Monday, August 22, 2016

The Secrets to Jam Session Success

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by the UK-based website Musical U, and shared my philosphy and ideas about participating in music jams. You can read the entire Q&A article at

Next week I will be heading to Tuolumne for the Stawberry Music Festival where I will once again be teaching my "Learn to Jam!" workshop and sharing my 20 tips for jamming etiquette, or "jamiquette" plus offering my Pete Seeger-inspiried "Learn to Jam!" pamphlet to festival goers.

An easier-to-read version of these 20 Jam Tips is available via my blog.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

How Was Your Election Day?

I have heard many stories from voters who had or witnessed challenging and difficult voting experiences last Tuesday and also a number of reported problems with voting technology on Election Day.

Many pollworkers have also written to the California Voter Foundation to express the probems they encountered.

If you have a story you want to share, good or bad, please post the details in the "Comments" section of my blog. Please include your name, and the city or town and county where your experience took place. I will review these comments before allowing them to be visible on my blog.

If you just want to share your story and keep it private, or if you want your post to be anonymous let me know. Please note that I will not post your comment if it doesn't have a name or email address I can use to verify the story.

You can also email your stories directly to me at kimalex - at - cal voter - dot - org.

Here are some of the stories I have heard so far.


News organizations reported that 140 electronic voting machines in about 10 percent of the county's polling places were not operating due to a coding problem that prevented the machines from contacting the central system. The county sent out technicians to fix what was described as a "glitch" and election staff stated the machines were operating again within an hour and a half. The pollworkers reportedly passed out paper ballots while the voting machines were offline.

More at


Various problems were reported in Los Angeles, the state's most populous county.

There was a systemwide voting equipment problem in the county's 4,000+ polling places.  The machine used to check for overvotes required a password that pollworkers had not been provided. Pollworkers preparing to set up polling places for a 7 a.m. opening were instead calling the county election office trying to learn the password. Then they could not get through because thousands of people were trying to call the hotline simultaneously. It was reported that by 7 a.m. the county had issued a notice to all the polling sites with the needed password. The scanner wasn't critical to the voting process but pollworkers weren't provided with a contingency plan and the glitch delayed the opening of all the county's thousands of polling places on Election Day.

More from the LA Times here:

And here is a message from one LA County pollworker who contacted me:
On Tuesday I was a pollworker at a combined precinct location in Chatsworth, California.  None of the three precincts were able to get their voting machines operating promptly due to an "enter password" message.  No password had been required in the past and no mention of it was included in the County training or in the manuals.  The telephone lines were jammed so no immediate help was available to us.  The County finally sent out a broadcast voice message about 7:00 a.m. (about the time the polls were to open) to all the Inspector mobile telephones with the password.  It can take ten minutes to initialize and set up the machines so this was unacceptable error by the County of Los Angeles and should be investigated.  Apparently thousands of the 4,698 precincts had a similar problem.
KPCC Radio in Pasadena took lots of calls from confused and upset voters - so many that they have decided to hold a forum where voters can come and talk about their voting experiences. It will take place at KPCC's auditorium in Pasadena 7:30 - 9 p.m. on Wednesday, July 13 - register online at .


The Election Protection coalition issued a news release on Election Night summarizing problems voters reported to its hotline from a number of states on June 7. As their news release notes, more than half the calls they took came from California voters. The release details specific problems in Los Angeles and Contra Costa counties and is online at

Monday, June 6, 2016

Top Ten Online Resources for California Voters

Here's a list of the top ten sites the California Voter Foundation recommends to help voters get ready
to vote on June 7.

Whether you need to look up your ballot, verify your registration status, find your polling place or follow the money, these sites will help you vote with confidence!

Polls are open 7 a.m. - 8 p.m. Remember if you have a mail ballot but need to replace it, you can do that at your polling place on Election Day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Ten Things to Know About California's Primary

I'm happy to introduce Ten Things to Know About California's Primary, a list of ten tips for voting in the upcoming June 7th election.

One of those tips is to encourage California's independent voters to verify they are registered as "no party preference" and not accidentally registered with the American Independent Party (AIP). 

A Los Angeles Times survey of 500 AIP voters found nearly three in four did not know they were registered with the party. The Times' coverage features first-person stories, including one by a Times reporter who found herself mistakenly registered AIP, and one story on the need to clarify the options on the state's registration form

Luckily for California voters, the Times has set up an online lookup tool where they can check if they are registered AIP or No Party Preference. More tips for how to check your registration status and what you need to do to get ready to vote on June 7th are below. 

Ten Things to Know About California's Primary

published by the California Voter Foundation

On Tuesday, June 7, California will hold a statewide primary election and voters will help choose which candidates will be selected as the political parties' nominees for U.S. President. Many other federal, state and local contests are on the ballot as well. 

Here are ten tips for voting in California's Primary:
  1. You must be registered to vote at your current address by Monday, May 23.

  2. You can check your registration address and declared party preference by contacting your County Registrar of Voters. You can contact them by phone or email; some offer voter registration status lookup tools from their official election web sites. You may also receive an official county publication or notice in the mail showing your current party preference.

  3. Unlike your voting options in all other California political contests, your voting right in the Presidential primary depends on the political party you are registered with. Though California has an "open primary," the political parties decide whether to open their primaries to independent voters. (In the November general election, you can vote for any party's Presidential candidate regardless of your party preference.)

  4. If you are registered with a political party, you can only vote for a candidate running for President in that party.

  5. If you want to vote for a Republican Presidential candidate, you must be registered with the Republican Party.

  6. If you want to vote for a Democratic Presidential candidate, you must be registered with the Democratic Party or be registered as "No Party Preference", which is the term used in California to register as an independent (also called "decline to state"). Independents make up nearly one-fourth of California's registered voters.

  7. "American Independent" is not the same as independent. It is an actual party and if you are one of the nearly half million Californians registered with this party, your Presidential primary choices will be limited to this party's candidates.

  8. If you want to register, update your address or change your party preference you must complete a voter registration application and submit it by May 23. You can register online at or request a paper application by calling 1-800-345-VOTE, or call or visit your county registrar of voters. But don't wait until the last minute. The sooner you apply to register or change your registration, the more likely you will receive official state and local ballot information in advance of Election Day.

  9. If you ask at the polls to vote for a presidential candidate for whom you are not eligible to vote, you will be invited to cast a provisional ballot. Your choice for president will not be counted but the rest of your choices in other contests will be. If you write in the name of a candidate who appears on another party's ballot, your vote in that contest will not be counted but your other votes will be.

  10. There are 34 U.S. Senate candidates on the ballot. Look at your ballot carefully. Because there are so many, the candidates may be listed in two or more columns or on two pages. Be sure to cast only one vote for U.S. Senate or your vote will not count.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Support the California Voter Foundation and better elections!

It's the time of year when nonprofits are asking for donations. There are many worthy causes
out there, and I'm hoping folks find the California Voter Foundation to be one of them. Contributions are tax-deductible, much needed and appreciated! To learn more about what CVF accomplished in 2015 and what we plan for 2016 (including a new Proposition Song!) take a look at our year-end report and appeal. Please donate online today!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Just released: VoteCal policy brief

For many years I have been monitoring the State of California's efforts to modernize its statewide voter registration database.With support from The James Irvine Foundation, I'm pleased to share the new policy brief that the California Voter Foundation published today, VoteCal and the Struggle to Modernize California's Statewide Voter Registration Database.

This policy brief chronicles the story of the VoteCal project, which got underway in 2006 and is still in development today. The good news is that the project is currently on track, on schedule and within budget. Read more in the policy brief or in today's CVF news release.

Monday, May 18, 2015

"Learn to Jam!" pamphlet to debut at Strawberry Music Festival

I'm very excited to share the new "Jamiquette" poster that is one side of the "Learn to Jam!" pamphlet I developed at the urging of Pete Seeger, with help from Susan Webb and Anthony Montanino. It will be available at the Strawberry Music Festival starting Thursday, May 21, at the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley.

Since these are not easy to read in this image below, here is a link to the 20 Tips online:

This festival also marks the first time I will be teaching my new "Learn to Jam!" workshop at a music festival. Hope to see you there, and wish me luck!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Working towards restoring election funding to the Calif. state budget

One reason for California's abysmal voter turnout is the fact that voter turnout is not a priority for our political leaders. After all, the system worked just fine as-is for them.

Through the California Voter Foundation, I've been working with folks from a number of different organizations to urge our legislators and governor to demonstrate their commitment to improving the election process in California by restoring funding to the budget to pay for programs the state funded up until 2011, when the financial crisis hit the state hard and lots of programs got cut.
Now that the state is back in the black, it's time to start paying counties the funds that they are, by law, entitled to receive from the state when it imposes new programs on counties. See the April 24, 2015 edition of CVF-NEWS for an update on our recent victory, getting $77.4 million restored to the budget in the Senate's budget subcommittee to pay for election mandates. Also covered in this edition are two bills CVF is supporting - SB 365/Pavley and AB 477/Mullin - to implement recommendations stemming from our 2014 vote-by-mail study.