California Voter Foundation
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Organization Details

Programs

Description
Since 2014, CVF has been working on reforms to improve California's vote-by-mail process. While voting by mail is a popular option, it is not without its problems. In the November 2018 election, nearly 85,000 Californians' ballots were rejected, primarily due to late arrival and problems with voters' signatures - that they are missing from the ballot envelope or found to not match closely enough to the voter's signature on file. CVF is conducting a study of rejected ballots in three counties - Sacramento, Santa Clara, and San Mateo - to learn more about why some ballots are rejected and recommend improvements to reduce ballot rejection and increase voter turnout.

In 2020, CVF is engaging in voter education and outreach activities to urge voters to submit their ballots early, return them in person, remember to sign their ballot envelope, and review their driver's license or state ID signature before signing their ballot envelope to make sure their signature is consistent.
Budget
$25,000
Program Successes
- In 2019, CVF supported SB 523 which was enacted into law and requires all California counties to conduct outreach to voters who forget to sign their mail ballot envelope and provide them an opportunity to submit a signature so their ballot can be counted instead of rejected.
- In 2018, CVF supported two bills that were enacted to reform and improve California's vote-by-mail system. SB 759 requires all California counties to notify voters with mismatched signatures and provide them a chance to submit a valid vote-by-mail signature. AB 216 requires all counties to provide voters with postage-paid vote-by-mail return envelopes.
- CVF worked on drafting and enacting legislation to reduce the number of rejected ballots by giving election officials and voters the ability to submit a vote-by-mail signature separately from the ballot envelope in cases where voters forgot to sign the envelope.
- These reforms helped rescue thousands of ballots in 2016 and 2018 in Sacramento County alone, keeping those voters from being disenfranchised.
- Overall the rejected ballot rate in the state has dropped from a high of 3% of all vote-by-mail ballots cast in June 2014 to a low of 0.5% in November 2016. In November 2018, however, the rejection rate increased to 1 percent in part due to the enactment of a new state law, the Voter's Choice Act, which greatly expands the use of vote-by-mail ballots in counties that implement it.
Description
Since 2002, CVF has been the leading, and often only organization in California engaging in California's voting system certification process. CVF monitors this process closely, testifying at voting system funding and certification hearings as well as providing input on proposed regulations that impact voting security and voter confidence. As one of very few organizations providing this oversight on behalf of the public, CVF's role in the area of voting technology is prominent and impactful.

Auditing election results is an important component of election security and a longstanding CVF priority. California's counties have for decades been required to conduct post-election audits. Newly enacted laws now permit counties to experiment with a new audit approach called "risk-limiting audits". With assistance from UC Irvine's School of Law, CVF is examining the benefits and drawbacks of this approach and comparing this audit model to the existing "manual tally" approach to determine whether risk-limiting audits can be conducted in a way that is effective as well as transparent to the public compared to the current auditing approach.
Budget
$10,000
Program Successes
- In 2019 and 2020 CVF has worked with the Secretary of State and stakeholders to develop regulations to govern risk-limiting audit pilot projects and led a successful effort to modify the proposed regulations so they reflect California statutory requirements.
- In February 2019, California's Secretary of State announced he was requiring all counties to modernize their voting equipment so that it complies with the 2015 California Voting System Standards by the March 2020 Presidential Primary.
- CVF led the effort in California to ban paperless electronic voting and require that only voting systems that utilize paper ballots or produce voter-verified paper records are used in California.
- CVF's involvement in voting security includes participation in the Election Verification Network, a nationwide collaboration of voting rights advocates, computer scientists, election officials, and attorneys committed to ensuring US voting systems are secure and produce results that are verifiable.
- CVF's involvement in this network has helped lead California to be a role model for voting security, thus influencing other states' actions to also make their systems more secure.
- In 2017, CVF engaged in the state regulatory process and provided input on new state regulations establishing procedures for the new vote center voting model to ensure security procedures like requiring at least two voting officials be with voted ballots at all times.
Description
CVF has been focused on the chronic underfunding of elections since 2013, after the state legislature began withholding money to counties to pay for state-required election programs. This absence of funding creates inequality among counties and among voters who reside in different counties, resulting in voters in counties with a stronger tax base receiving more services and benefits than voters in counties with a weaker tax base. CVF has been studying this issue and is working with stakeholders on a solution to provide ongoing state support for local election administration.
Budget
$10,000
Program Successes
- This effort has recently met with success as California's 2018-19 state budget included $134 million for counties to help them upgrade their voting systems and make them more secure.
- California's 2019-20 budget included an additional $87 million to help counties update voting equipment.
- CVF supported this budget addition, and is monitoring county equipment purchases as well as election security improvements financed with this additional funding.
Description
Since 2017, CVF has worked closely with the Sacramento County Registrar of Voters' office and other Sacramento-based advocacy groups to help implement a new voting model. Called the Voters Choice Act, this new voting model requires the county to mail ever registered voter a vote-by-mail ballot; local polling places are eliminated and replaced with county-wide vote centers open to all voters over multiple days; voters now also have access to numerous drop boxes where they can return their voted ballots. These changes are significant and require continued public education in advance of the 2020 Presidential Election. CVF actively participates in the county's Voter Education and Outreach Community Advisory Committee, providing input and guidance along with other advocates to the county elections office as they prepare for the 2020 elections.
Budget
$10,000
Program Successes
- CVF worked with the elections office and other advocates to redesign Sacramento's vote-by-mail ballot return envelope to improve the design and directions to help ensure voters sign and date the envelope so their ballots will be counted.
- Thanks in part to CVF's advocacy work, Sacramento County implemented outreach efforts to voters with problem signatures on vote-by-mail ballots before being required by law to do so. These outreach efforts resulted in hundreds of voters responding and providing a valid signature so their ballots were counted instead of rejected.
- CVF successfully advocated for the county to begin as of 2020 including "I Voted" stickers in vote-by-mail ballot envelope packets so that voters who vote by mail will be able to wear their "I Voted" sticker.
- CVF is advocating for extended ballot drop-off location hours on Election Day after witnessing problems in the June 2018 primary, seeking to ensure all drop-off locations are open and accessible to voters for the full 7:00am - 8:00pm Election Day timeframe.
Description
Each election, CVF produces a nonpartisan California Online Voter Guide as well as the "Proposition Song", a video featuring local musicians performing a singalong song designed to help voters understand all the propositions on the ballot in just a few minutes. These online tools help voters make confident choices while providing an entertaining and engaging way to get informed. CVF has produced its online guide since 1994 and its song since 2000; all CVF's voter education resources are available online at www.calvoter.org.
Budget
$20,000
Program Successes
- CVF has published its web site at www.calvoter.org since 1996. The site logs an average of 1 million visits and 4 million page views every year.
- CVF has produced a nonpartisan online voter guide for California voters for every statewide election since 1994.
- The guide is ad-free, easy to navigate and features reliable information to help voters quickly and easily understand their ballot choices.
- In 2018, CVF produced the 27th edition of our online guide, part of a complete web site redesign and rebranding project.
- The Proposition Song music video has been produced for several elections since 2000, including the November 2018 General Election.