Author Archives: Jon Brooks

‘The Dog Ate My Ballot,’ and Other Reasons Some Don’t Head to the Polls

If you want to sport this sticker, you'll have to decipher the state ballot and then vote. (EVA HAMBACH/AFP/Getty Images)

Photo by Eva Hambach/AFP/Getty Images

The California Report host Rachael Myrow speaks with Jenny Wagner, President of the League of Women Voters for California, a non-partisan, non-profit group that works to encourage civic participation. Ms. Wagner discusses research the League has done on voter participation or lack-thereof.

Edited transcript…

Rachael Myrow: So, what about people who don’t vote, or don’t even register to vote? Studies consistently show that public radio listeners are more likely as a group to vote, so I know my question is rhetorical. You found many excuses serve as a kind of cover for substantive concerns about the process, or their participation in it. Let’s run down some of the concerns, and you can translate for us as we go.

Rachael Myrow: If someone says, “I don’t like the choices,” how do you interpret that?

Jenny Wagner: Well, when people say they don’t like their choices, they often don’t understand what their choices are. They need more information about their options.

Rachael Myrow: How about when someone says, “My vote won’t count”?

Jenny Wagner: That’s a common one. It’s really that they feel that their opinion doesn’t matter, that they aren’t empowered.

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Quick Read: How the Next President Might Change the Health Law

On the presidential campaign trail, Republican Mitt Romney has repeatedly called for repeal of the 2010 health law and President Barack Obama has vowed to implement it. Yet both men could face obstacles: Romney may be stymied by the lack of a majority in Congress to do his will and Obama could be forced by fiscal concerns or public opinion to revamp parts of the law.

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Is It Too Late to Send Your Mail-In Ballot? And If Not, What’s the Postage?

By Polly Stryker

We received a note the other day asking us to make sure that voters know to put the correct postage on their absentee ballots. That’s when someone in the office who lives in San Francisco chirped, “What’s she talking about? There’s no postage required.” A brief few moments of uproar ensued as we thought we were onto some strange untold story about insidious and widespread post office bias on an actual individual level.

But duh — the answer is, of course (and it’s “of course” only once you know) that San Francisco doesn’t require postage on its ballots and the other counties do. The California Secretary of State’s office told us it’s up to each county to require postage or not.

So if you live in San Francisco — just drop it in the mail then buy yourself a low-cost croissant with the savings. But if you live in Alameda County — well, someone here said when she mailed her ballot there, she was worried she hadn’t put enough postage on the oversized envelope.

Dave Macdonald, the Alameda County Registrar of Voters, says that the county has required postage on absentee ballots for a long time, and he was surprised that San Francisco County doesn’t require stamps. Macdonald told us it’s a pretty big expense, since about 409,000 people in his bailiwick have requested vote-by-mail ballots this election.

In most of Alameda County, voters have two or three ballots to fill out, Macdonald says. The cost to mail them is 85 cents. (But in Berkeley, beware — there are four ballots and the postage is $1.50.)

So the big question we had was: will ballots reach the Registrar of Voters if people make a mistake and don’t put the correct postage on? Continue reading

BART Board Election: Construction Companies Going After Director Lynette Sweet

by Zusha Elinson, The Bay Citizen

Construction companies are pumping tens of thousands of dollars into the race for the Bay Area Rapid Transit board in an effort to unseat incumbent Director Lynette Sweet.

Photo by Thor Swift for The Bay Citizen

The construction firms accuse Sweet of meddling in bids for BART construction work and are backing 25-year-old Zakhary Mallett, who until recently was a UC Berkeley graduate student. Sweet’s backers counter that she is being punished for standing up to BART contractors who shortchange and discriminate against minority subcontractors.

The heated contest underscores a fact that often goes unnoticed by the 400,000 daily BART riders: One of the transit agency’s main functions is handing out billions of dollars in contracts for construction, track repair and new BART cars. This year alone, the transit agency has awarded $2 billion in contracts. The board’s elections and policies often are shaped by contractors who have a financial interest in the outcome. Continue reading

Now a Target, Lungren Wants Campaign Finance Reform

Photo from Office of Dan Lungren

The New York Times this week ran an article about some GOP incumbents who are not so big right now on the whole Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which has resulted in unprecedented amounts of money flowing into electoral campaigns. One of those disgruntled incumbents is the Sacramento-area’s Dan Lungren, locked in one of the most tightly contested races in the country against Democrat Ami Bera.

From the Times:

An expansive onslaught of negative political advertisements in congressional races has left many incumbents, including some Republicans long opposed to restrictions on campaign spending, concluding that legislative measures may be in order to curtail the power of the outside groups behind most of the attacks…

Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over campaign-finance issues, has been a target of negative advertisements. He has drafted legislation that he said would force more responsibility for the tone and messages of the campaign onto the candidates and political parties and away from the third-party groups. The staff of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is also working on proposals…

Lungren said the attacks on him began just months after the 2010 election, with radio advertisements and automated phone calls. They have accelerated into an onslaught of television commercials in what has become the most expensive House race in the country. Lungren’s opponent is Ami Bera, a doctor and Democrat.

“What I’m trying to do is transform the system so people participating as candidates can be held responsible for what is said,” Lungren said of the legislation he is drafting.

He said the 2012 experience could be transformative for other Republicans who have spent the past six months enduring the grim piano music and disconsolate faces of “voters” in negative ad after ad, sometimes against them, sometimes on their behalf but always without their signoff.

“We had to see how this worked out for a cycle,” he said. Full article

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Quick Read: Ten of the Most Effective Presidential Campaign Commercials Ever Made

Here’s a very popular post from our news-decoder blog, The Lowdown

There once was a time not so very long ago when people actually functioned without television (gasp). And then, just like that, it arrived … and spread like wildfire.

In 1948 less than one percent of American homes had TVs. By 1954 – a mere six years later – more than half of all American’s had a boob-tube in the house. By 1958, that rate had soared to over 80 percent, and today hovers at about 97 percent.

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