Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Election integrity legislation update

Back in August I posted about several election reform bills that were making their way through the CA legislature, and we've got some resolution now. These were all introduced by Debra Bowen, the state Senator that's running for Secretary of State. Once again, Bowen proves she gets it!

The governor signed four of the six into law, and here's a summary:

SB 1235 requires absentee ballots to be included in the mandatory audit of election results. Before this passed the absentee ballots were not required to be counted in the audit, but now that approximately half of all votes are cast absentee or prior to the election, they should be included in the audit procedures. Now they will be. Excellent. It also requires the audited precincts be selected randomly, requires the audit be open to the public, and that the audit results be public, complete with explanation of how any descrepancies be resolved. Again, excellent.

“Nearly half of California ’s voters use an absentee ballot to vote and thousands of others take advantage of in-person early voting opportunities before every election, so the fact that some of these votes aren’t included in the auditing process undermines the integrity of the audit and the election itself,” said Bowen. “The 1% manual audit is designed to ensure that that electronic voting machines and ballot counters tallied the results correctly, but there’s no way to conduct a meaningful review if nearly half of the ballots cast aren’t subject to the 1% audit requirement.”

SB 1235 requires the accessible voter-verified paper audit trail (AVVPAT) be used to count audits and recounts. No, you can not rerun the process on the voting machine to come up with the same result and call that your audit.

SB 1519, requires the Secretary of State to establish recount procedures for every voting system in the state and requires each county to follow these statewide procedures. This is also very good, because as we saw here in the CA-50 race, it's unfair for the local Registrar of Voters to arbitrarily set recount costs and standards. Recount procedures shouldn't be arbitrary, and set by individuals that have a vested interest in covering their butts or electing specific candidates.

SB 1725 requires each county to develop either an online system or a phone system so absentee voters can confirm their ballots were received by the Registrar. When nearly half the population is voting absentee, people need to be assured their votes are counted.

“Nearly 47% of the people who voted in the June primary did so by absentee ballot, yet unless they dropped their ballot off in person, they have no idea if it arrived by the 8:00 p.m. Election Day deadline,” noted Bowen. “Nearly every county already puts bar codes on absentee ballot envelopes so they can sort and track them more easily, so using that existing system to let voters find out if their ballot arrived in time to be counted is a cost-effective way to keep voters involved and informed.”

SB 1747 Currently, the only people who can observe testing of voting equipment before an election are engineers and data processing specialists employed by county political party central committees. SB 1747 allows any political party, bona fide citizens association or media organization to send a representative to observe this testing and other phases of the election. You no longer have to be an "expert" employed by a party to observe pre-election testing of voting machines and tabulators.

“At a time when 52% of voters aren’t confident that people’s votes are counted accurately, we shouldn’t be limiting who can examine this piece of the elections process to engineers or data processing specialists employed by the Democratic or Republican parties,” said Bowen. “If we want people to believe in the system, we need to invite them in and show them how it works, instead of slamming the door in their faces and telling them they can’t see how the wheels of democracy actually turn.”

The other two election reform items vetoed by Governor Schwartzenegger were SB 1193 and SB 1598. SB 1193 would have allowed high school students to work at the polls on election day without penalizing the schools by taking away their "average daily attendance" money. It would have classified a day working at the polls as an "independent study" day. Arnold says no to that, but I really don't know why. That seemed like a no-brainer to me.

SB 1598 would have required people circulating initiative petitions to disclose the measure’s five largest contributors and to update that list of contributors within 14 days of any change. It also would have required an initiative petition to state whether it’s being circulated by a paid signature gatherer or a volunteer. Again, this was one that seemed like a no-brainer to me, but Arnold says it places an unfair financial burden on those poor corporations that spend bazillions of dollars on initiatives.

Personally, I almost never sign petitions that are being lugged around by petition gatherers. They're overwhelmingly dishonest. It would be a much more honest and open system if they had to say if their getting signatures because they believe in the ideas they're espousing, or if they're getting a buck for badgering you into signing their piece of paper. I think this is one of the things that needs to happen if we're going to clean up the initiative process and clean up elections, but Arnold sez no. He loooooooves his big campaign donors and protecting them is more important than openness in government.

That said, I'm very glad he signed the others, but quite disappointed he rejected SB 1598. He's all about shielding donors from public scrutiny.


Blogger nunya said...

Great post, thank you.

10/05/2006 03:33:00 PM  
Blogger Terry said...

No, thank YOU.

10/13/2006 08:51:00 AM  

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