Marin County receives commendation from Secretary of State Bowen for voter turnout

150 150 John Guenther

Secretary of State Debra Bowen meets with the Marin County Registrars office to honor their voting achievement.. (Photo Credit: Colleen Ksanda)

The second time’s the charm for Marin County Registrar Elaine Ginnold’s official recognition. Lt Gov Gavin Newsom was unable to attend the last scheduled presentation to honor her office for the top registered voter turnout (over 87%) in last November’s election, but today Secretary of State Debra Bowen presented the official state commendation to the Board of Supervisors. Bowen then visited with Ginnold and her staff to acknowledge their hard work.

Secretary Bowen recognized the diligent effort required by the Registrar, her staff and volunteers to administer such a successful turnout percentage. She noted that they along with the 57 other county offices are responsible for administering the 24,097 polling places required by law in California.

65% of the voters in Marin did so last year as “Vote By Mail” (VBM) voters (overall 70% of Marin’s registered voters have selected to VBM).  The two hard working women who process every VBM ballot cast in the county — Caroline Foster and Diane Belben — also are responsible for the approximately 2,000 ballots cast by international voters, including the military, students living abroad and temporary/permanent residents who live abroad. Belben communicates with some of these international voters via email to ensure that they receive voting information and cast a ballot.

The California Forward Action Fund, the 501(c)(4) sister organization of California Forward, supports a bill currently moving through the State Assembly that would improve California’s growing VBM system.  SB 29 (Correa, Fong and Lowenthal) would allow VBM ballots postmarked on election day and received up to three days later to be counted. Registrar staff said this would allow for approximately 200-300 ballots cast by voters in Marin that are typically received in this timeframe to be counted each election. As of today, ballots received even one day late cannot be counted.

Registrar Ginnold is proud of her Candidate Guides as well as the instruction pages such as “Commonly Asked Questions” on the Voter guide which are translated into plain, understandable language in both English and Spanish. The accessibility of voting and elections information is essential, she said.

League of Women Voters (LWV) of Marin County Boardmember Veda Florez noted the importance of that accessibility in engaging Marin’s Latino population, which is currently underrepresented in terms of both registered voters and turnout on election day.

LWV Marin County worked with organizations to register voters in San Rafael’s predominately Latino Canal District. These groups included the Canal Alliance, a comprehensive San Rafael community resource center catering to Marin’s low-income immigrant populations and 10,000 Degrees, who provides a pipeline of programs and resources to help low income students access, enroll and successfully complete college.

Those LWV Marin County registration efforts continued this year and in May 2013, San Rafael voters showed strong support for local public schools by renewing 24-year-old parcel taxes that will help fund San Rafael elementary and high school districts.

California Forward has been working with like minded groups on the Future of California Elections (FOCE) designed to improve voter participation in California, which ranks a dismal 45th among the 50 states. We applaud the Marin County Registrar and her staff as well as the community organizations working to combat distrust in government and get more Californians engaged and participating in our democracy.


John Guenther

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