The California Civic Engagement Project (CCEP)
at the UC Davis Center for Regional Change
CCEP Newsletter
September 1, 2016
Engage! A Civic Engagement Newsletter

Welcome to our final newsletter of the summer.   It is an exciting time in California for those interested in electoral reforms.  Not one but three electoral reform bills were approved by the state legislature this week and sent to Governor Brown's desk.  We have been receiving many inquires on our vote center research as it relates to one of the bills Governor Brown will now be considering - SB 450.

In this edition of the CCEP newsletter, we share current developments on those three pieces of election reform legislation, take a look at how the concern over hacking could impact elections this cycle, invite you to free upcoming events in Sacramento, Lafayette and Berkeley that will feature CCEP research and analysis, and more. 

Thank you for reading, and please note you are invited to share your civic engagement success stories with us via the email link at the bottom of this newsletter.  We would love to hear what is happening in your community related to inclusive civic engagement!
Mindy Romero, Ph.D.
CCEP Director

                                                                                      The CCEP is now on Twitter.  Follow us!   Follow us on Twitter
California Civic Engagement News
California Legislature Sends Election Reform Bill to Governor Brown

The "Vote Center" elections model is one step closer to being adopted in California.  This week the State Senate gave final legislative approval to SB 450, and the bill now heads to Governor Brown for his consideration. 

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla has been a strong proponent of the legislation.   "We are one step away from modernizing California elections. With his signature, Governor Brown can provide California voters more options for when, where, and how they vote. If we are truly committed to increasing voter turnout and participation we must make voting more convenient for California voters. SB 450 does that," added Padilla.

The California Civic Engagement Project is conducting an on-going research study on the experiences of California voters, including their perceptions of possible new voter centers in the state and their replacement of traditional neighborhood polling places. Our published findings  thus far show that some voter groups have concerns about how the Vote Center model would impact their access to voting . Director Mindy Romero has shared these findings with state officials, and t he CCEP is recommending that  state funded, targeted and sustained education and outreach efforts should be conducted to ensure representative voter turnout if the new Vote Center Model is adopted in California.  CCEP research suggests that extensive outreach and education to the state's electorally underrepresented groups will be critical to ensure those groups aren't negatively impacted by the reforms. In addition, the CCEP recommends that election reforms should be uniformly implemented across the state to avoid confusion, especially among voters in the Bay Area where counties are in close proximity.

If approved by the Governor, some California counties would be eligible to adopt the Vote Center elections model in 2018, and the remaining counties could do so beginning in 2020. 

California County Registrars Face Unprecedented Challenge to Voter Confidence

Hacking has been a recurring theme in this season's election news, with the hack of the Democratic National Committee servers (reportedly by Russian intelligence agencies), assertions by Donald Trump that the presidential election could be rigged, and recent stories in Politico, Wired Magazine, and on National Public Radio about the security vulnerabilities of electronic voting machines.

This Monday it was reported that foreign hackers accessed voter databases in Illinois and Arizona this summer, downloading private information on as many as 200,000 voters in Illinois.  The FBI attributed the Arizona intrusion to Russian hackers, and suggested the two cyber-attacks could be linked.  The Arizona voter registration system was shut down for nearly a week in response to the attack. 

Accessing voter data and manipulating the outcome of elections are two entirely different things, and expert analysis suggests that there is almost no chance our elections could be hacked. The highly regarded Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School released a fact sheet this week explaining and analyzing risks to America's voting system security.  "Between the FBI report and Russia's reported hack of the DNC emails last month, it's clear we must take seriously the possibility that foreign groups and other bad actors may want to intrude on American elections," said Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Brennan Center's Democracy Program . "But there is good news. Officials have made important advances over the last few years to secure voting technology, which makes it highly unlikely a cyberattack could have a widespread impact on the results of a national election. Between now and November, there are several steps officials can take to ensure America's elections are properly protected."

Maintaining voter confidence in the validity and security of our elections is essential to improving voter turnout.  While the actual risk of hackers manipulating election results may be slight, the public perception of a real threat could unfortunately dampen some voter enthusiasm and turnout in the upcoming election.  Compounding this concern over voter confidence in our electoral system are recent assertions by Trump that there is a need for his supporters to monitor polling places this November for voter fraud, despite comprehensive research showing that voter fraud is exceedingly rare in our country, with only 31 potential cases found out of over 1 Billion votes cast over a 15-year period.

As our 58 county registrars face inadequate state funding to replace aging equipment, according to a recent survey, it could be a challenge for them to counter public narratives related to hacking elections and voter fraud.  It will be interesting to see how they respond to this challenge and whether alternative funding sources for statewide elections will gain traction.  

California Legislature Shows Bipartisan Support for Citizen Funded Campaign Financing

This week the California Legislature passed Senate Bill 1107, which would enable the state and local governments to address special interest money in politics with citizen funded election systems. The bill now moves to Governor Jerry Brown, who has to decide whether to sign this and two other pieces of election reform legislation into law this month.

Under current California law, state and most local governments are prohibited from establishing citizen-funded campaign financing systems. The only exception is for charter cities, like Los Angeles and San Francisco, which have adopted small donor matching funds programs. SB 1107 amends the ban on public financing to enable the state and local governments to create systems that are available to all qualified, voluntarily participating candidates for the same office without regard to incumbency or political party preference.
The bill passed the legislature with bipartisan support. "It is true that the vote surprised most Sacramento insiders," stated Kathay Feng, Executive Director of California Common Cause, "but it did not surprise the thousands of constituents who have been contacting their representatives to do something to address the problem of big money in politics.  Today's vote is an example of Democrats and Republicans working together to create a democracy that is more accountable to voters and not just wealthy special interest donors."

Featured Events

The 2016 Election and its Potential Impact on American Politics
Thurs. September 8, UC Berkeley

This presidential election has been unique in many ways. But in what ways is history repeating itself in 2016, and in what ways are these candidates changing the political landscape? The Robert T. Matsui Center for Politics and Public Service at UC Berkeley is hosting a panel of experts including CCEP Director Mindy Romero to discuss this election and its potential impact on American politics.  

This free event will take place at UC Berkeley's Intergovernmental Studies Library on Thursday, September 8th at 4 pm. Register today to save yourself a seat!  

27th Annual Envisioning California Conference,
Our Voices: Advancing Civic Engagement in California
Fri. October 7, Sacramento

The Center for California Studies at Sacramento State is hosting a free one day conference exploring civic engagement in California on Friday, October 7th at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria in Sacramento.  Panelists include Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye,  Assembly Member Susan Eggman, and CCEP Director Mindy Romero.  Panel topics include California's experience with ballot initiatives and referenda, voting reforms in our state, civic education, the youth vote, and more. There will also be an afternoon reception with samples served by California winemakers and brewers. 

To attend this free one day conference, you must register by September 26th.  To learn more, contact the Center for California Studies at 916-278-6906 or 

Town Hall Meeting on Race and Voting Rights
September 20, Lafayette

There is a national push for new vehicles to protect against race-based manipulation of the electorate. In fact, voting equity has become one of the hottest topics in the fight for racial justice. On Tuesday, September 20th from 7-9 pm at Temple Isaiah in Lafayette, hear from subject matter experts on this critical issue and engage in our consensus-building process.

Presenters include Abdi Soltani, Executive Director, ACLU of Northern California, and CCEP Director Mindy Romero. The evening will also include a Jewish learning by Rabbi Judy Shanks, and refreshments will be served.

This free event is part of a year-long campaign by the Jewish  Community Relations Council titled "Racial Justice: Learning for Change."  RSVP now to save your seats!

California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce Convention
September 21-23, Riverside

The 2016 California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce  Annual Convention will be September 21-23, 2016 at the Riverside Convention Center in Riverside. This year's convention theme, Innovation Starts Here, will focus on new innovations sparking the creativity of entrepreneurs throughout California, technologies that are transforming industry and Hispanic millennials who are forging their own paths in business. 

CCEP Director Mindy Romero will be a panelist for a session on Friday at 3:30 about Latino voter outreach. GOP consultant Mike Madrid will also join the panel. Click here to see pricing and register for this event. 

Student Senate for California Commmunity Colleges 
Board Meeting
September 3-4, Sacramento

The Student Senate Board of the California Community Colleges will hold their next regular meeting on September 3rd and 4th in Sacramento.  The board's mission is to improve student access, promote student success, engage and empower local student leaders, and enrich the collegiate experience for all California community college students. CCEP Director Mindy Romero will address the board on Sunday from 11 AM until noon on the topic of voter registration on campuses. For more information, contact Erin Bass at 

Civic Engagement Success Stories
California Legislature Passes Bill to Boost Student Voter Registration

The California State Assembly approved the Student Voting Act last week, sending the bill to Governor Brown for approval. AB 2455 aims to increase voter registration and civic engagement among young Californians  by creating an online link between class enrollment and voter registration for the almost three million students in California's public college and university systems.  

The bill was the winner of Assemblymember Chiu's first "There Ought to Be a Law" program and was proposed by two UC Berkeley Law Students, one of whom lives in San Francisco's Mission District.

CCEP research showing that 18-24 year-old voters made up only 3.9% of California's electorate in the 2014 general election was cited by proponents of the bill and in a recent article in LGBT Weekly on the bill's passage.  Governor Brown has until September 30 to act on the pending legislation.
National Civic Engagement News

Supreme Court Rejects North Carolina Appeal to Enforce Voter ID Rules

Voting rights advocates are celebrating another victory this week. The short-staffed US Supreme Court deadlocked along party lines Wednesday on a decision to reinstate new voter ID laws in North Carolina that had been struck down in July as racially biased. This means that North Carolina Voters will not be required to show a government photo I.D. in order to cast a vote in November.

Currently, new voters in North Carolina are required to present some form of identification, such as a driver's license, Social Security or photo ID card, when they register. To cast a ballot at a polling place, they must provide a name, address and sign a form attesting to their identity. The signature is compared to the one on the registry.

The new law would have required further proof of their identity at the time of voting, a step that an appeals court ruled in July could prevent thousands of registered voters who do not drive a car from casting a ballot.

Allison Riggs, an attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said the court's decision is "in the best interest of North Carolina voters, allowing elections this fall to proceed absent the cloud and concern of racially discriminatory voting laws. Hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians will now be able to vote without barriers."

CCEP Outreach: In the Media
CCEP weighs in on Potential Role of Latino Voters on California's Marijuana Legalization Ballot Initiative

An article in this past Sunday's Los Angeles Times explored the role of Latino voters in deciding the fate of a state ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in California.  The article features expert analysis by CCEP Director Mindy Romero. 

An article that appeared the prior week in the Times on pending "Vote Center" state legislation cites CCEP research suggesting young and Latino voters are less likely to cast a ballot by mail than other voters. 

CCEP Perspective on New Election Districts in Woodland Featured in Sacramento Bee

The small town of Woodland, located a short drive north of Davis, is making a transition to district based elections.   A story in last Saturday's edition of the Sacramento Bee features comments from Director Romero on how this change could impact city council races and representative governance.

NPR's Here & Now Features CCEP Research on Proposed Vote Center Elections Model for California

National Public Radio's Here & Now show on August 25th featured a segment on the SB 450 Vote Center elections reform legislation. In an interview with Los Angeles County Registrar Dean Logan, the host cited CCEP research showing that young and Latino voters are less likely to vote by mail and asked if that created an obstacle to implementing this reform.   Listen to the segment here

Central Valley Newspaper Highlights CCEP Research on Civic Engagement Among California's low Income Communities and Communities of Color

The Spanish-language newspaper Vida en el Valle published a story highlighting a legislative luncheon on civic engagement in low income communities and communities of color hosted by  California Equity Leaders Network on August 11. Mindy Romero presented CCEP research related to engagement among youth and people of color in California and an analysis of what obstacles must be overcome to boost civic participation among these underrepresented groups. 

Trump's Impact on Latino Voter Turnout 

A story published last week in the Charlotte Observer explores how Donald Trump's presidential campaign could impact Latino voter turnout in California.  The article features a statement by Director Romero that voter mobilization in response to Trump has the potential to raise Latino turnout above the level we saw in 2012, when Latino people made up 19.3% of California's electorate.  "A lot of Latinos feel when they hear Trump's comments, they are not just offensive but threatening," she said. "It's a powerful thing to mobilize around."

Share Your Civic Engagement Story with the CCEP

UC Davis California Civic Engagement Project

CCEP Advisory Committee

Kim Alexander
President and Founder  
California Voter Foundation 

Matt A. Barreto
Professor, Dept. of Political Science
Professor, Dept. of Chicana/o Studies
University of California, Los Angeles

Jonathan Fox
School of International Service
American University  
Luis R. Fraga 
Arthur Foundation Endowed Professor of Transformative Latino Leadership
Professor of Political Science University of Notre Dame
Lisa Garcia Bedolla
Chancellor's Professor of Education and Political Science
University of California, Berkeley
Bruce Haynes
Associate Professor, Dept. of Sociology University of California, Davis
Jongho Lee
Dept. of Political Science
Western Illinois University  

Peter Levine 
Associate Dean for Research and Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship & Public Affairs,  Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, Tufts University
Matt Mahan
Cofounder and CEO

James Muldavin
Executive Director
California Center for Civic Participation and Youth Development
Karthick Ramakrishnan
Professor of Public Policy
University of California, Riverside
Ricardo Ramirez
Associate Professor, Dept. of Political Science
University of Notre Dame

J ason Reece
Director of Research
Kirwan Institute

Cruz Reynoso
Professor of Law Emeritus
University of California, Davis
Dan Schnur
Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics
University of Southern California

California Civic Engagement Project
UC Davis Center for Regional Change
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