When I was growing up, I was consistently reminded that California was the most innovative state in the most innovative country in the world. I heard stories of how California’s government was a world leader. Now it appears that California is crippled with antiquated systems incapable of keeping up with the world around us. California government seems ill-equipped to handle the taxpayers’ needs. The advances in technology during my lifetime have been spectacular and it is time that Californians demand that their government get out of the Stone Age and join us in the 21st Century.
1. Restore Voter Confidence in Elections
As the chief election officer, the Secretary of State plays a key role in ensuring fair and honest elections across the state. California elections have regularly been ranked in the bottom five states in the nation. California is currently ranked second to last when measured across 14 categories. Some of California’s shortcomings are:
45th in Mail Ballots Rejected
49th in Mail Ballots not Returned
44th in Military Ballots Rejected
47th in Military Ballots not Returned
42nd in Provisional Ballots Cast
43rd in Registration or Absentee Ballots Problems
43rd in Voter Turnout
42nd in Voter Registration Rate.
(Pew Study – http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/multimedia/data-visualizations/2014/elections-performance-index#state-CA)
Californians clearly deserve better leadership to address these atrocious results.
Count all Valid Ballots: Recently a lawsuit was filed by the ACLU against the state claiming that over 45,000 votes were not counted last November because signatures did not match. In the practice of law, it takes an expert with years of training and experience to certify that a signature matches. People’s signatures change over time as we grow older and election officials do not have the training or the experience to properly validate signatures. This problem can easily be fixed by allowing each voter to select a PIN when they register to vote by mail. The voter will simply need to write in their PIN along with their signature and this will help ensure that the person casting the ballot is the person who registered to vote.
Clean up our Voter Rolls to Remove those who have Moved or who have Died: California has over 19 Million registered voters. Many states have joined coalitions like ERIC (Electronic Registration Information Center) to improve the integrity of voter rolls and promote voter confidence in the electoral process. By working together, these states are able to help determine who has moved, who may have died, and which voters might be registered in multiple jurisdictions. ERIC is not a partisan organization as many blue states like Rhode Island, Delaware, Minnesota, Maryland, and Connecticut are members. Also, many of our neighbors have already joined like Oregon, Washington, and Nevada.
Californians deserve voter rolls that are compliant with both the Help American Voter Act and the National Voter Registration Act. Properly maintained voter registration rolls will be critical to cut down on long lines at polls now that California has enacted same-day voter registration.
Increase the Number of Registered Voters: One of the requirements of a state that joins ERIC is that they commit to contacting eligible but unregistered residents to educate them on the easiest method by which they can register. California needs to join a bipartisan group like ERIC to help maintain the integrity of our elections.
Be Proactive to Prevent Unnecessary Litigation for Potential Election Violations: One of the duties of the Secretary of State is to ensure that all election laws are enforced. It is not a good image for this state when organizations like the ACLU are required to sue the State of California because the state does not give voters the ability to correct clerical mistakes. It is sad when independent organizations like the Election Integrity Project California discover major violations of the law in maintaining voter registration files. It is the duty of the Secretary of State to determine whether election laws are being violated and to make sure the violations are fixed and/or prosecuted.
Improve Military and Overseas Ballot Process: California has more registered military voters than any other state. The fact that we are ranked 45th in Military ballots rejected and 49th in Military ballots not being returned indicates that we have a major problem that is disenfranchising those who are serving our country. Whatever we are doing is clearly not working. A detailed audit needs to be conducted to determine what the source is of California’s atrocious results in counting the military vote. Our brave soldiers jump over enough obstacles as a part of their military career, obstacles that prevent them from voting should not be one of them.
Audit Voter Rolls to Ensure No Unauthorized Individuals are Registered to Vote: In September 2017, the Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State’s office came under criticism for a glitch that may have allowed thousands of ineligible individuals to vote. The Pennsylvania Secretary of State subsequently resigned. Over the last year, there have been plenty of news stories of politicians arguing that individuals who are not permitted to cast ballots according to the law did so in 2016. The Secretary of State has the duty and responsibility of conducting an audit on California elections to ensure that no election laws were violated. A simple audit can either shut the complaining politicians or reveal election fraud that needs to be prosecuted. It is time for the Secretary of States office to act. Has there been a Violation of California Election law?
Increase the Transparency in Elections, not on Citizens: We live in California. Every time we look at our flag, we are reminded that we live in a Republic. This means that the supreme power is held by the people who elect their representatives. When Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense, it was not initially published crediting him as the author. Likewise, when Madison, Hamilton, and Jay wrote the articles that were later titled “The Federalist Papers”, they did so under the pen name “Publius.” Transparency in government is good, but the people should have some privacy in making political speech without worrying what their neighbors and coworkers might think.
Does anyone really think that a $100 contribution is going to influence a political candidate in this state? It was 1974 when limits on anonymous donations were put into effect. While politicians have been quick to increase the maximum donations that people could make to their campaign, no one has been fighting for the little guy to enable them to make anonymous donations that keep pace with inflation. If the minimum reporting limits had kept pace with inflation, today a person could donate $500 without the government keeping track of their political speech. By changing minimum reporting statutes, it would mean less work for campaign treasurers, less paperwork for the state, and most importantly, more protections to individual citizens. This change would greatly benefit challengers who do not have a ready Rolodex of large special interest donors.
2. Modernize the Registration Process for California Businesses
The Secretary of State’s office is the first place every business must go to when they are opening a business and the last place they turned to when they are shutting down a business. The registration process for businesses in California is antiquated. It is critical that we scrap the current legacy systems and create a new registration process and database so that businesses can quickly file the necessary paperwork in minutes and not be waiting weeks.
3. Update the Initiative Process for the 21st Century
In California, the standard for ensuring that a petitioner’s signature matches on a citizen lead voter petition is greater than the attention focused on an absentee ballot. The ability for a citizen to place a measure on the ballot is next to impossible except for the best funded special interest initiatives.
The California initiative process needs to be brought into the 21st Century. In California we allow someone to register to vote online. Californians are used to doing their banking online and the technology exists that should allow a registered voter to go online and indicate that they desire a certain citizen initiative be placed on the ballot. By allowing online participation, this will greatly reduce the cost to the counties in validating signatures.