Commentary

09/30/2014  by Ed Coghlan

Two bills addressing election efficiency and transparency signed into law


(photo: Flickr/pacdog)

Governor Brown has signed two bills that that are important steps toward continuing the restoration of public trust in government by increasing transparency and overall confidence in the electoral process. 

"SB 29 and SB 844 will ensure more valid ballots cast are counted and will arm voters with the information required to confidently cast a well-informed ballot, and make it easier to find out who is spending millions to influence California legislators and elections," said Jim Mayer, CEO California Forward.

SB 29 addresses a major voter participation problem in California--ineligible absentee ballots. Currently, if an absentee ballot doesn't reach the polling place by 8 pm on election night it doesn't count. The new legislation allows vote-by-mail ballots postmarked by Election Day and received within three days after the polls closed to be counted.  

It's estimated that 68,000 absentee ballots in California went uncounted in the last election, about half of those because they arrived too late. This should help. Active military, in particular, should benefit from this legislation.

“Our domestic and military voters overseas who cast timely ballots should not be disenfranchised because of increasingly slow mail service,” said Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana), who authored the legislation to address this problem. 

SB 844, signed by the Governor today, requires the Secretary of State to develop, publish, and maintain an up-to-date list online of the top 10 contributors for and against each proposition. To ensure public awareness, the legislation would also require voter information pamphlets to refer readers to the donor lists online. Easier access to funding data helps arm voters with the information required to confidently cast a well-informed ballot. 

Another bill we were watching at CA Fwd was SB 1442, which Governor Brown vetoed today (September 30)..

The bill would consolidate the semi-annual and pre-election campaign finance reports to a quarterly schedule, contingent upon the development and launch of a new online filing system that would replace the antiquated Cal-Access.

"The goal of reducing reports is laudable," the Governor said in his veto message. "Until we have the new technology in place, it's premature to makes adjustments to the reporting schedule."

The recently concluded Legislature has been getting good reviews from Capitol observers. 

"Ca Fwd believes we have just concluded one of the most productive legislative sessions in recent memory as California, once considered ungovernable, continues to be a model of reform for the rest of the country," added CA Fwd's Mayer.  

Categories: Democracy, Cal-Access, Elections, Tech-enhanced Government, Transparency, Cal-Access

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