Thursday, May 21, 2009

The saddest little election ever

Another election day has come and gone, the voters (at least some of them) have spoken, and now the legislature and governor must try again to close the gaping hole in California's budget.

Tuesday was the polar opposite of last November's General Election when there was so much excitement and so many new voters eager to participate. A few million voters participated in the statewide special election, but many more stayed home. The number of voters who cast ballots Tuesday will come out somewhere over 4 million, compared to November 2008, with a turnout of 13.7 million California voters. This week's total turnout numbers may not even exceed those of June 2008 (4.5 million), which also was a pretty sad election.

It's clear voters are eager to participate when there are issues or candidates on the ballot that draw them out and where they feel their vote can make a difference. That was not the case for millions of Californians with this statewide special election. For more thoughts on voter participation trends in California and the election process, take a look at my paper, The California Voters' Experience, published last October.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Election news stories - Capital Public Radio, SF Chronicle

Last Thursday I was a guest on Capital Public Radio's Insight show, talking about the campaign money behind the six propositions on tomorrow's ballot. During the interview a clip from the "Proposition Song 2009" was played - probably the one and only broadcast of the song anywhere! Cap Radio played it as a "fair use" clip - just thirty seconds or so. If you'd like to hear it, an archive of the show is available online.

On Sunday, the San Francisco Chronicle ran an article by John Wildermuth about the likelihood that more vote-by-mail ballots will be cast in tomorrow's election than ballots cast at the polls. Excerpts are below.

"Mail voters might be a majority next Tuesday, but it will be an anomaly," said Kim Alexander, president and founder of the California Voter Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization promoting the responsible use of technology in voting.

"While the actual number of mail voters doesn't fluctuate that much, the percentage does," she added. "In a high- turnout election like November's presidential, the mail voters are a smaller fraction of the total."


Schwarzenegger's decision to release the devastating budget details just days before the election points out one of the problems with mail voting.

Up until the day of the election, "news stories are being produced, ads are coming out, more information is becoming available," said Alexander. "Maybe the governor's budget plan changed someone's mind, but if they've already voted by mail, they're out of luck."

While Alexander and other election reformers would like to see the state count every ballot that's postmarked by election day, that's not the way it works in California. Ballots that arrive after the 8 p.m. close of the polls remain unopened and uncounted.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My election Q&A with Channel 10 is available online

This election, like never before, many friends and family members are scratching their heads, extremely confused by the propositions on the ballot, and why we are having the election at all. Yesterday I was Sharon Ito's guest on the Channel 10 (Sacramento's ABC affiliate) "Live Online" show. For a half hour Sharon and I talked about the election and took questions from online viewers. Channel 10 has archived the entire webcast on its site, and you can find it here. The discussion will hopefully help answer many of the questions voters have during this confusing election season.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Channel 10's "Live Online" program today at 11 a.m. - May 19th Election

I'll be Sharon Ito's guest today on Sacramento Channel 10's"Live Online" program, talking about and and answering questions from viewers about next week's statewide special election. Log in here if you'd like to participate. One thing I'll be talking about is the updated Top Contributor Data in our California Online Voter Guide, now showing the top five donors for and against each of the measures on the ballot as of May 2. I'll also be talking about the Proposition Poem we debuted last week.

Friday, May 8, 2009

A "Proposition Poem" for the May 19th special election

From time to time my friends and I create a "Proposition Song" to help get voters acquainted with the propositions on the California ballot (see this 2006 video as an example).

For the May 19th election, I wrote new lyrics to an old tune, "San Francisco Bay Blues", composed by Jesse Fuller. Unfortunately the song is still copyrighted and the copyright owners would not give me permission to release the song we recorded, even though it is nonpartisan and noncommercial. Thus, I can only share the sung version on a strictly private basis.

So, I instead present a bit different of an offering this time, a "Proposition Poem". If you are familiar with "San Francisco Bay Blues" you can of course still sing along! (see this Youtube video of Jesse Fuller, a "one-man band" performing it in 1968). The poem is featured in CVF's special election California Online Voter Guide.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Donations pour in for special election measures

After a rather slow start, it appears the committee supporting Propositions 1A through 1F, "Budget Reform Now" has cranked up the fundraising engine. As can be seen in their late contribution report filings the committee has raised several six-figure donations in recent weeks, including major financial transfusions from Governor Arnold Schwarzegger's "Dream Team" committee.

Some of the big donors giving to support the special election measures include Universal City Studios ($250,000), San Francisco Giants, Golden State Warriors, LA Clippers, and LA Lakers ($25,000 each) Altria ($350,000), Occidental Petroleum ($250,000), and Edison International ($100,000). While there are other committees raising money for an against the ballot measures, none come near to the amount of funds being raised by "Budget Reform Now". Whether all this fundraising and spending will be enough to put the measures over the top remains to be seen. But one thing that is not in doubt: Governor Schwarzenegger is a prolific fundraiser, even in a major economic downtime.

CVF will update its top donor pages of our online voter guide after May 7, when the next periodic committee reports are due.