The LWVC’s work in elections-related issues resulted in a number of major steps forward for voters in 2015.
Legislative advances. Several bills to broaden and streamline our registration and voting process, which often presents a barrier to eligible voters, stand out:
- Significant advances were made in the New Motor Voter Bill, AB 1461 (Gonzales), automating voter registration at the DMV. This bill, sponsored by the Secretary of State, could potentially bring the 6.6 million eligible, but unregistered, voters in our state—who are predominantly Latino, African American and Asian-Pacific Islanders—into the electoral process.
- SB 365 (Pavley) will permit vote-by-mail voters to cast their ballots at drop-off locations, increasing convenience for voters. It would also require the Secretary of State to promulgate regulations establishing best practices for drop-off location security measures and procedures.
- SB 439 (Allen) will streamline voting procedures across the state by establishing guidelines for the regulation of electronic poll books and ballot-on-demand systems. It will also increase opportunities for conditional voter registration and provisional voting, the so-called “same day registration” process, when that is in place in about 2017.
Bills of particular interest to those involved in voter service educational activities include:
- AB 1443 (Chau), creating a Language Accessibility Advisory Committee to advise the Secretary of State regarding voting materials
- AB 554 (Mullin), allowing elections officials to appoint up to five pupils with permanent residence status to serve as pollworkers, expanding the current process available for adults that enhances the availability of bilingual precinct workers
- AB 400 (Alejo), permitting voting-related messages (voter registration dates, election day reminders) on the Department of Transportation’s changeable message signs
- SB 505 (Mendoza), allowing the Secretary of State to revise the wording of the Voter Bill of Rights as necessary to ensure voter understanding, in keeping with the recommendations of the LWVCEF Best Practices Manual for Official Voter Information Guides.
We were saddened by the vetoes of several League-supported measures. The governor vetoed a measure that would have extended the state Bagley Keene Open Meeting Act to advisory bodies; a bill consolidating election dates; a measure creating a state preclearance system for voting-related law changes in response to the Supreme Court’s striking that aspect of the federal Voting Rights Act; and a bill to move the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction higher on the ballot to a place along with other statewide offices.
Other state advances. The LWVC supported strong regulations adopted by the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) to prevent coordination of political campaigns with independent expenditure committees. We were also pleased by increased regulation of “dark money” by the FPPC under last year’s SB 27 (Correa), an LWVC-sponsored bill. On the legislative side, the Governor signed SB 21 (Hill), requiring disclosure of travel payments and donors from nonprofits who regularly organize and host travel for elected officials.
We continue to work on improving Cal-Access, the campaign finance and lobbying disclosure system, and are very pleased with a new search tool, Power Search, developed by MapLight with the Secretary of State’s office. On the SOS home page, look for the green/white/orange “Power Search Contributions” button in the upper left hand corner: it makes searching out contributions to campaigns and ballot measures a pleasure.