in California, is no longer publicly accessible, Vickery wrote in an update.
California: Low turnout prompts initiative extravaganza for November ballot | San Francisco Chronicle
Measures ranging from a $9 billion school bond to a condom requirement for actors in pornographic movies are set to join the presidential candidates on November’s California ballot, with plenty more still to come. Battle lines are being drawn in what could be one of the busiest — and most expensive — initiative seasons in California history. “It’s likely to be a very long ballot,” said Jamie Court of Consumer Watchdog, a progressive group that’s sponsored a number of consumer-oriented initiatives over the years. Besides the seven measures that have already qualified for the ballot — including one of nationwide interest that would cut prescription drug prices for state agencies — supporters of others are out on the streets, haranguing passersby in an effort to collect enough signatures to go before the voters next year.
California: Lawsuit: San Mateo County absentee voting system excludes blind voters | San Jose Mercury News
A federal lawsuit filed Thursday challenges San Mateo County’s absentee voting system for excluding blind and visually impaired residents by relying on paper ballots. San Mateo County, like nearly every other California county, has no alternative for people who cannot read a paper ballot. Other jurisdictions outside the state have offered electronic ballots with screen-reading technology. California is behind the curve because the secretary of state hasn’t certified an absentee voting process for the blind, said Michael Nunez, a litigation associate who works for Rosen, Bien, Galvan & Grunfeld, the San Francisco firm that filed the lawsuit. Counties can’t use a voting system in local elections without state certification.
California: San Francisco sets sights on open source voting by November 2019 | The San Francisco Examiner
San Francisco could have an open-source voting system in place by the November 2019 election, under a plan approved earlier this month by the Elections Commission. The timeline could result in the emergence of San Francisco as the leader of the open-source voting movement in the United States. For supporters of open-source voting, the importance of that point can’t be underscored enough. “San Francisco could help write some U.S. democracy history with its leadership role,” said a Nov. 18 letter to the Elections Commission from Gregory Miller, co-founder of the Open Source Election Technology (OSET) Foundation, a collection of executives from top technology companies like Apple and Facebook. “And the total estimated cost to do so [$8 million] is a fraction of status-quo alternatives.” Open-source voting systems bring a greater level of transparency and accountability by allowing the public to have access to the source codes of the system, which is used to tabulate the votes. A system owned by The City could also save taxpayers money.
The county will lease almost two dozen new voting machines as part of a statewide effort to improve election administration and enhance accessibility for voters. Last week the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors approved an agreement with Dominion Voting Services, sole certified provider of voting machines compliant with both federal and state regulations. The new electronic devices will be more accessible to the vision- and hearing-impaired, said county clerk-recorder Alissia Northrup. They will also tally votes in real time, meaning results will come in much sooner after polls close on a given election day. The agreement lasts through 2021 at more than $110,000 per year. By leasing rather than purchasing, the county will have an easier time complying with any yet-upcoming technology requirements in six years hence. It’s not too hard to imagine those standards changing in short time, since the state is currently processing a small flurry of voting-related legislation.
San Mateo County’s recent mail election did more than boost voter participation in a sleepy off-year cycle, a preliminary analysis shows. It yielded dramatic spikes in turnout among young people and minorities. The eye-popping numbers from the county’s experiment, the first of its kind in an urban county in California, are sure to bolster a movement to expand mail elections throughout the state, following the lead of Oregon, Washington and Colorado. Turnout was up 16 percent over the last comparable election in 2013, and the voting rate among Asians increased by more than 30 percent in six cities.
Voter turnout was 15 percent higher for the Nov. 3 election in San Mateo County than it was in November 2013, the last off-year election that can be considered as a fair comparison, county election officials say. Of the 357,191 registered voters mailed ballots this time, 105,325 returned them, mostly by mail, according to the final semi-official tally released by the county Elections Office on Nov. 12. That’s a turnout of 29.5 percent compared to 25.4 percent in 2013, according to Elections Office records. The principal difference this time, according to Jim Irizarry, San Mateo County’s assistant chief elections officer: the 2015 election was held by mail. Accommodations were made for in-person voting, but the county mailed ballots to all registered voters in a package that included return envelopes with prepaid postage, Mr. Irizarry said.
With ballots still being tallied, San Mateo County’s elections chief says one of the state’s first all-mail elections is proving a success on several scores, starting with turnout. The last time San Mateo County held a similar election, in 2013, turnout was 25.4 percent. This year, it’s well over 28 percent, according to Chief Elections Officer Mark Church. He adds that all-mail elections are also cheaper, because of everything the registrar doesn’t have to do.
Call it a dream for California political consultants, a nightmare for voters or an electoral extravaganza: The November 2016 ballot could feature a bigger crop of statewide propositions than at any time in the past decade. “The voters pamphlet is going to look like the Encyclopaedia Brittanica,” said Steve Maviglio, a Democratic campaign strategist. The list of measures is very much a work in progress. Most campaigns are still gathering voter signatures or waiting for their proposals to be vetted by state officials. But political strategists have identified at least 15 — perhaps as many as 19 –measures that all have a shot at going before voters next fall. The last time California’s ballot was that long was in November 2004, when there were 16 propositions. The March 2000 ballot had 20.
California: Marin’s assemblyman wants to legalize ‘ballot selfies’ in California | Marin Independent Journal
Assemblyman Marc Levine is proposing turning the secret ballot into the social ballot in California. On election eve, Levine, D-San Rafael, announced he will shortly introduce legislation to legalize the taking of “ballot selfies” — digital images of completed ballots taken in the privacy of the voting booth. “I’ve been taking ballot selfies since I began taking my children to the polls with me,” Levine said. “I and many of my friends share our ballots on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as we vote at home or are at a voting booth.” Voters’ motivations for taking ballot selfies can vary, Levine said. “It can be because they’re supporting a specific candidate, or it can be just to share the experience that they voted and that this is an important thing for Californians to do. It can be the social media version of the voting sticker, showing that you voted.”
Airbnb has spent more than $8 million and hired a top political operative to defeat a San Francisco initiative on the ballot Tuesday that could threaten the growth of one of the most valuable global technology companies. Proposition F, which would limit short-term rentals, was brought by affordable housing advocates fed up with the city’s housing stock being used as rentals for tourists while residents face skyrocketing rents and evictions. For Airbnb, a defeat in its hometown of San Francisco would be mostly a symbolic blow. Should similar measures be introduced elsewhere, however, the company could face serious financial consequences. At stake is its ability to continue adding rentals at the same speed, increase revenue and maintain its $25.5 billion valuation, all of which fall under greater scrutiny as it moves closer to an initial public offering.
California: Chinatown seniors caught in middle of voter fraud claims — again | The San Francisco Examiner
Most seasons bring unwanted rituals. Christmas begets horrid fruitcakes, Thanksgiving balloons our waistbands and San Francisco’s election season brings predictable accusations of voter fraud — with Chinatown seniors caught in the middle. This election, the Asian Pacific Democratic Club, comprised of local, politically active Asian-Americans connected to Mayor Ed Lee, is suggesting that a powerful Chinatown nonprofit, the Chinatown Community Development Center, may be connected to the theft of Chinese-speaking seniors’ votes. According to Tom Hsieh, a prominent political consultant in charge of the APDC, anonymous elderly Chinese-speaking voters were wrongfully persuaded to hand over their ballots, which were then filled out and illegally cast by someone else.
On Tuesday, Nov. 3, San Francisco voters will return to the polls and cast their votes using the ranked-choice voting (RCV) system, a relatively new method that allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference, thus eliminating the need for a runoff. But as Election Day draws near, a recent study reveals that RCV may actually make voting more difficult. The research from San Francisco State University Assistant Professor of Political Science Jason McDaniel, recently published in Journal of Urban Affairs, analyzed racial group voter turnout rates in five San Francisco mayoral elections from 1995 to 2011. The 2007 and 2011 elections used RCV ballots; the 1995-2003 elections used the traditional two-round, primary runoff system. The analysis revealed a significant relationship between RCV and decreased turnout among black and white voters, younger voters and voters who lacked a high school education. RCV did not have a significant impact on more experienced voters, who had the highest levels of education and interest in the political process.
You can lead citizens to register, but can’t make them vote. Soon, every eligible Californian who passes through a Department of Motor Vehicles office will be registered to vote unless they explicitly decline, the product of legislation intended to reverse a downward spiral of voter participation rates. The effort could add millions of new voters to the rolls, reshaping the electorate and recalibrating how campaigns are conducted. But supporters acknowledge that the law will accomplish little unless those newly registered multitudes actually cast votes. Whether they avail themselves of that right will stand as the true test of Assembly Bill 1461’s ambitious aim of bringing disengaged and disaffected citizens into civic life. “There’s a lot of work left to be done,” said Mindy Romero, a UC Davis professor who studies voter engagement. “These are people who by definition are disconnected from the political process,” and now, “they need to be reached out to and mobilized.”
When people go to the DMV to obtain or renew a driver’s license, or to get a state identification card, they’ll be asked for the usual information in such transactions, such as their name, date of birth and address. They’ll also be asked to affirm their eligibility to vote and will be given the choice of opting out of registering at that time. Information about anyone who does not decline registration will be electronically transmitted from the DMV to the secretary of state’s office, where citizenship will be verified and names will be added to the voter rolls. … The law goes into place on Jan. 1, 2016, but the DMV said in a statement that it would not send information to the secretary of state until that office “develops regulations, completes a statewide database system and funding is secured to implement this program.” The regulations, which must be agreed upon between the DMV and the secretary of state, will have to settle basic procedural issues, such as how the “opt-out” question will be phrased and how often the DMV will transmit data.
California: U.S. High Court Turns Aside Constitutional Challenge To California’s ‘Top Two’ Primary Election Law | MetNews
The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday declined to hear a challenge to the constitutionality of the ‘Top Two’ primary system approved by California voters in 2010 as Proposition 14. The justices, without comment, denied certiorari in Rubin v. Padilla, 233 Cal.App.4th 1128. The Green, Libertarian, and Peace and Freedom parties challenged the law in Alameda Superior Court, arguing that because only the top two vote-getters in the primary—regardless of party—advance to the general election, smaller parties are normally denied the right of participation in the final contest. In 2012, for example, only three such candidates appeared on general election ballots out of more than 150 contests. The system, the plaintiffs argued, deprives them of equal protection and associational and voting rights under the Constitution, since their candidates will nearly always finish lower than second, even though they meet the state’s definition of a qualified party and often get at least a few percent of the vote. Supporters of the top-two, or “open,” primary—including former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, who shepherded the measure through the Legislature—dismissed those arguments and intervened in the litigation.
If you’re a registered voter in San Mateo County, you won’t head to your usual neighborhood polling place on Nov. 3. And chances are you already got your ballot in the mail — whether you registered for vote-by-mail or not. That’s because San Mateo County has launched an all-mail election effort. More than 353,000 official ballots have been sent out to all registered voters in the county, according to Mark Church, chief elections officer for the county. Voters have until Nov. 3 to put those ballots in the mail, or drop them off at any city or town hall in the county, at a 24-hour drop box or at one of 32 voting centers. (Check San Mateo’s election website for a full list of locations.) “This election is already underway,” said Church. “Voting is now taking place.”
California: Los Angeles County’s $13M touch-screen voting system gets previewed at Austin’s SXSW | KPCC
Los Angeles County Registrar Dean Logan presented his much-anticipated voting makeover project this week at South by Southwest Eco, an offshoot of the famous music festival in Austin, Texas. The conference is a flocking ground of sorts for new products and technology that focus on social change. “South by Southwest was a great platform for us to come and share this specifically from a design element,” Logan said. “We felt like it was very well-received.” Since 2009, the county has been working on a major elections revamp that, if fully implemented, will allow voters to mark their choices using touchscreen devices, submit ballots via smartphones and vote on one of several days.
California will overhaul how it handles vote recounts during statewide elections, replacing a system that critics say is unfair and fails to safeguard the outcome of tight races. The new rules, approved by Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday when he signed legislation from Assemblyman Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco), would require the state to pick up the tab for recounts. Right now, any candidate or voter can request a review, but they have to pay for it themselves. In addition, they choose the specific counties whose ballots would be double-checked. It’s a system that was showcased last year, when Betty Yee was leading John Pérez by fewer than 500 votes in the primary contest for state controller. Pérez started paying for a recount, but eventually gave up after spending tens of thousands of dollars to gain only a handful of votes. Yee went on to win the general election. “I don’t think anybody realized the crazy process that existed until we had the controller race,” Mullin said.
California is considering some of the nation’s strictest campaign-finance rules, aimed at keeping candidates from coordinating with groups able to raise unlimited amounts of money on their behalf. The state’s Fair Political Practices Commission is scheduled to vote on the proposals Thursday. The rules would apply to statewide and local elections. The vote comes as outside groups are playing a central role in national campaigns since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010. That ruling led to the growth of super PACs, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts in support of candidates, or their opponents, but cannot legally coordinate with candidate campaigns.
Targeting California’s recent record-low voter turnout, Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday signed a measure that would eventually allow Californians to be automatically registered to vote when they go the DMV to obtain or renew a driver’s license. The measure, which would also allow Californians to opt out of registering, was introduced in response to the dismal 42% turnout in the November 2014 statewide election. That bill and 13 others the governor signed Saturday, will “help improve elections and expand voter rights and access in California,” Brown’s office said in a statement. Some 6.6 million Californians who are eligible to register to vote have not registered, according to Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who supported the legislation as a way to increase voter participation.
California: State high court set to hear arguments on Citizens United advisory measure | Los Angeles Times
California legislators decided last year to ask voters whether they supported overturning a landmark ruling that allowed unlimited corporate spending to support or denounce federal candidates. A conservative taxpayers group balked, arguing that state legislators lack the power to put advisory measures on the ballot. The California Supreme Court agreed to remove Proposition 49 and to decide in a later ruling whether it could go forward in a future election. The court will hear arguments on the case Tuesday, generally the last step before issuing a decision. If the Legislature wins, Californians will be able to cast an advisory vote next year on whether Citizens United, a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned campaign spending laws, should be repealed by a federal constitutional amendment.
In this age of smartphones, touch-screens and the Internet, Los Angeles County’s 50-year old voting system of punch cards and user guides ranks closer to the era of chalk marks and blackboards. Now, the most populous county in the U.S. is less than one year away from completing the design stage of an overhaul that could mark the beginning of a new way of voting in California and beyond. Dean Logan, the registrar-recorder for Los Angeles, where five million voters currently cast ballots on ink-based machines, expects the design phase to be wrapped up by this time next year and the new voting system fully operational for the 2020 elections. “The hallmark of this project is that we’re designing it for the voter first, to make sure that the voting experience is a good one and the thing that makes this so exciting is that we’re operating in a time when you can do that,” said Logan. “You can focus on the user and then back into the technology and the software.”
Sacramento County plans to hire a consultant to review its elections office following complaints from city clerks about the handling of last year’s elections. As reported by The Sacramento Bee last month, current and former clerks in Sacramento, Galt and Rancho Cordova said the elections office had become less reliable in the past 18 months. The office published inaccurate information about contests in Sacramento and Rancho Cordova in sample ballot guides and provided Galt’s clerk with wrong information about the ballot order of council races, among other things.
California: Will California guarantee the right to know the names of political donors? | The Washington Post
When Silicon Valley entrepreneur Jim Heerwagen decided to invest in an effort to reduce the influence of big money on politics, he considered a push for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. “Then I realized I could be dead or not remember where my car keys were by the time that happened,” he said. Congressional proposals to tighten federal campaign finance rules seemed like long-shots, he concluded: “They just weren’t going to go anywhere.” So Heerwagen looked to make a stand in the more hospitable political environs of California. After commissioning a poll and hiring political strategists, the former software executive and his team of election law experts are rolling out an unusual measure they hope to get on the ballot in November 2016.
In this era of smartphones and the Internet, the way Americans cast their ballots is a bit outdated. Los Angeles County, which is home to the most voters in the country, uses technology that is more than 50 years old. But a campaign of innovation could soon bring change at the ballot box across the United States. In one unorthodox Silicon Valley workspace, a team of developers is trying to change the way we vote, by first determining how we want to vote, reports CBS News correspondent Carter Evans. Blaise Bertrand leads the design team at IDEO, a firm that encourages “out-of-the-box” thinking. IDEO’s human-centered approach is responsible for creating some of the most innovative products in our lifetime, from Apple’s first computer mouse to a talking defibrillator. For the past two years, they have taken on another project — developing a new voting machine for Los Angeles County.
The nation’s largest state may be about to make it much easier to register and vote. California’s Senate passed a bill Thursday by a 24-15 vote that would automatically register to vote anyone who gets or renews a driver’s license, unless they chose to opt out. The state Assembly already passed a similar bill in June. If the Senate version passes an Assembly vote, as expected, the measure would head to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown. Brown, a Democrat, hasn’t taken a public position on the bill, and a spokesman for his office declined to comment on pending legislation. But in 2012 he signed legislation allowing Californians to register and vote on the same day.
In response to the record-low turnout in the last election, the state Senate on Thursday approved a bill that would automatically register to vote any eligible Californian who gets a driver’s license unless they opt out. The measure was prompted by the 42% turnout in the November election, as well as the turnout for March election in Los Angeles, in which only about 10% of eligible voters went to the polls. Nearly 7 million Californians, mostly young people, are eligible but not registered to vote. In an effort to boost the number, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) introduced a bill modeled on a new law in Oregon to get more people to the polls.
Election Day results in Riverside and San Bernardino counties could come a little faster if Gov. Jerry Brown signs a bill intended to speed up vote-counting and save costs. AB 363, sponsored by Assemblyman Marc Steinorth, R-Rancho Cucamonga, passed the Legislature last week without opposition. The bill is now awaiting the governor’s signature. AB 363 allows officials to start securely transporting ballots from polling places to the central counting location midday, rather than when polls close. Doing so will save on elections cost and allow results to be released more quickly, Steinorth said in a news release.
California: San Francisco faces dilemma in planning for new voting machines | San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco is in the market for new voting machines, but the fast-changing landscape of California elections means the city might need a crystal ball to go alongside its purchase orders. With more and more voters casting ballots by mail, many of the city’s 597 precincts are lonely places on election day. Recognizing the new reality, state election officials already have authorized a test of mail-only elections in San Mateo and Yolo counties. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla also is sponsoring a bill, SB450, that would allow counties to send ballots to every voter and slash the required number of polling places to as few as 15 in a city the size of San Francisco. … The city also is asking that the new voting system operate using open-source software, which would allow the public to see and review the actual operating code that runs the voting machine, counts the ballots and releases the results. Currently, voting systems across the country rely on the proprietary software of the private companies that build them, which critics argue gives those companies the opportunity to game the system and influence or chance the final vote count. “Voting systems are at the heart of our political system and need the public’s complete confidence,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener, who last year backed a measure calling for a feasibility study on an open-source elections system for the city. Using open-source software “is definitely a new and innovative approach, but San Francisco is all about innovation and leading the United States.”