California: State Considers Tough Campaign-Finance Rules | Wall Street Journal

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.

California: Gov. Brown approves automatic voter registration for Californians | Los Angeles Times

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 moving toward automatic voter registration | MSNBC

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.

California: Gov. Brown vetoes bill to expand California’s Voting Rights Act | Associated Press

An effort to expand California’s Voting Rights Act to allow claims of racial discrimination in the configuration of election districts has been vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown. The legislation, SB1365 by state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima (Los Angeles County), was passed in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June that weakened the federal Voting Rights Act. That law had required state and local governments with a history of racial discrimination — including Monterey, Yuba, Kings and Merced counties in California — to obtain approval from the Justice Department or a federal court before making any changes in their voting rules. California’s Voting Rights Act, signed by Gov. Gray Davis in 2001, allows minority groups to challenge “at-large” elections. All candidates in at-large elections compete for votes in an entire city, county or special district, increasing the likelihood of control by a white majority that votes cohesively. Suits filed under the law have prompted more than 100 local governments and agencies to switch to district elections, with a better chance of minority representation.

California: State Sen. Wright jail sentence could trigger special election | Los Angeles Times

The sentencing of Democratic state Sen. Roderick D. Wright to 90 days in jail and a lifetime ban from public office on voting fraud charges Friday could end up requiring a special election but is unlikely to have a significant impact on the ability of Democrats to regain a supermajority in the Senate, officials said. “Starting today, he’s barred from holding any future elective office,” said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office. If the state Senate wants to remove Wright from his current office, it would have to vote to expel him, she said. Wright has not said whether he will resign, but the Senate leadership warned him earlier this year that he would be expelled if he is sentenced to jail and does not step down.

California: Vote-by-mail election trial coming to San Mateo County | The Almanac

Voters in San Mateo County will soon be part of a trial that could help the state decide if it wants to adopt a system of primarily voting by mail, with a greatly reduced number of physical polling places. The trial, authorized by a law signed Aug. 15 by Gov. Jerry Brown, will study how mail-in voting affects election turnout and cost. A similar trial is underway in rural Yolo County. As is done in Colorado, which changed to primarily mail-in voting in 2013, the trial will have at least one polling place open in each city, where voters can drop off a ballot or vote in person.

California: Voting rights activists seek governor’s help in Palmdale case | Los Angeles Times

Voting rights activists on Thursday petitioned the governor to intervene in their battle with the city of Palmdale over its method of electing officials. Nearly 200 Palmdale voters signed the petition asking the governor to exercise authority under state Elections Code Sections 10300-10312, according to Kevin I. Shenkman, an attorney for the plaintiffs who sued the city. They want Gov. Jerry Brown to appoint a three-member commission to oversee a new election for the Palmdale City Council.  Shenkman said the petition drive was spearheaded by the Antelope Valley chapters of the NAACP and LULAC and the African American Caucus of the California Democratic Party.

California: Brown nixes Democrats-friendly initiative reform measure | Washington Post

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has vetoed a measure that would have severely limited the ability of wealthy activists and corporations to use paid signature gatherers to get initiatives on the ballot. The measure, Assembly Bill 857, would have required 10 percent of signatures for any given ballot initiative to be collected by volunteers, rather than by paid signature gatherers. The number of signatures supporters need to turn in is based on the number of votes in the last gubernatorial election; that means groups would have to rely on volunteers to gather a little more than 50,000 of the 504,760 valid signatures required to get an initiative on the ballot. “The initiative process is far from perfect and monied interests have historically manipulated it at will,” Brown wrote [pdf] in a veto message. “Requiring a specific threshold of signatures to be gathered by volunteers will not stop abuses by narrow special interests — particularly if ‘volunteer’ is defined with broad exemptions as in this bill.”

California: State Gives Expanded Rights to Noncitizens | New York Times

California is challenging the historic status of American citizenship with measures to permit noncitizens to sit on juries and monitor polls for elections in which they cannot vote and to open the practice of law even to those here illegally. It is the leading edge of a national trend that includes granting drivers’ licenses and in-state tuition to illegal immigrants in some states and that suggests legal residency could evolve into an appealing option should immigration legislation fail to produce a path to citizenship. With 3.5 million noncitizens who are legal permanent residents in California, some view the changes as an acknowledgment of who is living here and the need to require some public service of them. But the new laws raise profound questions about which rights and responsibilities rightly belong to citizens over residents. “What is more basic to our society than being able to judge your fellow citizens?” asked Jessica A. Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School, referring to jury service. “We’re absolutely going to the bedrock of things here and stretching what we used to think of as limits.”

California: Campaign finance bills fare poorly in California Legislature | Los Angeles Times

After an anonymous $11-million donation from Arizona sent shock waves through California politics last year, the state Capitol seemed primed for new measures to tighten campaign finance rules. But several proposals fell by the wayside as lawmakers finished their work last week. Bills that would have increased the power of California’s campaign finance watchdog, boosted fines for violations and forced greater disclosure of donors — among other measures — stalled in the Legislature. Just one bill was sent to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, SB 3, by Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco). It would require new training for campaign treasurers and mandate that officials study the possibility of replacing the state’s outdated website for tracking campaign finance information. Lawmakers said they would revisit the topic when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

California: Lawmakers try to curb anonymous political donations in California | Los Angeles Times

State lawmakers are moving to curb anonymous political donations in California after a national election in which nonprofit groups secretly poured hundreds of millions of dollars into campaigns. Legislators have proposed greater disclosure by donors, higher fines for violations and new powers for officials to investigate suspicious contributions to certain groups. Other measures would boost disclosure requirements for political advertising and campaign websites.

California: State makes it easier to vote, unlike many other states | San Luis Obispo

California is bucking a national trend this election season, making it easier for people to vote while many states are making it harder. Those forms you may remember picking up from the library or post office are no longer necessary to register to vote. With a few mouse clicks, Californians can now register or update their registration. Because of a law Gov. Jerry Brown signed last month, state residents also should be able to register to vote as late as Election Day by the next presidential election in 2016. Over time, experts believe, the changes will add many new voters to the rolls – especially those who are young or non-white, groups less likely to register now. Compare that with other parts of the country, where lawmakers are reducing registration opportunities or establishing new requirements that voters show photo identification at the polls.

National: In Face of Voter ID Laws, Democrats Push to Expand Ballot Access |

At a time when Republicans have moved to enact tougher qualifications for voting in states around the country, Democrats have begun to push voter registration laws in the opposite direction in states they control, especially here. In the last few weeks, potential voters in California have been able to register online for the first time, and Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that will allow residents to register and vote on Election Day. Connecticut passed similar legislation this year, and voting rights advocacy groups hope as many as five states might join them next year. Democratic lawmakers here described the legislation as a potential counterweight to Republican-backed laws in other parts of the country requiring photo identification to vote and making it more difficult to register. “It’s extremely important that as some states in the nation are moving to suppress voter turnout, California is moving forward to expand voter participation,” said Mike Feuer, a Democratic state assemblyman who sponsored the Election Day registration law. “I hope California is the catalyst for other states to encourage civic engagement and participation.”

California: Gov. Jerry Brown signs Election Day voter registration bill into law | San Jose Mercury News

Californians will be able to register to vote as late as Election Day, though not for a few years yet, under a bill signed Monday by Gov. Jerry Brown. The Golden State just last week implemented online voter registration, so as some states enact voter ID laws placing new strictures on voter access, California is heading in the opposite direction. AB 1436 by Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-West Hollywood, will let a Californian vote with a provisional ballot if he or she presents a properly completed registration form at his or her county elections office in the 14 days up to and including Election Day. This law won’t take effect until the Secretary of State certifies VoteCal, the new statewide voter database; that’s expected to happen in 2015. The deadline to register for this November’s election remains Monday, Oct. 22. Under the new law, a voter’s registration information must match data on file with the California Department of Motor Vehicles or the Social Security Administration; if not, the voter will be issued a unique identification number in order to confirm his or her eligibility before the ballot is counted. Fraud on such a form would be punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a $25,000 fine. The governor also signed bills Monday letting family members from the same household drop off each other’s vote-by-mail ballots at polling places, and letting county elections officials use information from credit-reporting.

California: Appeals court to examine ballot numbering | San Jose Mercury News

An appeals court on Tuesday asked the California secretary of state to explain why Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative should be first on the November ballot. The Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento agreed to examine a challenge to the decision, one day after the state’s chief elections officer assigned numbers to 11 measures on the November ballot. Although no hearing was set, the secretary of state has until July 30 to respond. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is challenging a new law that placed the Democratic governor’s tax initiative at the top of a crowded ballot as Proposition 30. The bill, AB1499, moved the governor’s measure ahead of others because it involves a constitutional amendment.

Editorials: California sits on sidelines in 2012 primaries |

California’s distant spectator seat in the presidential nominating arena is, in part, the result of misplaced spending priorities in Sacramento. We bought a ticket in the nosebleed section because Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature refused to spend an estimated $100 million for a separate presidential primary early in the nominating process.

Instead, they combined presidential balloting with the regular state primary on June 5, long after the Republican nomination surely will have been nailed down, most likely by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. That means Republican voters in the nation’s most populous state will probably have no voice in whom the party nominates for president. They can only shout a meaningless cheer or catcall.

“Cost is always a problem,” says state Sen. Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga), who stepped down Wednesday as Senate minority leader. “But sometimes you can be penny wise and pound foolish. It’s hard to put a price on democracy. “Frankly, I don’t think we’re treating the voters of California the way they ought to be treated.”

California: California comes online…sort of – Governor signs legislation allowing for online voter registration | electionlineWeekly

With the stroke of a pen from Gov. Jerry Brown, California recently once again legalized online voter registration providing an additional opportunity for more than six million residents of voting age to register to vote. California law already allows for online voter registration, however the process on the books before the new legislation was approved was contingent upon the completion of the state’s federally approved voter registration database — VoteCal.

While the state does have a statewide voter registration database, the current system does not make it possible to fully register to vote online. Tired of waiting for the state’s fully federally compliant statewide voter registration database to come online San Francisco Senator Leland Yee introduced SB 397 which would allow counties to offer online voter registration now.

“This is an important first step toward fully upgrading California’s voter registration, making use of better technological tools to make the voter registration process more accurate, less expensive, and more efficient,” said David Becker, director of the Pew Center on the States’ Election Initiatives.

California: California allows online voter registration | San Jose Mercury News

Californians will be able to register to vote online for the 2012 elections.
Gov. Jerry Brown announced Friday that he signed legislation that supporters say will modernize California’s election system.

The bill, SB 397, allows the state to begin registering voters online ahead of a new statewide voter database. It directs state election officials and the Department of Motor Vehicles to match registration information submitted online with DMV records containing an electronic copy of a voter’s signature.

California: Web registering may shake up voter rolls in California | San Francisco Examiner

Registering to vote might soon be as easy as placing an online order for a pizza with all the fixings. A bill by state Sen. Leland Yee could push millions more Californians to vote, and save the state millions of dollars by moving voter registration to the Web.

The measure was approved by the state Legislature in September and is awaiting a signature or veto by Gov. Jerry Brown, who has not indicated how he views the legislation.

About 6.5 million eligible California residents are not registered to vote and could benefit from the program. But online registration could be a major draw for one notably left-leaning and underregistered demographic — young adults.

California: Bill to Protect Senior’s Voting Rights Signed into Law |

Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s (D- Los Angeles) AB 547, a measure to protect senior citizens from voter fraud and abuse, has been signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown and will thus take effect before the 2012 elections.

The new law makes it a misdemeanor, with stiff fines, for anyone providing care or direct supervision to a person who is at least 65 years old to coerce or deceive that senior into voting for or against a candidate or measure contrary to the senior’s intent.

California: Online Registration Bill Hits Governor’s Desk | NBC Bay Area

Registering to vote online in California would’ve happened eventually. State officials had been expecting to go that route after 2015, when a new statewide voter database is due to be finished.

But Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) calls the change “long overdue.” His measure, SB397, which landed on the governor’s desk Friday, requires California to join states like Arizona and Oregon in moving toward an on-line registration system by next year’s elections.

Right now, county election officials compare a voter’s signature to their signature on a paper registration form. The new law, if signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, tells the DMV to develop a system of digitized signatures that could be used by election officials for voter verification.