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Another anonymous corporate-funded front group, this one called Latinos For Reform, is running ads in Spanish telling people not to vote!  This is one more example of voter suppression.

According to the SF Chronicle,

Published reports indicate that the ads are the work of Robert Desposada, a Republican political consultant, former Republican National Committee director of Hispanic affairs and pundit on the Spanish language TV network Univision.

"That message has to be denounced, its got to be thrown out," President of the Hispanics in Politics organization, Fernando Romero told KTNV.

"To ask a community, any community to silence their voice as a way to resolve or react during a time when their voice is most needed, is what makes all this reprehensible," Luis Valera of UNLV's Government Relations said, according to KTNV's report.




In 2008, Latinos for Reform aired ads "alleging that Obama puts African Americans before Latinos and Africa before Latin America."

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Here are ways to contact your California elected officials:

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
1st Floor, State Capitol, Sacramento 95814
Tel: (916) 445-2841
Email: Send email to Governor

Your Elected Representatives in California
-- California League of Women Voters.  (See also their Suggestions for how to be most effective when contacting your elected officials.)

California State Legislature Zip Code Search by zip code -- enter your zip code and you get contact info for your Assembly Member and Senator

Your Legislature by zip code -- a different page to enter your zip code and you get contact info for your Assembly Member and Senator

Find Your California State Legislative Representatives using your address -- enter your address and get contact info for your Assembly Member and Senator

Assembly Member List -- lists the office addresses and phone numbers of Assembly Members

Senator List -- lists the office addresses and phone numbers of State Senators

Project Vote Smart's biographies of California Elected Officials

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Following the 2000 census the California Assembly, Senate and Governorship were all controlled by Democrats.  In line with tradition they used their majority power to create new electoral districts designed to maximize the Democratic majority.  They did this by drawing district lines that bunched Democrats and Republicans together in some very oddly shaped districts. 
baymap_assembly.gif
(Click to enlarge)

Look at district 15, drawn here in brown.  It sends branches up toward Sacramento, an arm toward the East Bay, a stump to the south, etc.  This is what a safe district looks like.  Neighboring district 10 has an equally odd arrangement of offshoots to the east and south and a little hook over there on its left.

In 1990 this drawing of districts to create safe seats backfired.  With safe districts turnover of legislators became rare and lawmakers became less responsive to voters, which made voters angry enough to pass term limits to try to solve the problem. 

But that didn't stop the games.  The 2000 census created a new batch of safe districts, and I think this backfired again, only worse.  First, no one foresaw 2008's electoral sweep.  This redistricting created safe Republican districts as well as Democratic districts because they increased the number of Democratic seats by bunching Republicans together into a few districts.  The 2008 sweep could have taken out several more Republicans than it did because of the concentration of Republicans in these districts.  In SD-19 Hannah-Beth Jackson lost her Senate race by less than 900 votes in that "safe" Republican district.  A fair redistricting would have turned Santa Barbara's Senate district over to the Democrats because enough voters there were fed up with the increasingly extremist Republicans running for office.

But the very worst consequence of the 2001 redistricting was that it guaranteed just enough safe Republican seats to enable the remaining extremist minority to block budgets while avoiding the political consequences.  The way their districts are drawn they are going to get reelected no matter what, so they refuse to approve any budget that does not yield to all of the most absolutely extreme right-wing demands.

This November voters passed Proposition 11, which tries to set up a neutral process for drawing legislative districts.  I hope that this process works as intended, creating districts that fairly represent their constituents' interests.  I also hope that this opens up the possibility of truly contested elections in which responsive politicians are asked to stay in office -- and politicians who do not represent their constituents can be replaced.

I want to point out that if Proposition 11's fair redistricting is successful this removes the justification for term limits.  Voters should be allowed to keep representatives as well as remove them.

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In Santa Clara County they want to extend Bay Area Rapid Transit down to San Jose.  To fund this they put Measure B, a 1/8 cent sales tax, on the ballot.  In California all tax measures must pass by a 2/'3 margin and on Election Day the voters approved Measure B by a 2/3 margin.

That would be the end of it, except the vote was very close to exactly 2/3.  For several days it looked as though the measure would fail because it reached a few votes short of exactly 66.66% but when the last ballot was counted the result was 66.78% in favor.  So in the face of a 2/3 vote by the people, a group sued to block certification pending a recount.  Yes, with 2/3 of the public voting for this, a group sued to stop it!

My observation is that this demonstrates something important about the "anti-tax" forces in our state.  Their intent is to hobble our democracy and thwart the will of the people.  It is time for us to take back democracy and return majority vote to tax measures!   

It is nearly impossible to get 2/3 for anything, ever, in an election.  Clearly this 2/3 requirement is about hobbling democracy, not protecting rights.  The public wanted to bring BART to San Jose.  A remarkable 2/3 voted for this, yet a group sues based on the count being close to exactly 2/3.  And in our state legislature the budget process has completely broken down as a 1/3 minority blocks every budget, every compromise and every last attempt to pass sensible measures to run our state!  We are now in a "Fiscal Emergency," cutting back our schools and laying people off during a recession.  This is exactly the opposite of what we should be doing and of what the public wants, but there is no choice because we are hobbled by rules that anti-government extremists managed to sneak past misinformed voters decades ago.

We must get rid of the 2/3 requirement.  It is time.  Democracy and good government are back in fashion so let's get on with it!

(By the way, California's Secretary of State ruled that the law says automatic recounts
occur when the vote count is very close to 50/50.  Since the vote count
was 2/3 the law does not apply even though the election was close. A
judge ruled Tuesday that the attempt to block Measure B came too late.


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I have been looking at the issue of computerized voting machine security for several years, and want to write about it today.

Many people have pointed out that there are a number of problems with the new touch-screen voting machines. They fear that these machines can be used to rig an election. Others feel more confident about the machines because they are "hi-tech" and computerized and make voting easier.

Computer experts warn that the machines cannot be trusted. Meanwhile, I have a relative who believes that computers can't make mistakes, so these machines will guarantee accurate vote counting.

I can give you my position on these machines in just a few words: "Prove it." Here is what I mean: The standard for trusting the results of an election should be based on what an average citizen can believe about the election results. If the election system that you set up is able to prove to an average citizen that the election results are accurate, then you have the right system in place. Elections are about average citizens making decisions and trusting the results, not about being told by people in positions of authority what has been decided and who our leaders will be. The whole "trust me" thing hasn't worked out so well in the past so people came up with "prove it" systems so everyone could see for themselves how the elections turned out.

Yes, I have an election system in mind that meets the "prove it" requirement. It's simple. I say that it simply doesn't matter what kind of machine (or no machine at all) is used in the voting booth or to count the votes later, as long as the voter can put a printed ballot in a ballot box. (The voter, of course, is expected to look over the printed ballot to be sure it has the right candidates and ballot measures marked. Just like with the old pen or punch card systems.)

Everyone understands printed ballots with marks on them, and putting the ballot into a ballot box. Time-honored methods for holding secure "prove it" elections with ballots have been worked out. At the start of the election day you check the ballot box to be sure it is empty. Each voter gets one ballot, marks it, and puts it in the box. At the end of the day the ballots are counted and the total is reported. Etc. I work in elections and I know the system well. It can be trusted.

If we use touch-screen computers as input devices to help the voter mark the ballot, all the better. This helps prevent mistakes like those in Florida in 2000. When the voter is ready the machine prints out a ballot with clear markings of the voter's choices. After the machine prints that ballot it doesn't matter if the machine has been hacked or is just making mistakes because you look at the ballot before putting it into the ballot box. And it doesn't matter how the count is reported because once you have a printed record of each voter's intentions, you can count them by hand if necessary. The voters or a trusted representative can watch the counting.

There is one safeguard that I think is very important. You must randomly test the reported vote counts against the paper ballots they are said to represent. And I am very strict about this part. If the count is off by even a single vote it means something is wrong with the counting system and the entire election needs to be counted by hand!

The controversy about touch-screen voting machines started because they do not use printed ballots that can prove the election's results to the average person! The machines come from private companies. Some of these prohibit anyone - even election officials - from knowing how they count the votes. There is no way at all to check whether the machines are reporting correct results. It is a matter of trusting these companies and not of proving to the average voter that the results can be trusted. We are just supposed to trust that the companies are telling us who won the elections! Remember what I said about being told by people in positions of authority what has been decided and who our leaders will be?

If these machines make mistakes or just break down, there is no way to figure out who really won the election. And if someone is able to rig the machines to change the vote counts, there is no way to know that, either. History tells us that this is a concern. People have gone to great lengths to rig even local elections. So with the huge stakes in today's election -- trillions of dollars and wars -- we certainly should understand that highly-skilled and well-funded attempts to dictate election results are likely to occur.

There are a number of ideas for making voting machines more reliable and harder to hack into and change results. One idea is that the public should be able to examine -- and experts allowed to repair and improve -- the source code for the programs used in the machines. This is called "open source" and the Open Voting Consortium has done a lot of great work in this area. (Send them some a few $$ to help their effort.) Open-source systems will help make the machines more reliable and easier to use and will reduce the chances that someone can try to rig an election. This is a great approach, but in the end it fails the "prove it" test. The average person doesn't understand the complicated programming involved. And there is no way to prove that the open-source code is the code that is actually running in every single voting machine on election day.

Other ideas involve elaborate security to test and guard the machines. This again fails the "prove it" test. Unless average people can see for themselves that the results are accurate, no security is sufficient.

I say that the system I describe above -- involving a paper ballot that the voter can check and put in a ballot box -- makes the reliability and security of any voting machines themselves less important because you can "prove it" by counting those paper ballots. You can test a sample of ballots against the reported counts, making it useless to try to hack the voting or counting machines themselves.

California's Secretary of State Debra Bowen understands these issues and is working hard to make sure that our state's elections are safe, fair and provable. Let's hope that the rest of the states can catch up to California.


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On a recent trip to Chicago, I had the interesting good fortune of getting into a cab driven by a long-standing Chicago cabbie, complete with real Chicago accent and all. It seems he had been driving a cab for over 30 years in the Windy City and been very involved in local politics at the same time.
He regaled about the current Mayor, Richard M. Daley,, likes him alot, but finds Chicago politics so corrupt --what with neighborhood bosses and precinct captains running the show, that he has just about had it.
He lamented that it was time for term limits, but that the electeds would never vote for them and thus put themselves out of a job; he bemoaned the top-heavy and hard-balled way contracts were doled out and predicted that Hizzoner would be going the way of the former Governor and find himself in prison garb before the end of his next term, if only because 20 years as mayor leads to lots of temptation and transgression.
All this led me to thank our great state of California and Hiram Johnson's contribution to direct democracy---the Initiative process. That is, until I returned to California to be reminded how current money has corrupted this attempt to ensure that the people control the politicians and not vice versa.


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From the Courage Campaign

This summer, the only thing hotter than the weather seems to be election reform. Last week, Secretary of State Debra Bowen made significant strides in securing California's elections from faulty touch-screen voting machines by kicking the machines out of California. Then, perhaps concerned that old GOP stalwart Diebold isn't helping to count votes anymore, California Republicans have floated another election reform idea: to end the winner-take-all system for distributing California's 55 Electoral College Votes. Ostensibly, the GOP wants to make the Electoral College more representative. In reality, the Republicans are trying to steal the 2008 Presidential Election. The way to stop them, as always, is to get out the vote.


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There has been much hoopla and concern over the past few years with the extreme secrecy surrounding the electronic voting equipment that has invaded our election process. With so little knowledge about the accuracy of the machinery, due to assertions of privacy by Diebold and the other companies manufacturing and selling these magical boxes, their accuracy and reliability have naturally come into question.
Not to be bullied into revealing the contents of the equipment, to insure objectivity and accuracy in counting ballots, they've refused to divulge or even allow the state to examine their product, so the state, under the focused direction of Secretary of State, Debra Bowen, has hired its own experts to determine whether the voting machines are reliable, or hackable. The results came out just days ago, creating a hub-bub of activity and denials. Like most of the right-wing's approach to anything they don't like, instead of attacking the facts, they attack the messenger.
This situation is no different.
The fact is, this equipment has real problems and legislators like Assemblymember Paul Krekorian have legislation pending that will address the concerns about voting machine reliability and what we can and must do to restore public confidence in the fundamental principle that every vote cast will be counted. Here's Assemblymember Krekorian's take on the situation:


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