The VRTF In Action, 2016


For discussion and further election legislation alerts, please join the VRTF discussion group by emailing us at: voting-rights-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Democracy advocates in the SF Bay Area can receive alerts about VRTF meetings at http://www.meetup.com/Voting-Rights-Task-Force-East-Bay/. The meetings are usually the 2nd Monday of the Month.


I saw recently in an election Integrity forum, the question: what are you doing to improve our elections? Phrased in another way: What has the Voting Rights Task Force (VRTF) done for democracy lately?

Well, we’ve been sorta busy …

  • January 13, three VRTF members were the only members of the public to testify in person against AB 887 (Ting), before the Assembly Elections Committee. The bill would have introduced Internet voting into California. We were joined by James Schwab from Secretary Padilla’s office. We won! With help from Mimi in LA. The bill died in committee – 3 yes, 3 no, 1 abstained. The VRTF’s record against IV bills is now 4 wins, no losses.
  • That afternoon, Jim was interviewed by Brad Friedman about the deceptive IV initiatives working thru the AG’s office. We started to prepare a major campaign to stop them.
  • Jim assembled a 75 minute long presentation on Elections Systems 2016, and presented it to two democratic clubs in January and February. He is looking forward to talking with more groups.
  • We made several trips in January and February to Sacramento to urge legislators to submit two of our proposals as election bills.
  • Jim prepared a Resolution on Internet Voting, and submitted it to the San Francisco Elections Commission, February 17.
  • Chandra, Richard, Adrian and Jim had several meetings to work on a proposal containing a series of amendments to VbM bills. March will be busy for this.
  • February 19, we learned that Asm. Thurmond has submitted a bill AB 2824 (Thurmond/VRTF)! If passed, counties that are able to do so, must post detailed precinct reports on election night. This is groundbreaking legislation following the lead of AB 813 (Melendez/Courbat) in 2013.
  • February 22, new member Adrian notes that he belongs to several groups, and is astounded at how much we actually do.
  • February 27, the VRTF fires the opening salvo in the campaign against the 3 Internet voting initiatives. We prepare and distribute 1,000 fliers at the state democratic convention in San Jose.
  • March 5, Jim adds several pages to his website, CountedAsCast.org, especially about Internet voting and open source systems.
  • March 6, Jim learns that his website, CountedAsCast.org, has been getting visits since mid-December from: US, Canada (E2E-VIV), Brazil (IV), Slovakia, Bulgaria, Russia, UK, Germany, France, Spain, Nigeria, Ecuador, Algeria, Italy, Indonesia, Peru, Barbados, Macedonia, Latvia, Mexico & Costa Rica.
  • March 7, VRTF sends a letter of support for the SF open source voting system initiative.
  • March, Jim testified at a meeting about the dangers of internet voting before the San Francisco Elections Commission.
  • In May, we learned that AB 2824 stalled the Assembly Appropriations Committee. It was not voted down, but we ran out of time to amend it.
  • June 7, Richard Tamm and others assisted in organizing exit polls for the primary. That evening, others recorded the results as they were being announced by selected counties on election night.
  • Members observed the election counts in several counties, as well as provided guidance.
  • June 29, we testified before the Assembly Elections Committee concerning SB 450, recommending several amendments listed here: https://countedascast.org/sb-450-2016/sb-450-amendments/

For more on the history of the Voting Rights Task Force’s achievements, click [here].

I will note that the political conditions advocates face vary greatly from one place to the next, and from one time to the next. There is also a different mix of talent and interests. So our actions changed over time. But we are quite nimble, and at the same time, strategic. We ask: what are the most important things that need to be done, that can be achieved, given current conditions, and in order of priority. For us, stopping the scourge of Internet voting is the #1 top challenge. If we lose that battle in California, then election transparency will be lost across the US. IN 2014, we spent a good amount of effort trying to ensure that the next Secretary of State is good. Alex Padilla has learned well, and is doing a good job. Finally, we try to get one or two laws introduced and passed every year. We usually don’t succeed. It takes a LOT of work, and some luck. The payoff, is that the laws and regulations get better. We try to make sure that the ones that get introduced are important, not just for California, but for the country. This means that we need to:

  • do our homework
  • check it again
  • submit clear, well-written proposals
  • get our messaging to be concise and effective
  • visit with many legislative staffers
  • arrive in suits, and be polite
  • try to find the way to solve problems instead of pointing fingers at who’s fault it is.

We are delighted with what we have accomplished.

In know people are busy, but the single, by far, most important thing we should achieve in the next few years is to get states, and especially Congress, to pass a law banning the use of the Internet for the casting of ballots in official government elections. This should be easier than it sounds, as, at least what we’ve seen in Sacramento, republicans are our best allies on this issue. The House of Representatives and the US Senate are controlled by republicans. This is the time to get a ban passed. Please, contact your congressman and/or senator, and urge them to protect our elections from the threats of Internet attacks. Much more information is available [here].

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