California elections are in a difficult place: fewer citizens are turning out to vote, the cost of running elections are on the rise, available funds are insufficient and the state’s voting systems are growing old and outdated. “The world is changing and voting should change too,” says Caitlin Maple, California Forward research analyst. She points out recent statewide strides in making it easier to register to vote. Online registration and the 2015 Motor Voter bill both work toward increasing the number of registered voters. Unfortunately, more registered voters hasn’t necessarily translated to more voting. This year in particular saw a significant early spike of registration in January, according to Mindy Romero, the founder and director of the California Civic Engagement Project at the UC Davis Center for Regional Change. But, the actual turnout of just over 47 percent was lower than the 2008 presidential primary turnout of 59 percent.
Maple suggests that looking at election models from other states could increase turnout and save money over the long term. California Forward’s in-depth election financing report “Investing in California’s Democracy: Building a Partnership for Performance” explores strategies used by California counties and other states to control costs and improve voting systems.
Colorado is of particular interest because of their funding methodology and emphasis on smart technology and pragmatic long-term thinking.
Elections in Colorado are funded in large part by the state, with counties also contributing at varying rates depending on population. This helps the counties deliver good voter experiences while directives from the state, which provide for a certain level of continuity from county to county, can be implemented statewide.