Weekly Recap – Election News and Trends January 27, 2014

by Best Best & Krieger LLP
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Below is a recap of last week’s election law news and hot topics:

Press Release: Presidential Elector Initiative Enters Circulation by California Secretary of State Debra Bowen

January 22 – A new initiative has been approved for circulation which would divide California’s electoral vote for U.S. President based on each candidate’s share of the popular vote, rather than the current “winner takes all” method.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen today announced the proponent of a new initiative may begin collecting petition signatures for his measure. The Attorney General’s official title and summary for the measure is as follows:

ELECTORAL VOTES. PRESIDENTIAL AND VICE-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES. INITIATIVE STATUTE. Changes existing law which awards all of the State’s electoral votes to the presidential and vice-presidential winners of the popular vote within California, and instead divides and assigns electoral votes to the candidates according to their share of the popular vote. Requires each presidential elector to live in California. Requires Secretary of State to determine the percentage of the popular vote received by each candidate and certify to each candidate and political party the number of electoral votes won by each candidate. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: No direct fiscal effect on state or local governments. (13-0045.)

Ballot Initiatives Gone Wild by The Huffington Post

January 22 – An interesting analysis of California’s initiative process and some potential solutions for reigning in, or clarifying, new initiatives.

Here a ballot initiative, there a ballot initiative, everywhere in California a ballot initiative. How did we get here? About a hundred years ago the processes of direct democracy spread across the country. States gave their citizens the ability to directly enact laws (via the ballot initiative), to directly repeal laws (via the referendum) and to oust elected officials (via the recall). The purpose of direct democracy is to empower average citizens and decrease the power than moneyed interests may have over elected officials. Sounds quaint, doesn’t it?

Number of women dropping in California Legislature, stirring concern as election year begins by The Republic

January 26 – California has slipped from 6th in the nation in percentage of women serving in the state legislature (in 2004) to its current rank of 19th, with this rank expected to continue to decrease with each election cycle.

The California Legislature is generally regarded as a fairly progressive institution, with a sizable gay and lesbian caucus and lawmakers representing an array of racial and ethnic groups. But one group has been dropping steadily in representation for nearly a decade — women.

Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Struck Down as Judge Cites Burden on Citizens by The New York Times

January 17 – A Pennsylvania judge struck down the State’s voter ID law, ruling that the law restricted the ability of hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians to vote and specifically impacting elderly, disabled and low-income residents, with the state’s argument that the law is needed to combat voter fraud not being supported by the facts.

In a strongly worded decision, a state judge on Friday struck down Pennsylvania’s 2012 law requiring voters to produce a state-approved photo ID at the polls, setting up a potential Supreme Court confrontation that could have implications for other such laws across the country.

Political corruption case grows by U-T San Diego

January 22 – Several people, including a city lobbyist, an owner of a campaign-services firm, and a former San Diego police detective, have been arrested on suspicion of helping a foreign national fund election campaigns, which is prohibited by federal law.

View the video from U-T San Diego here.

State Sen. Wright says he believed he was following election law by Los Angeles Times

January 21 – State Senator Wright took the stand last week, claiming that a modest Inglewood property located in his district was his “domicile” and an upscale home outside his district, where neighbors testified he was regularly seen, was merely for conducting business unrelated to his duties as state senator.

State Sen. Roderick D. Wright told jurors Tuesday that he thought he was doing what the law required and did not intend to deceive voters when he switched his official address to run for office.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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