A vibrant and responsive democracy

California’s size and the dynamics of a global economy demand that we rethink the relationship between people and their elected representatives. Our large, growing and diverse population requires new rules to encourage voter participation, and to increase the responsiveness of elected officials. Technology provides new tools and new challenges, and competitive pressures require governments to solve tougher challenges in less time.

The results of our dysfunctional system are dire: While the costs of many programs are increasing, the results are not. Failures in one part of the system – education, youth probation, and foster care – drive costs in others, such as prisons. Failures in the prison system further feed prison budgets. Growing costs and dismal results are signals to a competitive world that we can’t manage our affairs.

Since 2008, California Forward has supported proposals intended to empower voters and encourage candidates to represent everyone in their districts.

Redistricting: Political and legislative boundaries are currently being redrawn in California using information acquired from the 2010 census, an act that occurs every ten years in each state in the country. Recognizing the ill-effects of allowing legislators to draw their own districts as they have been allowed to in the past, California Forward advocated for the creation of an independent commission to create these boundaries and aided in the passage of a ballot measure that created the Citizen’s Redistricting Commission (CRC). We are closely following the activities of the commission and continues to work to educate voters on the importance of redistricting for a fair and functioning system. The CRC is currently in the process of drawing new districts for California's Senate, Assembly, State Board of Equalization, and Congressional districts.
Learn more about the process and get details on how you can get involved >

Primary process reform: In 2010, California Forward and the California Forward Action Fund endorsed the top-two “open-primary” (Prop. 14) on the June primary ballot and are now working to ensure its successful implementation. Prior to the election, California Forward published a nonpartisan analysis of the primary process in California, which informed deliberations on this issue with objective data analysis. Starting in 2012, this new law will allow voters to choose among all candidates in primary elections, with the top two vote-getters advancing to the general election.

Term limits: California Forward supports the term limit reform measure expected to be on the next ballot. That measure would reduce the total number of years lawmakers can serve from 14 to 12, but allow lawmakers to serve those dozen years in the Assembly or Senate, or a combination. The reform is expected to reduce the disruption caused by lawmakers jockeying for their next seat, while allowing leaders and committee chairs to stay in positions long enough to have a sustained impact. This is a priority for CA Fwd in 2011 and 2012.

Campaign finance. California Forward believes that full and immediate disclosure is the best near-term opportunity to minimize the negative impact of campaign financing on election results and policy decisions. While not a top priority for CA Fwd in 2011, we will consider supporting proposals by others, including those from the Fair Political Practices Commission task force.

Initiative process. Direct democracy is an important tool that needs to be refined so that it can be effectively used by public interest groups, and to minimize the unintended consequences of poorly vetted initiatives. While not a top priority for CA Fwd in 2011, we will partner with other organizations to develop and advance specific proposals.

Voter involvement. Representative democracy relies on a high turnout of informed voters. The mechanics of the electoral process need to be strengthened to encourage more Californians to register, get engaged and vote. While not a top priority for CA Fwd in 2011, we will partner with other organizations to develop and advance specific proposals.

Legislative structure reforms. Elected representatives need to be able to better represent their communities and regions, and the Legislature needs to be restructured to be able to better solve significant issues. California, for example, should consider alternatives including a unicameral legislature and regional legislative sessions. While not a top priority for CA Fwd in 2011, we will partner with other organizations to explore and advance specific proposals.