02/02/2016 by Ed Coghlan

Conference to spotlight efforts to modernize California’s elections and boost turnout


California Secretary of State Alex Padilla at the Future of California Elections 2015 Conference. (Photo Credit: John Guenther/CA Fwd)

California’s troubling trend of declining voter participation is not an easy fix. There are many reasons given for why people aren’t voting: Everything from distrust of public officials to antiquated approaches to how and where we vote.

What can California learn from other states?

The Future of California Elections 2016 Conference in Los Angeles later this month will feature top election officials from Oregon and Colorado along with California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to discuss that very issue.

These three states are at the forefront of innovation in voter registration and election administration. Yet California has some catching up to do, with only 30 percent of eligible Californians voting in 2014, while the other two states saw numbers over 50 percent.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Oregon’s Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins will join Padilla in discussing how to modernize elections. In this panel, policymakers from these three states will discuss their challenges and lessons learned with developing and implementing new reforms around registering to vote and ballot options.

“The work of modernizing our elections is a collaboration between administrators, elected leaders, and community stakeholders,” said Vince Hall, Executive Director of the Future of California Elections. “Many of these leaders will be coming together at our annual conference to share best practices and new ideas, all striving to create a broader, more inclusive election turnout this year and beyond.”

The Future of California Elections (FoCE), which has been working on this important issue since 2011, is a collaboration between election officials, civil rights organizations and election reform advocates to examine and address the unique challenges facing the State of California’s election system.

“For democracies to work, elected leaders need to be responsive and representative, and voters must be able to hold elected officials accountable for results,” said Jim Mayer, president and CEO of California Forward (CA Fwd), which has been member of FoCE since its inception. “Democratic integrity requires an electoral process that empowers voters and gives candidates and incumbents the incentives to listen and lead.”

The theme of the 2016 FoCE Conference is “Building Partnerships for a Stronger Democracy” and will be held at the California Endowment in Los Angeles on February 25-26.

The Conference will focus on a number of issues including the ongoing tension between state and local governments over who funds elections.

Funding for elections is essential to strengthening California’s democracy, yet election administrators face rising costs, including replacing aging voting systems. This panel explores the true cost of elections and strategies for providing adequate and sustainable funding for election administration.

CA Fwd has finished a series of regional meetings with county election officials as part of its Election Funding Project which is supported by the James Irvine Foundation and will explore ways to make sure that counties have adequate and reliable funding to properly carry out one of the truly essential functions of democracy. The regional discussions were an important step in developing pragmatic solutions for state and local officials to consider.

“The discussions with the election officials were very productive,” said CA Fwd Research Analyst Caitlin Maple. “We have been diligent in ensuring the many views across California’s diverse regions are represented in the findings of the Election Funding Project.”

CA Fwd will present the preliminary findings of the Election Funding Project at the FoCE Conference in Los Angeles.

Categories: Democracy, Civic Engagement, Elections, Future of California Elections, Elections Funding Project, Elections

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