For nearly two years, a collection of election officials, civil rights advocates and reform groups have come together as part of an initiative known as the Future of California Elections (FOCE) to work on making the state’s voting process more effective and expand voter participation across all of California’s communities. The collaboration has helped lead to numerous legal and procedural reforms, including greater opportunities for voter registration and improvements to the state voter guide.
Last month, FOCE members shared their experiences with members of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, a bipartisan body appointed by President Barack Obama to study election practices across the nation and make recommendations on how election administration could improve. The day-long “listening session” in San Francisco was an opportunity for FOCE members to describe their work in California and to help the Commissioners put that work into a national context.
In particular, the discussion focused on several key topics:
- Emergency preparedness and contingency planning for elections
- Access to the voting process by voters with limited English proficiency and voters with disabilities
- Online registration and expansion of agency-based registration through the National Voter Registration Act
- Improvements in the usability and accuracy of voting by mail
- Streamlining provisional balloting to assist voters and election offices alike
Following the meeting, FOCE summarized the wide range of materials presented at the listening session in a report to the Commission that included excerpts and recommendations in each of these five areas.
The report and recommendations are available here.
FOCE members and visiting Commissioners agreed to continue the conversation as the Commission wraps up its fact-finding phase and drafts its report, due by the end of 2013. As part of that process, FOCE hopes that the Commission will incorporate not just the substance of recommendations in the report but also recognize the power of collaboration exemplified by FOCE.
As the FOCE report to the Commission concludes,
We believe [the Future of California Elections’] collective work to link advocates and election officials in an effort to find common ground on a variety of issues – both to expand participation and ensure a well-functioning voting process – is a promising model for progress on election administration reforms across the nation.
Originally published by the James Irvine Foundation . Doug Chapin directs the Future of California Elections project.