Improving state and local governance, with a focus on budget and fiscal systems and election policies and practices.
Irvine is pursuing a set of complementary reforms that together can produce more responsive, effective governance in California. We are focusing our funding on three areas because of their potential for improving governing systems, particularly for disadvantaged Californians, and because we see these areas as particularly ripe for progress over the next few years. These three areas are: election policies and practices, the ballot initiative process, and budget and fiscal systems.
In addition, we welcome ideas for projects in other areas that can significantly improve state and local governance. We give priority to projects that:
- Address an issue of significance in shaping the quality of state or local governance
- Identify a timely opportunity for progress in this area
- Present a viable strategy for achieving progress over the next few years
Current Priority Areas
- Election Policies and Practices — California’s election policies have not kept pace with the growth of the state’s diverse populations and with best practices for encouraging broad public participation in our democracy. In 2011, we convened a coalition of diverse leaders and experts to modernize California’s election system and expand voter participation, called the Future of California Elections (FoCE) project. This group included election officials, civic organizations, advocates and experts on elections policies and practices. The group produced A Roadmap for the Future of California Elections, which includes a set of goals and recommendations regarding voter participation and education, election administration and voting technology. Working together in 2012, FoCE members successfully advanced same-day voter registration, strengthened the National Voter Registration Act, helped implement online voter registration and improved the state voter guide.
Now an independent project with support from Irvine, The Future of California Elections coalition held a statewide conference in 2013 to convene state legislators, legislative staff, senior administration officials, county registrars of voters, civic groups and others to reflect on the group’s 2012 accomplishments and begin to develop its 2013 priorities. The coalition has identified its 2013 priorities as follows:
In 2013 and beyond, we anticipate making a series of grants to support work to accomplish these goals, both by participating organizations and, potentially, others.
- Expand the availability of the online voter registration system, including building extensive connections with public agencies and colleges
- Achieve timely implementation of the statewide voter registration database and ensure it accommodates a variety of election reforms
- Expand voting opportunities beyond precinct voting and vote-by-mail to include other approaches, such as in-person early voting, Election Day voter centers and “ballot on demand” technology
- Improve the content and usability of both print and online state voter information
- Expand access to election materials and services in languages other than English
- Ballot Initiative Reform — The ballot initiative process is a critical factor in California’s governance system. While various researchers and civic groups have analyzed ways that the process could be improved, there has not been a concerted effort involving a wide range of key stakeholders to address public concerns with this process. We have made a grant to California Common Cause to improve the ballot initiative process by exploring with diverse stakeholders viable policy options for ballot initiative reform.
In 2013 and beyond, we anticipate making additional grants to support other organizations’ complementary efforts on this issue.
- Budget and Fiscal Systems — While California is finally experiencing a year without a significant budget deficit, our state and local fiscal systems remain strained and unstable. We support efforts to achieve more outcomes-oriented, responsive and stable budget and fiscal systems..
- We support California Calls, an alliance of 31 member organizations in 11 strategically selected counties focused on achieving state budget and fiscal reforms. Building on its successful public education and mobilization efforts on state fiscal issues in 2012, California Calls is now exploring additional tax policy reform options with diverse constituencies.
- In 2007, we helped establish California Forward, a bipartisan organization bringing Californians together to develop and support reforms to the state’s fiscal and governing systems.
Past Priority Areas
- Redistricting Process — In 2008, California voters approved an overhaul of the state’s redistricting process, which determines the boundaries of legislative districts. The new law put responsibility for redistricting into the hands of an independent, citizen-led commission, which in 2011 re-drew the boundaries of California’s 40 Senate and 80 Assembly districts as part of an open, public process. These districts will be in place until 2020.
Learn more about California’s redistricting process.
Believing that the success of this new system depended on broad and well-informed public participation, the Irvine Foundation supported a set of organizations to provide information to the public through materials and trainings and to create technical assistance sites with data and mapping tools so that members of the public could provide useful input into the commission’s deliberations.
We partnered with the League of Women Voters of California to commission “When the People Draw the Lines,” a June 2013 independent report that examines whether the Citizens Redistricting Commission effectively engaged California communities in the process of redrawing electoral districts. The report found that the commission was largely successful in making the redistricting process more democratic, transparent and nonpartisan. It also identified issues to address before the next redistricting process takes place. View the full report.
View the list of the related public education, technical assistance and research grants.
While full proposals are accepted by invitation only, we want to be clear about how we decide on which projects to fund. We support projects that:
- Conduct research and disseminate information and analyses on these issues
- Work with a wide array of diverse stakeholders to develop and shape policy ideas in these areas
- Build public support around policy solutions through activities such as hosting public discussions, engaging in dialogues with public officials and developing consensus among various constituencies
- Monitor and assess the implementation of new policies
- Provide in-depth, impartial and solution-oriented media coverage of these issues to a large audience of Californians
While we accept unsolicited inquiries from grantseekers, we are able to fund very few of them. Learn more about submitting a letter of inquiry. Full proposals are accepted by invitation only.