Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thousands of Calif. ballots are "too late to count"

ABC News' Nannette Miranda recently reported on the thousands of California vote-by-mail ballots that will not be counted this election because they were not received by Election Day.
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I visited the Sacramento County Elections Office last week to personally inspect some of these ballots - I saw one that arrived from Los Angeles that was postmarked October 20 but still did not arrive by the Nov. 6 Election Day, and I saw another that was sent from New York via Express Mail, costing nearly $20, that also arrived too late and could not be counted. I saw ballots from Australia, China, ballots coming from far away that, though they had been postmarked well before Election Day still arrived too late.

Hopefully the California Legislature will address this issue in its next session. With half of California voters now voting by mail, the burden should not be upon them to ensure the Post Office delivers mail on schedule.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day in California

Election Day is now over in California, and fortunately it does not seem there have been any major meltdowns. But there were, as always, lots of bumps and irregularities. Lots of voters who didn't get their vote-by-mail ballots wanting to vote, lots of voters who didn't reregister at a new address who wanted to vote - that sort of thing.

One thing is clear - the rules are complicated and how they are implemented varies from county to county and even from one polling place to another. There are so many confusing procedures that are supposed to be followed, and it's difficult for voters to know exactly what their rights are.

I heard a story of voters in one polling place being told they had to show ID to vote. I heard another from a voter who said she was forced to vote a provisional ballot even though she had her spoiled vote-by-mail ballot with her and had surrendered it to pollworkers. I heard many complaints from voters today who said they thought they had registered through the DMV and only now discovered they weren't actually on the rolls.

For more examples of the variety of problems California voters experienced, take a look at the collection of reports filed by the Election Protection Coalition through the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline.

Hats off to all the pollworkers who have worked hard all day, to the voters who have cast their ballots, and the election officials who now must turn to the thankless task of counting all those ballots - I wish you accurate vote counts and wide margins.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Top 10 Online Resources for California Voters

Voters looking for last-minute information will find a bounty of great resources online. Here is a rundown of some of the best for the upcoming November 6 election:

1. California Online Voter Guide – now in its 22st edition, the California Voter Foundation’s nonpartisan guide lists all state and federal candidates on California’s ballot, along with their web site addresses and contact information. Propositions, a “Voting FAQ”, and CVF's "Proposition Song" are also featured.

2. SmartVoter – produced by the League of Women Voters of California, this online guide provides comprehensive ballot information for all elections in most California counties, from President down to school board. Simply type in your address and a personalized list of the candidates and contests on your ballot is displayed. Biographical highlights, priorities and endorsements are featured for candidates who supply them.

3. Maplight – The "Voter's Edge" guide is a fantastic resource providing up-to-date and easy-to-read lists of donors for and against each proposition. News articles, editorials, endorsements and campaign ads are also featured.

4. Official California Voter Information Guide – produced by the Secretary of State, this guide is mailed out to every registered voter’s household. It provides nonpartisan information on the ballot propositions, such as an independent analysis by the state Legislative Analyst, pro/con arguments from proponents and opponents and texts of the propositions. Can’t locate your printed guide? No worries. An online, expanded version is available.

5. Easy Voter Guide – produced by the League of Women Voters of California, this is a great resource for those who are looking for a short and sweet overview of the propositions. It’s available both in print and online, in multiple languages, and designed to be read at the 8th grade level.

6. County Election Offices Roster – this is the page CVF refers voters to most often. That’s because most of the questions voters have, such as questions about registration, polling place location, ballot information and vote by mail status, can only be answered by their county election office. Fortunately many counties provide online tools that help voters find answers to the most simple questions, such as registration status and polling place location, online 24 hours a day, and CVF's roster links directly to each of those tools where available.

7. California Choices – a fantastic, comprehensive and easy-to-use resource to help familiarize voters with the statewide propositions, this site is produced by Next 10 and academic departments at Stanford, UC Berkeley, CSU Sacramento and UC San Diego.  It features a user-friendly table of endorsements and a way for voters to share their opinions on the propositions with their friends through the site.

8. Ballotpedia - this site covers initiatives across the nation, including those on the California ballot. One of the best features of this site is the historical polling data that tracks initiative support and opposition in public opinion polls over time.

9. Living Voters' Guide - this new project grew out of a similar effort in Washington State, and allows voters to share their opinions on propositions with others via the Web. You can use it to find out what other voters think about the propositions and add your own opinions as well.

10. Voter guides with a slant - some voters want their election information with an opinion attached to it. Even if you don't agree with the editors' opinions, these guides can be really helpful if you understand their point of view. Two great examples from this election are the Courage Campaign's Progressive Voter Guide and the "small L" libertarian-leaning Reason Foundation's California Voters Guide, which followed an earlier, hysterical write-up of the California ballot propositions published on its site over the summer.

Kim Alexander is president and founder of the California Voter Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to improve the voting process to better serve voters. This essay is available for republication upon request.