Last week, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 120, providing an additional $16 million in funding to the state’s 58 counties for verifying millions of voter signatures on “potentially dozens of initiative petitions” and for processing the crush of new voter registrations. Secretary of State Alex Padilla applauded the funding bill, calling this election cycle “unique.” He explained that, “County elections officials must not only prepare for a surge in voter turnout, they also have to verify a massive number of signatures for ballot measure initiative petitions.”
After more than a century in California’s political spotlight, the state’s initiative process will be getting a major revise next year. Even more surprising, both Democrats and Republicans in the famously partisan Legislature are happy to see it happen.
The low turnout of voters in the recent mid-term elections disappointed quite a few folks throughout the country. Those seeking to qualify initiatives for the 2016 ballot, however, have something to cheer about. With fewer votes being cast come lower thresholds for signature requirements in many initiative states, especially in initiative heavy-weight California, where the signature requirement has dropped to the lowest raw number in 25 years.
Got a ballot measure for 2016? You’re in luck.
Ballot initiatives two years from now will need about 30 percent fewer qualifying signatures than they did this year, according to the political-consulting types at Sacramento’s Redwood Pacific Public Affairs.
The reason: abysmal turnout for the Nov. 4 election. California requires valid signatures equal to 8 percent of the most recent gubernatorial vote to qualify a constitutional amendment for the ballot, 5 percent for regular laws and veto referenda.
In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California’s prisons, which were then at nearly two-hundred-per-cent capacity, were so overcrowded that detaining anyone in them was a form of cruel and unusual punishment and a violation of constitutional rights. The state legislature passed a law, which was signed by Governor Jerry Brown, requiring that sentences for certain low-level felonies be served in county jails rather than state prisons; today, the prisons house about a hundred and seventeen thousand inmates, down twenty per cent from this time four years ago.
Last weekend, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1253, the so-called “Ballot Measure Transparency Act,” into law.
Sponsored by Sen. Darrell Steinberg, the legislation requires the Secretary of State to post the top 10 donors to committees supporting or opposing ballot measures on the Internet, gives proponents 30 additional days to gather signatures (from the current 150 days to 180 days), provides a 30-day public comment period after which proponents can make changes to their initiative proposal without having to re-start the process, and also allows proponents to withdraw their initiative should they reach some compromise with the legislature.
A City Council committee Monday approved allowing more time to gather signatures for a recall election and widening the window during which a special election would be held.
The recommendations green-lighted by the Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations Committee and sent to the City Council for its consideration are part of a larger effort to streamline the recall process, stemming from last year’s effort to remove then-Mayor Bob Filner from office.
“This is something we’ve been cleaning up over the last year bit-by-bit,” Councilman Mark Kersey said. The Filner recall effort revealed “inconsistencies in the city’s own rules,” he said.
By word and deed, the state’s politically dominant Democrats have demonstrated that they want to substantially alter California’s century-old initiative system that allows voters to legislate directly through the ballot box.
They say they want to improve the system. A few years ago, the Democratic Party’s executive board declared that it’s “being abused … to create laws and programs that benefit a very few people at the expense of the many.”
But the Democrats’ many bills have mostly tried to make it more difficult for their conservative political rivals to place measures on the ballot, while preserving the system for their allies, such as labor unions.
It seems for now, California will have to stay as a singular state.
Venture capitalist Tim Draper’s multi-million dollar “Six Californias” initiative failed to gather enough valid signatures, according to the California Secretary of State. The initiative would have begun the process to create six separate states out of California, giving 38 million Californians new, smaller state governments and economies.
Draper contests the findings of the Secretary of State, however.
“Six Californias collected more than enough signatures to place the initiative on the November 2016 ballot and we are confident that a full check of the signatures would confirm that fact,” said Draper in a statement.
Ever since California’s Proposition 7 passed in 1911, state residents have had the ability to propose constitutional amendments and changes to state law through “ballot propositions.”
By paying a submission fee (currently $200) and collecting signatures from a set percentage of the number of people who last voted for governor — 5 percent for statutes, 8 percent for constitutional amendments — proponents can begin a process to get their proposition on the ballot for a direct public vote.
An Alameda Superior County Court judge issued two rulings regarding contested ballot language for November ballot measures Tuesday.
Two parties of plaintiffs challenged the ballot language for a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks and an initiative regarding development in Downtown Berkeley. In both cases, judge Evelio Grillo decided to amend portions of each ballot measure’s language.
In the case of the “soda tax,” Grillo replaced the phrases “high-calorie, sugary drinks” and “high-calorie, low-nutrition products” in the ballot language and city attorney’s analysis, respectively, with “sugar-sweetened beverages.”
The California Supreme Court on Monday halted state action on a non-binding ballot measure seeking voter opinion about a landmark U.S. Supreme Court campaign finance decision known as Citizens United, a move supporters and opponents agree will remove the measure from the November ballot.
The court ordered Secretary of State Debra Bowen to hold off placing the measure on the ballot pending court review. The measure, which asks Californians if Congress should overturn the landmark U.S. Supreme Court campaign finance decision, would have no binding legal effect, even if approved by the voters.
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A California law that requires the sponsors of ballot initiatives to identify themselves on the petitions they circulate to voters violates the constitutional law to speak anonymously, a divided federal appeals court ruled Monday.
“Forced disclosures of this kind are significant encroachments on First Amendment rights,” the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said in a 2-1 decision.
Few things have defined California’s politics more than the three election reforms championed by the state’s 23rd governor – the initiative, the referendum and the recall. Hiram Johnson’s system of direct democracy, used early and often in California since 1911, was designed to place power in the hands of “the people.”
That era’s “progressives” believed voters needed the power to circumvent legislators, who were beholden to railroad barons and other special interests. Johnson said the reforms “may prevent the misuse of the power temporarily centralized in the Legislature” and will help control “weak officials.”
Greta Van Susteren went to Mexico to speak to the mother of jailed U.S. Marine Andrew Tahmooressi, who has been held in prison since April 1 on firearms charges.
Tahmooressi says he took a wrong turn in San Diego, Calif., ending up at the border of Mexico. That’s when border guards searched his car and found three guns that were legally purchased in the United States.
His mother Jill Tahmooressi went “On The Record,” where she discussed seeing her son for the first time since April 14. He was recently relocated from La Mesa Penitentiary in Tijuana, where Jill said he feared for his life, to El Hongo II State Penitentiary.