AB 2097 Salvage Operations and Postmortem

From: Alan Dechert <dechert_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Sat May 27 2006 - 17:08:46 CDT

I am copying this message to OVC-discuss in case any of you aren't on our
announcements list.

This is part my vision for the OVC roadmap over the next few months -- where
we go from here. There are some fine points glossed over here that are not
fit for publication.

I need people on this list to get involved more. I outline 5 areas where we
need to make significant progress in order to be successful. Please have a
look at where you can help and get involved. Feel free to email or phone me
for details.

June 6 is a big milestone for open voting. And, there are also huge
milestones ahead in July (DemFest), August (passing reincarnated open voting
bill in legislature), September (getting the bill signed into law), and
November (Election Day).

Alan D.

Dear Friends of Open Voting:

I've received many emails and phone calls in response to what happened at
the suspense hearing Thursday with respect to AB 2097. I want to provide a
little more explanation of what went on, and let you know what we're
planning. There have been a few developments since my announcement about it
on Thursday afternoon.

Although AB 2097 is dead, we are looking into restarting the bill on the
Senate side. In this case, you'll see the same language will a different
bill number. In order for this to be worth doing, several conditions will
have to change in our favor. For starters, the ballgame will be different
after June 6 (California primary).

As written, I believe our bill would cost very little to implement if signed
into law. It would require vendors to provide, for each product, a
disclosure package suitable for public distribution over the Internet. The
Secretary of State would make that package available for download and would
provide a web page for the public to submit comments.

We had to make a provision in the bill to allow for the possibility that one
or more vendors refused to comply. In this case, there would be some costs
to replace the secret software that would become decertified.

Bills that have some unknown potential costs (costs that may exceed
$150,000) are routinely put in a suspense file by the Appropriations
Committee in order to better assess the financial impact of the proposed
law. This means they won't get to a floor vote until they get passed in a
suspense hearing. This is prudent, in some ways. At the beginning of
Thursday's suspense hearing, the chair, Assembly Member Judy Chu said that
if all the bills she had in the file passed it would cost the state $14
billion. The total she was allowing for all the bills was $155 million.

It sounds like they are being fiscally responsible, but, in fact, this is
mostly guesswork. Given the volume of bills and the time constraints, they
can do little in the way of analysis. If you have a bill that would cost
the state $200,000 next year but would save taxpayers $1 million over the
next 3 years, they would say your bill costs $200,000. The limitations of
this process are understood, and they will allow some bills through based on
other factors so that bills can be more thoroughly debated, analyzed, and
voted on.

The decision to pass a bill or hold it in committee is made before the
hearing. There is no vote. The determination is made by the chair with
input from her staff, the author, and from other stake holders and leaders.
Authors normally have many bills on suspense. The member presents a list of
the bills, giving them a priority. Our author, Assemblymember Jackie
Goldberg, gave AB 2097 a very high priority (it was number 2 out of 8 bills
she had on suspense). Given our strong showing in the policy hearing (we
passed the Elections Committee 5-0) and the high priority Jackie gave it, we
were stunned that it was not passed. There was some heavy duty lobbying
against our bill behind the scenes.

We know that some of the opposition was led by Secretary of State Bruce
McPherson. For example, he submitted this letter Wednesday afternoon.


I wrote a response and faxed it Thursday morning.


So, what makes us think it could still be signed into law this year? Our
bill declares that voters have the right to know exactly how their votes are
processed. We believe this is a correct principle and, if properly aired
and considered, it will be accepted.

Here are the factors that will make the difference:

1) Democratic primary for Secretary of State
This is the largest single factor. If Bowen loses to Ortiz, we will
probably drop the effort to get our bill passed and focus on obtaining
private funding to get open voting products developed and certified. Ortiz
is positioning herself as a friend of the registrars and the status quo.

If Bowen wins the primary, we are very likely to revive our bill. We will
get a big boost with a Bowen victory on June 6. As a reminder of her
enthusiasm for open voting, review these links for example:

She explained what open voting is about and why we need it at the Democratic
convention a month ago:

Here's her letter from February.

2) County election officials
The registrars really really didn't like AB 2097. Having listened to them
quite a bit about it in recent weeks, I think a lot of it has to do with
fear of the unknown. They don't understand the proposal very well. We
received no letters of support from the registrars.

I have already started stepping up the effort here. I spoke with 3
registrars by phone yesterday including Conny McCormack of Los Angeles
County, current president of their association (her term expires in July and
Stephen Weir of Contra Costa County will be taking this position
http://www.calelections.org/ ). Freddie Oakley of Yolo County
(http://www.yoloelections.org ) told me she will write a letter in support
of the new bill as soon as we have a new bill number.

We don't have to get them all in favor of it. But we need to get at least
some of them in favor of it, and we need to get them to understand it
better. I think we can do this.

3) Local government officials (other than election officials), county boards
of supervisors, city council people, mayors, etc.
We have made some progress talking with these people but have not yet
received and support letters. How many do we need? I don't know exactly
but I think we need some.

4) Support letters from nongovernmental groups and individuals.
We received some letters from groups and a few hundred from individuals
(counting the form letters). I would prefer one personalized letter from an
individual over 10 form letters. But we'll still take the form letters.
Several groups that promised letters have not yet sent them. We have work
to do here. The more we can get the better.

5) Key leaders in the Assembly and the Senate
I feel pretty good about leadership in the Senate. However, I also felt we
were in good shape with leadership in the Assembly. We can't take any of
them for granted. It's a challenge to get quality face time with these busy
leaders, but we have to find a way to do it. I will devote a significant
portion of my time and energy over the next few months doing that. If
things go well, our bill will be back in the Assembly in August. However,
if we haven't made progress with Assembly leaders by then, we are likely to
see a similar fate as we saw on Thursday. We have to make some good progress
with them. I think we can do that.

We expect that open voting will get a nice boost in July. We plan to do
some organizing around the DemocracyFest event in San Diego, July 14-16.

I have been invited to be on a panel about election reform. Debra Bowen is
also scheduled to be on the panel. Here are some links about that. I hope
to see many of you there!


You can expect to hear about our go/no-go decision on our reincarnated bill
soon after June 6 (like maybe June 7). In the mean time, supporters of open
voting should do everything possible to help Debra Bowen win the Democratic
nomination for Secretary of State.

A lot of you wrote to say keep going, we'll get there. I am doing that.

Thanks for your support!

Alan Dechert

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Received on Wed May 31 23:17:07 2006

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