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THE NOONER for July 8, 2014

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While the Legislature may be taking a deserved month off, there is plenty to talk about in California politics. Before I dive into this, let me be clear that I have not been involved in either campaign for controller, and did not contribute to anyone. But, it's rare we get to look at procedure and law to this extent.

In particular, elections officials in the fifteen counties in which John A. Pérez returned to work with more questions than answers yesterday. The Bee's Jim Miller reports:

Late Monday afternoon, Secretary of State Debra Bowen's office hosted a conference call with anxious county officials. Yet it remained unclear Monday to what extent Bowen's office will coordinate the recount process among the counties. The involved counties, for instance, use six types of vote-by-mail systems and seven types of polling-place voting machines.

"I think the Secretary of State’s Office has to play a role in this. They are vital to this process," said Mark Church, registrar of voters in San Mateo County, No. 5 on the recount list. Bowen's office was unavailable for comment after the call.

In the punditsphere--mostly on Twitter and via email yesterday, people started openly wondering whether the recount could lead to a Bush v. Gore-style legal challenge because of the multi-county nature of the recount. Aside from a couple of minor ballot measures, there hasn't been a multi-county recount in recent history. This would seem to invoke some of the legal analysis--if not conclusions--found in the Supreme Court case that resolved the 2000 presidential election.

Consider this from the ruling: "Having once granted the right to vote on equal terms, Florida may not, by later arbitrary and disparate treatment, value one person's vote over that of another."

Thus, Bush v. Gore raises a few issues about California's recount process that I don't believe have been tested by the courts. 

  1. Does a selective recount of counties and/or precincts determined by a candidate "value one person's vote over that of another"?
    -  California's process requires all precincts within a county to be recounted if the precinct selection changes the result, but does not trigger a recount in other counties.

  2. Once a recount is launched that requires payment by a candidate, does the other candidate have an equal protection (due process) right to have all votes in the subject election counted, even if that candidate does not have the ability to pay for the recount?
    -  If a race is changed by a seletive recount, it is up to the other candidate to pay for an expanded recount. With campaign finance restrictions (including "voluntary" spending limits), does this unfairly constrain the candidate that didn't institute the recall?

  3. Do significantly different election procedures, particularly in the challenges of matching signatures, among counties "value one person's vote over that of another"?
    - This is at the core of Bush v. Gore, wherein non-uniform processes for counting ballots disadvantage voters. California is not Florida, yet still has inconsistencies. 

Now, we're far from a lawsuit on these issues. For someone to have standing, the election would probably have to flip from Perez to Yee, which is far from a done deal. However, if that does happen, this could definitely end up in the courts, and it probably justifies a reexamination of California's recount laws.

More on the recount after the jump...



Miller further reports: 

Other county officials voiced concerns that, notwithstanding the payment-in-advance rules for recounts, their counties could be left holding the bag if the recount ends before it gets to them.

Rebecca Spencer, acting registrar in Riverside County, which is No. 9 on the recount list, said the process of preparing for the recount involves pulling together thousands of precinct records and discarded provisional and vote-by-mail ballots. "It's about five days of prep work. That's my major concern – if we start that prep work now, and there are eight counties ahead of us, and they call it off, do we get reimbursed?" Spencer said.

This is an interesting point. A candidate seeking a recount has to front the money on a daily basis for that day's count. Thus, Pérez is only on the hook for the actual counts happening each day, but counties are expected to prepare for an eventual recount.

This continues the argument for a standard and funding for statewide elections that fall within 0.1% of the vote. 

Perhaps we can package all these election revisions and submit them for Mike Gatto's X-Prize.


#CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Celina Luna and Lee-Ann Tratten!




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SF Insider: Ballot measures and money for janitors
[...] Monday, a group of residents and environmentalists that for years have been fighting city plans to install lights and artificial turf at the Beach Chalet soccer fields in Golden Gate Park handed over about 15,000 signatures to the department of elections, said campaign spokeswoman Jean Barish. The city's plans call for synthetic turf, expanded fields and a larger parking lot, field lights, benches for players, bleachers for 1,000 spectators, a barbecue area, community room and renovated bathrooms. [...] there's the group calling itself Restore Transportation Balance, which turned in 17,500 signatures for its proposed proposition to establish a nonbinding policy declaration of policy that would include prohibitions on charging at parking meters on Sundays, holidays and outside the hours of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., putting new meters in neighborhoods without the consent of residents and merchants, freezing meter rates for five years and enforcing traffic laws "equally for everyone using San Francisco's streets and sidewalks." The measure would renew the expiring children's fund and raise its funding level from three to four cents of every $100 in property taxes. The measure would also renew the Public Education Enrichment Fund which gives city dollars to the school district in three pots: one for sports, libraries, arts and music, one for counselors and other support, and one for universal pre-school for 4-year-olds. An administrative law judge agreed and ordered GMG to pay workers the full amount in 2012, but the company filed suit in Superior Court, alleging that the city had exceeded its authority and that the administrative law judge's findings were not supported by the evidence.

Californians Report Roadblocks In New Era Of Health Care
Christopher Cadelago @
Health care

Controller's race could be entangled for months
Assemblyman John Pérez's decision to seek a partial recount in the state controller's primary, one of the closest elections in California history, is setting up a battle - and possible legal action - that could drag on for months. Pérez must pay for any county's recount, noted Douglas Herman, a strategist for Pérez. "[...] we're forced to count the votes in the counties where we believe there's the best opportunity for the vote results to change," he said. If a recount results in a different outcome, the affected county elections officials must recertify their results to the secretary of state. According to some reports, he has $300,000 to $400,000 in campaign cash on hand.

Perez's recount sends politics into uncharted territory
Dan Walters @
California politics is meandering into uncharted procedural and legal territory with former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez's go-for-broke decision to seek a vote recount in his duel with Board of Equalization member Betty Yee for a spot on the November state controller ballot. site stumps 'highly educated' millennials. Here's why
Millennials who struggled to sign up for health insurance on have some simple advice for the Obama administration: Make the website more like Yelp or TurboTax.

Governor Jerry Brown signs bill recognizing legal gay marriage
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation replacing language in state law that defines marriage as 'between a man and a woman.'

Laura's Law nears approval in S.F.
The small, rural county in the Sierra was the site of the 2001 slaying of Laura Wilcox by a psychiatric patient and was the first California county to adopt the law named in her honor to allow family members and others to petition a judge to require treatment of mentally ill patients. Of those who did enter the civil proceedings process, most wound up agreeing to participate in the mandated treatment plan without any sort of fight. Laura's Law allows a family member, roommate, mental health provider, or police or probation officer to, in limited circumstances, petition the courts to compel outpatient treatment of a mentally ill person. To qualify, the person must have been hospitalized or jailed stemming from mental health issues twice in the past three years and have been seriously violent to himself, herself or someone else in the past four years. Last month, he secured the support of Supervisor David Campos by agreeing to amend his legislation to create an oversight team to try to get mentally ill people to accept voluntary treatment first. Anderson said that as a former public defender and criminal defense attorney, he understands opponents' objections. [...] he said data gleaned from Nevada County's 41 cases show Laura's Law helped decrease patients' rates of hospitalizations and incarcerations and helped formerly homeless people become stabilized enough to secure housing.

What California state workers earn: scientists
Jon Ortiz @
After years of complaining to governors on both sides of the political aisle about pay, this summer the California Association of Professional Scientists rejected a contract offered by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown that would have given them a modest raise.

California Lawmaker Proposing Government X-Prize
Katie Orr @
If you’ve ever thought of a way to improve government, you may get a chance to share your idea. You may even get paid for it. X-Prizes are all the rage these days. A company or, in some cases a government, offers cash prizes to people who can solve specific problems or offer innovative ideas. Democratic Assemblyman Mike Gatto wants California to start a government X-Prize. He’s written legislation to create a pilot program in 2015 to test the concept.

L.A. Leaders Focusing On Groundwater Treatment In Bond Discussions
Melanie Mason @
When the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power announced last year an ambitious groundwater treatment program for the contaminated San Fernando Basin, the agency had its eyes on a state water bond for crucial funding to get the project built.

White House Invites Texas Governor To Meet On Border Crisis
After days of back-and-forth accusations, the White House is inviting Texas Gov.  Rick Perry  to meet with President Obama to talk about the immigration crisis on the Southwest border. 

In Chevron fire's wake, dissension plagues oversight agency
Jaxon Van Derbeken @
The federal agency that investigated the Chevron fire in Richmond in 2012 is racked by dissension over how to overhaul the nation's refinery inspection efforts in reaction to the blaze, and now Congress is getting involved.

Bono's One Action Ramps Up Lobbying
One Action lobbied on budget and appropriations issues, such as FY15 appropriations for State-For Ops, including HIV/AIDS, agriculture, GAFSP, vaccines, MCC, Feed the Future, and OPIC.

LAPD's Shift Away From Holding Immigrants Is Part Of National Trend
In no longer heeding federal immigration requests to hold inmates who might be deportable past their jail terms unless a judge has vetted the request, the Los Angeles Police Department is joining scores of other cities and counties that have stopped the practice.

Warring Factions In Corning Casino Tribe Agree To Election To Settle Dispute
Stephen Magagnini @
After weeks of armed standoffs, cyber attacks, allegations of multimillion-dollar theft and legal battles over who controls the tribe’s $100 million-a-year casino, warring factions of the Paskenta band of Nomlaki Indians in Tehama County have agreed to a binding general election to settle their dispute.

Court fight over N.C. voter law
Justice Department lawyers say the GOP-backed measures were designed to suppress turnout.

Southern California's Largest Immigrant Detention Center To Expand
Immigrant advocacy groups are protesting the expansion of Southern California's largest immigrant detention center, arguing the federal government should instead be directing resources to children seeking asylum.

Recount In California Controller's Race Raises Questions, Anxiety For Registrars
Jim Miller @
Election officials across California on Monday began preparing for a historically large hand recount in the state controller’s race amid uncertainty about how to coordinate an effort involving thousands of precincts in 15 counties.

California restricts public access to water well records
A decades-old law barring the public from viewing records of water wells throughout California is drawing criticism amid the state's drought from those who believe the information locked away could help scientists and water policy specialists better protect the groundwater supply.

Gritty Gleneagles Golf Course's biggest hazard: water bill
Gleneagles, the quirky, challenging, everyman's golf course in one of San Francisco's roughest neighborhoods, is having trouble making ends meet. The nine-hole course has survived economic shortfalls, nearby gunfire and the death of all nine of its putting greens. Hsieh, who has made several improvements to Gleneagles during the nine years he's held the lease, says that when the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission announced a nearly 50 percent water rate increase, he began rethinking his options. The entrance is just a few blocks from Herz Playground, where a camp counselor was gunned down on June 27, and is part of the Visitacion Valley neighborhood, where another man was shot and killed Monday. Hsieh says he can't raise fees without approval from City Hall, and upkeep on a facility that opened 52 years ago is a steady drain. The operator rents the facility and is responsible for everything: upkeep, repairs and pub. With the help of famous greenskeeper Tom Bastis, who donated his services, and some $140,000 from Hsieh and his investors, all nine greens were replaced. Hsieh doesn't expect the city to step up and make that kind of investment, but he would like to discuss an arrangement like what the Recreation and Park Department has at its other courses, like Harding Park, where the city chips in for general maintenance.