I. In Focus This Week
Working group examines future of California elections
"Roadmap” highlights opportunities for policymaking, partnership and innovation
Late last year, a working group of California election officials, advocates and experts came together to talk about the future of elections in the Golden State. The shared goal was to step back from the day-to-day, election-to-election concerns that often consume the debate and take a long view on behalf of the state’s current and future voters.
Convened with the support of the James Irvine Foundation through its California Democracy Program, the group met in person in Los Angeles, Mountain View and Sacramento to share ideas about the current state of elections in California, to identify needed reforms and opportunities for growth, and commit to working toward concrete solutions in various areas of the voting and election process. [Disclosure: I served as a consultant to the Working Group, serving as facilitator.]
In December 2011, the Working Group released a Roadmap for the Future of California Elections. While acknowledging that the Roadmap does not necessarily “reflect all conceivable solutions, all priorities of each participant or the endorsement of every participant” the Working Group did unanimously set forth 10 “guiding principles” for reform:
The policies and practices that govern California’s elections — and the institutions and individuals responsible for administering them — should:
- Encourage full participation by all eligible citizens;
- Ensure and protect equal access to participation regardless of age, race, language, income, education, disability or location;
- Ensure that every eligible citizen can easily register to vote and that voter registration rolls are accurate and up-to-date;
- Provide citizens with information about registration and voting — including information on candidates, ballot issues and voting instructions — in a variety of formats, including disability accessible formats, and languages — so that every voter can make informed voting choices and cast a meaningful and valid ballot;
- Provide each voter with flexibility regarding options for casting a ballot;
- Protect voters from intimidation and deception and ensure enforcement and compliance with all applicable laws protecting voters’ rights and the integrity of the voting process;
- Reflect the highest standards of transparency, accuracy and security and provide all citizens with justifiable confidence in election systems — including voting technology — and their outcomes;
- Provide outreach and education to California’s youth about the electoral process and the value of civic participation in order to foster a spirit of lifelong participation in all voters;
- Guarantee that state and local governments provide resources in proportion to election administration requirements while holding election officials accountable for efficient and effective use of those funds; and
- Commit to seeking improvements of all kinds — from small fixes to big and fundamental changes — that make California’s elections work for the voters of today and tomorrow.
These principles are followed by more concrete policy goals in four general areas: voter registration and education, voting technology, voting options and election administration.
Participants were enthusiastic both about the process and the outcome.
On the Verified Voting blog, Pam Smith said, ”it turned out to be an extraordinary conversation and a process which could very well serve as a model for other states as well … The participants included a diverse range of representatives with a concern for voters and not-yet voters, for elections and how they function, and for California’s democracy.”
Using these goals as a backdrop, the Working Group will continue its activities in 2012 and will be engaging public, private and non-profit sector partners to work toward the goals set forth in the Roadmap.
The full Roadmap can be found online here.
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