Civic Groups, Election Officials Develop Roadmap for Future of California Elections
Jan 25, 2012
As a Senior Program Officer for the California Democracy program, Catherine is e
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California has the largest, most diverse electorate of any state in the nation. Yet our voting population does not mirror that diversity, and California ranks near the bottom nationally in the percentage of eligible citizens actually registered to vote. As part of Irvine’s California Democracy program, we support efforts to expand election policies and practices that result in more Californians, across demographic groups, participating in elections.
Late last year, Irvine brought together a diverse group of organizations and individuals to develop a vision for the future of the state’s elections. This group included election officials, civic organizations, advocates and experts on elections policies and practices — all of whom care deeply about strengthening California’s democracy. Over three months, the group met to discuss the challenges and opportunities for reforms in various aspects of the voting and elections process, as well as the roles each group might play in advancing those reforms.
In December, the group released a Roadmap for the Future of California Elections laying out its vision for modernizing and improving the state’s election systems. The Roadmap included the following set of 10 guiding principles, which were unanimously endorsed by all group members:
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
- 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
In addition, participants developed and included in the Roadmap a variety of more specific “goals and recommendations” in four areas: voter registration and education, election administration, voting options and voting technology. The group noted that not every one of these recommendations necessarily reflects the endorsement of every participant, but clarified that “the entire document is enthusiastically supported by all of the participants.”
Read the entire Roadmap for the Future of California Elections.
The document was the result of a remarkably collaborative process designed to go beyond short-term battles over elections policy and reach agreement on a long-term, systemic plan to improve California’s election system. Participants in this elections group will continue to engage a variety of stakeholders in discussion and analysis of its goals and recommendations. And later this year, Irvine expects to make a series of grants to advance some of these recommendations. Stay tuned for future developments.