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CVF-NEWS roundup: Pew study, CA election results and more!

December 23, 2010

Hi Folks,

Happy holidays! In this CVF-NEWS Roundup:

Pew study finds voter access to election lookup tools expands in U.S.

Today the Pew Center on the States' Electionline Weekly published a "sneak peek" at the findings of a research project the California Voter Foundation (CVF) and the Center for Governmental Studies have been working on throughout most of this past year, examining the content and tools available on state election web sites.

Our study examines how effectively state election web sites help voters register to vote, verify their registration status, obtain information on their ballot choices, locate polling places and vote by absentee ballot. This research builds upon an earlier Pew study called "Being Online is Not Enough" and will be released by Pew in 2011. In the meantime, here are a few highlights from today's Electionline Weekly:

Many states provide a number of other important, personalized lookup tools. These include tools to:

Eight states (Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin) offer all five lookup tools for voters, while California and Vermont offer none.

The Pew newsletter also included a list I compiled and published on my blog recently called "Ten Tips for State Election Website Design" that is based on what we learned after reviewing state election web sites several times over many months. The list includes suggestions such as "be direct", "avoid publishing multiple pages on the same topic", and "if featuring information in a PDF format, offer it in HTML as well".

California certified election results are released;
California Watch takes a look at vote-by-mail costs

Recently California Secretary of State Debra Bowen released the certified Statement of the Vote, which is the final, official election results from the November 2 General Election. Here are some key findings:

In comparison with recent non-presidential general elections, this turnout was higher:

According to the Secretary of State's news release, California's November 2010 turnout was higher than it's been for a nonpresidential statewide election since 1994.

Although voting-by-mail has gained in popularity, it still accounts for less than half of all the ballots cast, comprising 48.4 percent of all ballots. Additionally, many of those vote-by-mail ballots were not actually sent through the mail. Many voters are returning their "VBM" ballots to polling places instead. And millions of vote-by-mail ballots that are sent out to voters are never returned.

An article by Deia de Brito published this week in California Watch examined California's vote-by-mail rate and came to some startling conclusions. Based on research compiled by the Secretary of State over a number of years, California Watch found that since the permanent vote-by-mail option was instituted in 2002, 23 million ballots sent out to potential voters have either been lost or never returned to election departments.

California Watch also looked at the number of VBM ballots returned to polling places. In San Francisco, 87,747 ballots were returned before Election Day, and 56,881 were returned on Election Day. In Alameda County, 150,000 vote-by-mail ballots were returned before Election Day and 90,000 on Election Day, according to election officials.

"It takes more time for us to process the ones that come in on Election Day - that just adds to our workload," Dave Macdonald, registrar of Alameda County told California Watch. "We had a lot of staff after Election Day to process all the vote-by-mail ballots."

The article also discusses how vote-by-mail ballot costs paid for by counties are reimbursed by the state. Vote-by-mail costs and California's permanent vote-by-mail program are two issues CVF plans to examine more closely in the new year.

CVF Needs Your Support!

Please make a tax-deductible donation

CVF has exciting plans ahead for 2011 and beyond. We will continue and expand our work to improve the voting process to benefit voters. California's system of voting and elections is antiquated and needs to become more efficient, streamlined and modernized so that it is more understandable and user-friendly for all California voters and would-be voters.

Will you help us? CVF relies on support from people like you to enable us to meet our goals.

Please make a tax-deductible contribution to the California Voter Foundation. Help us sustain this incredibly successful venture and keep CVF a catalyst for improving elections in California and nationwide.

You can donate online or by check to the California Voter Foundation, PO Box 189277, Sacramento, CA 95818.

Wishing you a happy holiday season,
Kim Alexander, California Voter Foundation

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The California Voter Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization promoting and applying the responsible use of technology to improve the democratic process. CVF-NEWS is a free, electronic newsletter featuring news and updates about the California Voter Foundation's projects and activities.

Contact the California Voter Foundation by:

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U.S. Mail - P.O. Box 189277, Sacramento, CA 95818

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This page was first published on December 23, 2010 | Last updated on December 28, 2010
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