FROM:   Kim Alexander, CVF President
DATE:   June 29, 1999
RE:   CVF News Round-up

Today's edition of CVF-NEWS features items on the following topics:

* Adult entertainment lobbyist buys up candidate web site domains
* History Channel airs 4-part special on California History
* California's new budget enacted today
* PUC rules on Internet phone call rates
* Update on California's Internet Voting Task Force

* Adult entertainment lobbyist buys up candidate web site domains

Michael Ross, a Sacramento lobbyist representing the National Cabaret Association along with other adult entertainment enterprises, announced today that he has purchased several domains featuring the names of prominent politicians. He plans to use the domains to "educate the country about the First Amendment" according to a news release issued yesterday.

KCRA-TV reporter Tim Herrera will report on this story this evening, Tuesday, June 29th, and his report will include some thoughts from yours truly. If you are in the Sacramento area, tune in to Channel 3 tonight at 6:30 p.m.

The domains purchased by Ross include several potential U.S. Senate and Presidential candidates, such as Elizabeth Dole, Pat Buchanan, Steve Forbes, Al Gore, Bill Bradley, Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. Basically, Ross used the same address system for all the domains, using the number 4 in place of the word "for" and adding 2000 at the end of each address (i.e. It seems that Ross' strategy is to attract people who are looking for the candidates' official web site who mistakenly stumble across his spoof site, where that candidates' views on the First Amendment will be featured. Of course, we've seen plenty of spoof sites in past elections. My view on this is that it's better to err on the side of freedom of speech than to suggest that there ought to be limits to freedom. All of us need to pay closer attention and look for the fine print on every bit of political information we encounter, in any media, and rely on trusted online resources like CVF's web site to link to official campaign web sites.

* History Channel airs 4-part special on California History

This week, the History Channel is airing "California Here We Come!", a four-part documentary on the history of the Golden State. The first segment aired Monday, June 28, and the series continues every night until Thursday, July 1, from 10 - 11 p.m. Last night's segment was on early California history and the Gold Rush, and it was a fantastic compilation of photos, artifacts, illustrations and interviews with noted historians. I hope my fellow California history fans have a chance to watch this great series.

* California's new budget enacted today

California Governor Gray Davis today signed into law California's $81.3 billion budget for the 1999/2000 fiscal year. Today's enactment of the budget marks the first time in six years when California's budget was enacted prior to July 1 and the beginning of a new fiscal year. There have been plenty of news stories on who's won and who's lost out on the new budget -- for the perspective from the Governor's office, take a look at today's news release:

* PUC Rules on Internet phone call rates

California's Public Utilities Commission, now with all five seats filled due to recent appointments by Gov. Gray Davis, ruled last week to continue treating phone calls to Internet service providers as local, thereby staving off potential increases in Internet service. The ruling was viewed as a victory for consumers, who sent between 3,000 and 4.000 letters and emails to the PUC, mostly asking that Internet calls continue to be classified as local calls. Commission President Richard Bilas was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle saying the ruling "may have been one of the most difficult telecommunications decisions I've had to make". For more details, take a look at Chronicle Staff Writer Deborah Solomon's June 25th story:

* Update on California's Internet Voting Task Force

California's Internet Voting Task Force held its second meeting in San Mateo last week, and I'm happy to report that our group is making excellent progress. We are working on a report to be released in a few months that will cover the technical and cultural issues involved with Internet voting. I have appreciated all the terrific input I've received from CVF-NEWS subscribers and CVF members on this topic. One big challenge with Internet voting is, I believe, in creating a system that is secure enough to meet the potential fraud concerns of those people who want to vote online, as well as those people who do *not* want to vote online, that does not also require authentication procedures that could infringe upon a voter's privacy.

Our task force meeting was also attended by Ed Mendel, Staff writer for the San Diego Union Tribune whose story on the meeting and the topic of Internet voting in general is featured below.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy 4th of July holiday!

Panel casts yes vote for future of online elections
By Ed Mendel Staff Writer

Published June 28, 1999
San Diego Union-Tribune

SAN MATEO -- The can-do spirit that drives technological progress, and a hint of revolutionary fervor hummed faintly in the background as a task force sat down on the edge of Silicon Valley to discuss another Internet revolution: the e-Vote.

It seems clear that in much the same way the Internet securely handles high-stakes transactions for shopping and banking, the technology can be developed that would allow votes to be cast over the Internet in government elections.

Members of the task force on electronic voting convened by Secretary of State Bill Jones -- drawn from business, academia and government -- are optimistic about delivering a report to the Legislature this fall that will outline how California can move toward digital democracy.

"I think you could have trials as early as next year," David Jefferson of Compaq Computers, chairman of the task force's subcommittee on technology, told the meeting last week.

Just as the Internet has shaken up commerce and home entertainment, often taking the uninformed by surprise, members of the task force expect the revolution to move on to government almost as if driven by a kind of technological imperative: Because it can happen, it will happen.

"I think Internet voting is inevitable," said Linda Valenty, a political scientist at San Jose State University.

By making voting easier, advocates of electronic voting say the technology could increase voter turnout. Only about half of Californians who are eligible to vote do so in presidential elections, and some surveys say a common reason given by nonvoters is that going to the polling places is inconvenient and time-consuming.

"It just seems so archaic that we are standing in our neighbor's garage punching cards," said Kim Alexander of the California Voter Foundation.

Electronic voting could be done from the home, office, government kiosks or anywhere there is Internet access. With falling computer prices and rapidly evolving technology, Internet access is expected to become as common as television and the telephone, some of which already have Internet connections.

Although most of the task force's focus is on practical problems, members also wonder if electronic voting might somehow dramatically alter the political process.

For example, Tim Draper, a wealthy Silicon Valley businessman, would have liked to use the Internet to gather the signatures needed to place his school-voucher initiative on the ballot next year.

Instead of taking months and nearly $1 million to place an initiative before voters, measures might be placed on the ballot in days at a cost of only hundreds of dollars if the signatures of registered voters can be gathered through the Internet.

If so, would voters want to have their say on dozens of initiatives, from naming highways to modifying abortion or the death penalty, and perhaps even push for more elections, since the cost of voting would drop dramatically? Or would the ease of putting initiatives on the ballot force what critics say is a long-overdue reform of the initiative process?

"At what point does electronic voting start to threaten representative democracy?" said Larry Sokol, a consultant for the state Senate Elections Committee.

As with any change in the voting process, electronic voting would be carefully scrutinized by partisan analysts to see if one political party or the other would gain an advantage. There are a number of questions:

Would Republicans gain if computer owners -- mainly white and not poor -- could easily cast ballots electronically? Or would Democrats gain if groups with a much lower turnout rate -- minorities and the poor -- were prompted to vote in greater numbers? And what about young adults, ages 18 to 24, who are plugged into computers and tend not to vote?

How the political parties would react to electronic voting is not clear. A bill by state Sen. Kevin Murray, D-Los Angeles, that would have authorized a task force to study electronic voting was vetoed in 1997 by former Gov. Pete Wilson, a Republican.

But while Wilson worried about weak security and increased voter fraud, another Republican, Jones, used his office's funds earlier this year to put together without legislation the current task force on electronic voting.

The task force met in San Mateo last week because San Mateo County has the most advanced vote-counting system in the state, using pencil marks that can be read by a scanner. Most California counties use punch-card technology first marketed in the 1960s.

After a test earlier this year in a special election in Alameda County, Jones certified a touch-screen computer voting system for use in California. The manufacturer, Global Election Systems of McKinney, Texas, is already scrambling to develop an Internet voting system.

"There is more and more discussion about it all the time," said Larry Ensminger, a Global vice president. "So we will have a dog in the fight here pretty quickly."

A company in Kirkland, Wash., is so confident that a market will develop for Internet voting systems that it changed its name from Soundcode Data Security to The firm hoped that it would be used for the Louisiana Republican Party presidential caucus elections in January, but Louisiana GOP officials decided to stick with traditional voting methods.

"Anything can crash, and on Election Day you can't get all those voters to go back and vote the same way," said Connie Chittom, Louisiana Republican Party deputy chairman.

The Pentagon hoped to have a system in place last year that would let military personnel overseas vote on the Internet. The new goal is to have the system ready for a pilot program in five states next year.

"We are optimistic that we will have it running by the 2000 general election," said Glenn Flood, a Pentagon spokesman.

Copyright 1999 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.

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This page was first published on June 29, 1999 | Last updated on June 29, 1999
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