Monday, May 2, 2011

Election bills up in the Legislature Tuesday, May 3

Both the Senate and Assembly's election committees will hold hearings on Tuesday, May 3 to take up a number of bills that would impact California elections.

The Senate Elections Committee is meeting at 1:30 in Room 3191 at the State Capitol; though no webcast is available, there is an audio stream of the hearing offered online.  Bills to be taken up by this committee tomorrow include SB 397/Yee, which would allow counties to implement online voter registration; SB 334/Desaulnier, which would require the Secretary of State to identify and publish in the ballot pamphlet the top five donors supporting or opposing propositions; SB 908/Runner would allow military overseas voters and their families to submit ballots via email; SB 202/Hancock would increase the initiative filing fee from $200 to $,2000; SB 448/DeSaulnier would require initiative petition circulators to wear a badge stating whether their were volunteers or paid; and SB 348/Correa, which make vote-by-mail ballots eligible to be counted as long as they are postmarked by election day and received within six days of the election (under current law, VBM ballots must be received by Election Day in order to be counted); and SB 641/Calderon would provide opportunities for Californians to register and vote after the 15 day voter registration deadline.

The Assembly Elections Committee is meeting at the same time, in room 444 at 1:30 at the State Capitol on Tuesday.  The Assembly's Daily File shows numerous bills will also be heard by this committee, and an audio feed is also available online.  One bill in particular that I am paying attention to is AB 1146/Norby, which would raise the threshold for itemizing campaign contributions and independent expenditures from the current level of $100 to $200, thus enabling more donors to remain anonymous.

SacBee - Online Voter Registration Long Overdue

The May 1, 2011 edition of the Sacramento Bee featured this editorial about the need to implement online voter registration in California.  Excerpts are featured below.

Think about 6.4 million people. That's more people than live in 34 of the 50 states. It's also the number of Californians who are eligible to vote but are not registered.
The Legislature approved online registration in 2008, to no avail. Clearly frustrated with delays and excuses, some lawmakers are plunging ahead with their own solutions.

Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, is carrying legislation that would authorize counties to permit online registration.
A county-by-county system is not the preferred method of registering voters. However, it may be the only solution, given the uncertain status of a statewide online voter registration.

Back to that number, 6.4 million people eligible to vote but not registered. That's more than are registered in all but five of the 50 states. Individuals should take it upon themselves to register. But California should make it as easy as logging onto a laptop.

The Economist looks at what's wrong with California

A recent edition of The Economist features a special report on "California's Dysfunctional Democracy". The magazine is full of fascinating articles about direct democracy and the state's fiscal and political problems.

In particular, The People's Will covers the pros and cons of our state's initiative process; War by Initiative tells the story of Prop. 13 and its impact; Burn the Wagons describes potential structural reforms to California governance (and features a quote from yours truly); Origin of the Species tells the story of how direct democracy came to be; A Lesson in Mediocrity tells how California's initiative process has impacted public education; The Withering Branch explains how the initiative process has weakened California's legislature; Stateside and Abroad compares the initiative process in other states and countries; What Do You Know? describes the shortcomings of California voter education; and Vox Populi or Hoi Polloi? examines the European Union's development of a referendum process.