Commentary

03/27/2015  by John Guenther

VIDEO: California chief justice and state elections chief on increasing voter turnout

Two headlining speakers from the 2015 Future of California Elections (FOCE) annual conference made some headlines of their own this week. In the video above, you can watch the remarks of California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and Secretary of State Alex Padilla from when they opened up the FOCE gathering in February.

On Monday Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye called for increased courts funding when she delivered her State of the Judiciary speech in front of the Legislature. That included initiatives to boost civic education and literacy in the state, which are meant to increase knowledge of the state's government workings and boost residents' trust and engagement with government.

In the speech, the Chief Justice spoke about the civil rights struggle of 50 years ago and the passion and civic engagement that drove people to act. "Now that galvanization to act has been replaced by apathy," said Cantil-Sakauye. "Frankly, voters disenfranchise themselves voluntarily."

In her remarks at the FOCE conference civics (at 5:00 in the video above), Cantil-Sakauye touted civic literacy efforts by the courts to bring knowledge of the state Constitution, court system and laws into California schools.

The state elections chief Alex Padilla made news when his office on Tuesday released a statement that supported using in California the new Oregon model of registering eligible residents automatically for voting when they interface with their DMV. On Thursday, Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) and Padilla introduced a bill that would provide a similar registration mechanism in California.

"A new, enhanced Motor Voter law would strengthen our democracy. It would be a game changer,” said Padilla in the statement. “While Oregon could expand its voter rolls by as much as 300,000 voters through their new enhanced Motor Voter process, California could expand it rolls by millions.”

Padilla's comments at the FOCE conference (beginning at 20:18 in the video above) highlighted the challenges of increasing California's low turnout and previewed some of the priorities his office has set and ideas for getting people registered and to the polls.

"And that voter turnout. That's really the elephant in the room, isn't it?" said Padilla, speaking at the FOCE conference. "November 2014. June 2014. We can and must do better. And there is no magic wand to get more and more Californians to vote."

The Future of California Elections (FOCE) 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. This year's conference focused on a range of elections issues like increasing turnout--including the youth vote--enhancing ways to get out voter information, upgrading voting technology and finding ways for counties to pay for these initiatives.

Categories: Democracy, Civic Engagement, Elections, Elections

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