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: http://kimalex.blogspot.com/2014/01/learn-to-jam-20-tips-for-making-music.html

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.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

California's record low turnout

It's so disappointing when you put on a big event and folks don't show up.

That's how I expect a lot of registrars and poll workers felt after Tuesday's election. We'll find out later today how many ballots remain to be counted. The Field Poll projected 8.2 million Californians would vote.

That's a lot, but compared to how many are registered and eligible, it's a smaller share of the number who participated the last time. And the time before that.

Why is participation on the decline? I offered some answers to that question yesterday to Jason Hoppin, a reporter from the Monterey Herald who discovered his county's turnout had dropped by double digits. Here's an excerpt from his story today: 
Brown's bid for an unprecedented fourth term, the 2014 ballot was left without a marquee matchup to drive midterm turnout: voter participation will likely settle in the mid-40s, an unprecedented low. 
Why? 
"I wish I knew. More and more people are bringing their ballots at the last minute to the polls, that's one of the things that happening. But the low turnout, I don't (know)," Monterey County Registrar of Voters Claudio Valenzuela said. "Midterms are different." 
------- 
The problem is not unique to Monterey County: turnout was low across the state. Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, outlined several factors she believes are pushing the numbers down, including declining home ownership, long ballots, less partisanship — a quarter of the state's voters no longer align themselves with a political party — and California's top-two primary system, which often pushes minor-party candidates off the general election ballot. 
Alexander also cited a rise in negative campaigning and the influence of fundraising, with well-heeled candidates hiring professional advisers to target campaigns at likely voters, leaving infrequent voters out of the loop. 
"We have a really skewed system where some people receive way more information than they need, and other voters, who really need it, receive absolutely none," Alexander said. 
Brown's shoo-in campaign was also a factor, she added. The governor put little effort into his re-election bid, which did nothing to stir interest in the race. 
"Every ballot needs a loss leader. Every ballot needs something that's going to draw people out, and we didn't have that on this ballot," Alexander said. 
Furthermore, 70 percent of Monterey County now gets a mail ballot. Stunningly, in a county of 415,000 people and 165,000 eligible voters, just 15,000 people went to a polling place on Election Day.  
Alexander said mail ballots can contribute to turnout problems. Some voters lose ballots without realizing they can request another, or don't know they can drop the ballot off on Election Day. In addition, 3 percent of the mail ballots statewide weren't counted in the June primary, due to a number of factors. 
"That's a higher error rate than the hanging chads of the 2000 presidential contest in Florida," Alexander said, adding the state needs to help fund local mail ballot programs.  
"We need a wholesale review of the program, because you've got a lot of ballots out there that are not connecting with voters," she added. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Top Ten Online Resources & Five Vote-by-Mail Tips


The California Voter Foundation has issued our Top Ten Online Resources to help voters make informed choices in Tuesday's Election! Also available - Five tips to ensure your vote-by-mail ballot gets counted.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Every election could use a song

As a kid growing up in Los Angeles in the 1970's, I watched a lot of Saturday morning cartoons. In between Bugs Bunny and HR Puffnstuff there would be these musical interludes, called Schoolhouse Rock!. In the early morning hours on a non-school day I would learn about how a bill becomes a law, that three is a magic number, plus some grammar, economics and science thrown in.

I'm guessing many of my fellow GenXers were also strongly influenced by this series. So many times I've reminisced with friends about how valuable it was to learn about important stuff through song.

That's why in 2000, when California voters were facing 20 ballot propositions, I decided to write the first Proposition Song. The idea was simple: give voters a brief, 3-minute overview of each of the propositions on the ballot so they can sort them out and have a better sense of which one does what and what voting yes or no would mean.


The idea of using music and song to inform and entertain people at the same time has a long history.  Folk music originated as a way to pass along knowledge in times of widespread illiteracy. Campaign songs in the U.S. date back to 1824. Songs help win revolutions.

Most of the information voters get in elections comes from the government or campaigns and is in the written form - voter guides, pamphlets, sample ballots. Offering information in an audio/visual format gives voters an alternative to the usual. Happily voters have alternatives this election. In addition to the Proposition Song, there is SeePolitical, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group producing high-quality
two-minute animated videos about the measures on the ballot.

One of the most satisfying parts of creating the Proposition Song is that so many people want to help and participate. About a month ago, I wasn't planning on writing a song this year. With only six propositions on the ballot, I didn't have much material to work with. Plus none of the propositions rose to the "water cooler conversation" level. When CVF board members asked if there'd be a song, I told them I had the proposition blues. Well, they said, write a song about that!

The very next morning I woke up and wrote half of it by 10 a.m. The rest came a few days later. Within a week I'd recruited some friends to play it with me. We rehearsed it on a Tuesday, recorded it two days later, performed it that night, edited the video a few days after that, and released it last week. It all came together very quickly, with many people stepping in to help. I realized the Proposition Song is bigger than me. It is a community project that lots of people look forward to, and putting it all together is honestly one of the most fun parts of my job. 

California Voter Foundation's 2014 Proposition Song

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A new proposition song!

Just (barely) in time for the upcoming election, I've come up with a new proposition song. Also a new
tune! I will be recording it with friends soon but in the meantime here are the lyrics.

Musicians and singers are welcome to join us on Thursday, Oct. 16 at Old Ironsides in downtown Sacramento at 7:30 p.m. to participate in the recording and performance.

Thanks to the CVF board, my friends and family, the Gerbode Foundation and undisclosed sources deep within California government for help with this project.

The first Proposition Song was for the 2000 election, followed by songs in 2006, 2010 and 2012. There is also a bootleg 2009 California Special Election song we recorded but didn't release.

Making proposition songs is something that brings me joy and I hope it does the same for you! Mostly I hope you sing and play along.


The California Proposition Blues

Tune: Traditional Blues
Lyrics: Kim Alexander

E
Just the other day it arrived in the mail,
                                                              E7
My official voter guide I said, “What the hell?”
            A7                                           E
Let’s take a look, see what it’s all about
  B7                             A7                            E             B7
I read and read but I still can’t figure it out.


Started with the first one, Proposition One
It’s not in the same guide as the rest of ‘em
It’s “Supplemental” – it arrived later on
That’s why it took a bit longer to write this song

So I went online for the pros and cons
Turns out Prop. 1 is a water bond
It could help address the drought in our state
Seven billion to pay for infrastructure that’s out of date

Prop. 2 is next, it’s a complicated one
Something about the state’s rainy day fund
If it passes, we’ll have to save more
And pay down the state’s debts faster than we did before

Bear with me now, this doesn’t make sense
But Prop. 45 is the one that comes next
It’s confusing, but watcha gonna do?
I’ll vote but still have the California Proposition Blues

See, the insurance commissioner wants more control
The health insurance companies, they say “No!”
As a voter, it’s up to you to choose
I understand if you’ve got the California Proposition Blues

The next one is also a health care prop
46 affects California’s docs
It changes the cap on medical suits
And tries to cut down on alleged doctor drug abuse.

47 is next and it deals with crime
Should non-violent offenders do less time?
Supporters say, vote yes because
They think we should change California sentencing laws

48’s unlike the rest of ‘em
No initiative, it’s a referendum
In support, some tribes they do rally
A yes vote allows a new casino in the Central Valley

If you want more info, you can go online
Try Calvoter.org we’re open all the time
We’ll help you decide who should win or lose
And help you avoid the California Proposition Blues!