Supreme Court Avoids Answer on Partisan Gerrymandering

Per the New York Times, “the Supreme Court declined on Monday to address the central questions in two closely watched challenges to partisan gerrymandering, putting off for another time a ruling on the constitutionality of voting districts designed by legislatures to amplify one party’s political power.”  Details here.

Potential “Unknown” Voter Category in California

Motor Voter Image

According to the Los Angeles Times, as part of the budget deal expected to be passed by the end of this week, California will create a new category to describe voters, in addition to the eight existing options that exist, including Libertarian, the state’s American Independent Party and No Party Preference.

The new category will label voters as having an “Unknown” party preference and would apply mostly to voters registering at the Department of Motor Vehicles, where a new voter registration process recently was implemented.  You can read the story here.

Deadline to Register to Vote in California

Today is the last day to register to vote in California for the June 7th Primary election. It is also the last day to update your information if you are already registered (address, party registration). Make sure you’re eligible to vote on Election Day!

To register or update your information online, click here.

The Cost of Special Elections

Special Election

The cost of special elections to fill vacant legislative seats in California in terms of dollars can be substantial, and the turnout can be significantly lower than in a regular general election.  Laurel Rosenhall  has a great story in CalMatters.

Campaign Finance Changes in San Jose

The San Jose City Council passed a number of changes to their campaign finance ordinance last week.  The voluntary expenditure limit was eliminated, simplified the $250 late contribution report in the last days before the election and removed disclaimer requirements for printed materials besides mailers.  You can read the details Campaign Finance Changes in San Jose.

California Ballot Measure Update

There are currently four statewide measures that have qualified for the ballot, including a referendum on the statewide plastic bag ban passed by lawmakers last year, a reversal of 1998’s Proposition 227 restricting bilingual education in public schools, a measure to protect a multibillion-dollar federal revenue stream for California hospitals from legislative interference, and a $9 billion school bond.

There are 37 other proposals cleared for circulation, including legalization of marijuana, a $9 billion school bond, raising of the minimum wage and a campaign finance disclosure measure.  You can read the details in the Sacramento Bee herepetition.


Proposed Ballot Measure for Campaign Finance Disclosure


A new effort, funded by Jim Heerwagen, a Los Gatos software entrepreneur, proposes a state constitutional amendment to add the right to campaign finance disclosure, along with some other changes, including an overhaul to the Secretary of State’s electronic filing system.  You can read more about the details here.

Ballot Initiative Filing Fee to Increase

“Sate lawmakers on Monday voted to increase the cost of filing a proposed ballot initiative in California from $200 to $2,000, in response to a failed bid for an anti-gay measure to appear before voters next year.”  Supporters say it will help weed out those filers who are not serious about mounting an actual campaign, but opponents feel it puts a burden on political expression.  Governor Brown has not indicated whether or not he will sign the measure if it passes the Assembly.

You can read the Los Angeles Times article here.

The Importance of Campaign Counsel

“San Jose City Councilman-elect Manh Nguyen wants a written apology from City Hall.  The incoming District 4 councilman wants the City Clerk’s Office to admit — in writing — that it screwed up. He claims the office gave him bad advice about filing his election finance reports, which led to him filing 99 late campaign contribution forms (for donations totaling $271,386) and failing to report an additional $11,634 in contributions.” (San Jose Mercury News, 7/23/15).

Unfortunately, this story is not unusual.  It highlights the importance of campaign counsel to navigate the often complex reporting requirements of local campaign ordinances. In jurisdictions with very low contribution limits, however, candidates struggle to raise enough funds to afford to hire campaign counsel, and try to get by relying on advice from the local officials. If that local official gives erroneous advice, it is the campaign that is held responsible for the violation of the law, and the same jurisdiction can then impose a fine for the erroneous advice it gave in the first place.

Campaigns in jurisdictions like this one should weigh the cost of campaign counsel against the cost of paying fines from the local jurisdiction and/or the Fair Political Practices Commission, along with the political consequences the violation can cause.  In the long run, hiring counsel can turn out to be the less expensive option.  Consider it an insurance policy to prevent these types of mistakes from happening in the first place.

Don’t assume campaign counsel or a professional treasurer is out of your campaign’s budget.  Many campaign attorneys are willing to work within a campaign’s budget, so you can ensure the compliance and the viability of your candidacy. It is much more cost effective to hire campaign counsel before your committee gets in hot water.


Along with terms such as “WTF,” “Clickbait,” and “photobomb,” “dark money” has been added to the latest version of the Merriam-Webster dictionary.  However, the definition is incorrect.  It erroneously defines “dark money” as funding campaigns, which is strictly prohibited by federal campaign law (as well as many other jurisdictions).  (Hat tip to Kenneth P. Vogel). Read about all the new additions here.