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Mission and Program Goals


Through research, oversight, outreach and demonstration projects, to work for improvements in the election process so that it better serves the needs and interests of voters.

To further its mission, the California Voter Foundation will pursue three key program goals:

I. Assess the California voting process to identify needed improvements;
II. Modernize California voter registration to facilitate greater participation; and
III. Improve disclosure of financial interests in initiative campaigns to help voters make informed choices.


Since its re-founding in 1994, the California Voter Foundation (CVF) has laid the basis for major reforms in voting and elections law and policy. CVF has developed a successful track record helping to achieve major substantive reforms in such areas as election security, voter education and campaign finance disclosure. A longstanding reputation, unwavering commitment to nonpartisanship, devotion to protecting and improving the voting process, and relationships with key institutions, government agencies and nonprofits enable CVF to be an effective catalyst for significant reform. CVF’s mission and goals build on its past successes as well as its knowledge of the important role technology plays in elections.


Through research projects CVF will gather data and report on problems in the election process that need attention. CVF has long employed, and will continue to use state-by-state assessments that enable California and all states to better understand how their election performance compares to others. Through oversight projects, CVF will monitor implementation of important reforms to improve the election process. CVF’s outreach work will publicize its research and oversight utilizing media relations, new media and partners to shine a light on important developments and challenges. Through demonstration projects CVF will show how new tools can be offered to better serve voters.

Recognizing California’s political impact on the rest of the nation, CVF also believes it is crucial that the state implement reforms that can positively influence the entire country.

Program Goals

I. Assess the California voting process to identify needed improvements

When the California government was first organized in 1850 the state had just 27 counties and 92,527 residents. Today, it has 58 counties and more than 37 million people. Yet the way elections are managed today is much the same as it was 160 years ago. Every county, ranging in size from 1,000 residents (Alpine) to over 10 million (Los Angeles) bears responsibility to manage voter registration records, conduct voter outreach programs, mail sample ballots, print ballots, process vote-by-mail ballot requests and ballots, train poll workers, locate and staff polling places, count votes, and verify and report results.

The commonality of these responsibilities stands in marked contrast to wide variations in the resources counties can bring to bear to do all these jobs. For voters, the harsh reality of county-by-county election management is that election practices and procedures vary widely across the state, particularly when it comes to voting by mail, provisional voting, and poll worker training. This variation creates confusion for voters. It creates complex inefficiencies for election workers. And the effective net result at every election is substantial voter disenfranchisement.

In the abstract there is wide acceptance of the core values that promote public confidence in voting and elections.1 In reality the extent to which voting and elections in California and other states meet these standards is far from clear.

In this program area CVF will collect and analyze data to assess California state and county election performance, gather input from voters, and participate in county voting system modernization efforts. CVF will examine the history of election administration in California, look at the fiscal relationships and distribution of responsibilities between state and local governments, and compare California’s voting systems and administration with those of other states. These critical analyses are important steps toward understanding California’s election costs and procedures and identifying improvements needed to bring greater efficiency, fairness, and participation to the process.

II. Modernize voter registration in California to facilitate greater participation

California is a leader in election technology reform. In recent years California elections have been made more secure and reliable by requiring voter-verified paper audit trails of votes cast and public post-election audits to verify computerized vote counts.

However, California lags far behind the rest of the nation in other areas of election technology, most critically in its system of voter registration. While other states have created robust, statewide voter registration databases, enabling them to keep registration records up-to-date and voters reliably informed of their registration status, California has failed to do so. California is the last state not in compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act statewide voter registration database requirement. California also lacks a statewide online registration status lookup tool, one of just nine states in the nation failing to provide this service to voters. More than six million Californians who are eligible to vote are not registered, placing the state’s rate of registration at 42nd in the nation.

CVF believes the first step toward modernizing voter registration in California, already authorized and funded but not yet a reality, is the successful creation of a new statewide voter registration database, called VoteCal, enabling California voters to register and to check their registration status online.

In this program area, CVF is committed to monitoring the VoteCal project to help get it on track and implemented. In the interim, CVF will also work to create a statewide online voter registration status lookup tool so that all voters can easily find out whether they are registered to vote at their current address. CVF will also promote improvements to California’s existing online-assisted registration process.

III. Improve disclosure of financial interests in initiative campaigns to help voters make informed choices

Throughout its history CVF has worked hard to improve campaign finance disclosure. Information about money in politics needs to be plentiful, transparent and readily accessible to the public through tools they understand and are comfortable using.

Nowhere is the need for campaign finance disclosure greater than it is in relation to ballot propositions, where voters are asked to play the role of lawmaker. Too often well-funded groups try to obscure their interests in initiatives and keep voters from knowing the true sources of funding that pay for campaign advertisements and staff.

Despite the fact that California has one of the best disclosure systems in the nation, there is still much room for improvement. CVF will work to ensure voters have access to the information needed to identify accurately the people and organizations supporting and opposing state propositions.

Specifically, CVF will participate in initiative disclosure reform efforts, promote the creation and dissemination of “top donors” lists, and publish a “How to Follow the Money” guide to help citizens better understand the state’s disclosure laws and processes.

1The criteria that need to be met if voting and elections are to enjoy public confidence include the equal protection and treatment of all voters; avoidance of disenfranchisement; security, accuracy, transparency, ease of use, accessibility, and reliability in voting systems; efficiency and accountability in elections administration; and respect for voter privacy.


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This page was first published on June 17, 2011 | Last updated on December 6, 2011
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