Senator Ron Calderon Opening Remarks

Joint Informational Hearing:
Discussion of Problems Faced by Voters at the 2008 Presidential Primary Election


March 7, 2008
Opening Statement


Senator Ron Calderon, Chair
Senate Committee on Elections, Reapportionment and Constitutional Amendments 


I would now like to call this joint informational hearing to order.

Good afternoon and thank you for attending.

I am Senator Ron Calderon, Chair of the Senate Committee on Elections, Reapportionment and Constitutional Amendments.

Joining me today is:

  • Senator Jenny Oropeza, Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Integrity of Elections; 
  • Assembly Member Curren Price, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting;
  • Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas; and
  • Senator Dean Florez

On the agenda this afternoon, we will hear from:

  • Secretary of State Debra Bowen
  • Elections officials from both Los Angeles and other counties.
  • As well as representatives from California Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and the California Voter Foundation.

I am also looking forward to hearing from many activists and other individuals under the public testimony portion of the hearing.

The problems that occurred during the primary election have been well documented in the press – including ballot shortages and an enormous amount of confusion regarding the ability of decline-to-state voters to participate in either the Democratic or American Independent Party primaries.

So much so that when I went to vote at my own precinct in Montebello, poll workers were actually telling decline-to-state voters that they couldn’t vote for ANYTHING at this election and turned them away.

Unfortunately, we’ll never know how many voters throughout the state were disenfranchised this way.

As shocking as that sounds, the largest systemic problem that day was the fiasco in Los Angeles County now known as the “Double Bubble Trouble.”

Los Angeles County required its decline-to-state voters to mark an extra bubble on the ballot in order to cast a vote in the Democratic or American Independent Party primary.

According to the L.A. County Registrar of Voters, more than 12,000 voters that they know of did not have their votes for president counted because they failed to complete, or were never informed of this extra requirement.

This is intolerable and there is simply no excuse for it.

Fortunately, they were able to determine voter intent on about 48,000 similar ballots but only after being pressured to do so.

I have asked the L.A. County Registrar for an estimate on what it cost them to conduct this extra canvass and I will do whatever I can to make sure that the state does not reimburse them for the costs of mitigating their own incompetence.

The purpose of today's hearing is to discuss these and other problems faced by the voters, to assess the steps that elections officials have taken to avoid these problems in the future, and to help the committees determine whether any new legislation is necessary to prevent a recurrence of these problems.

I am especially anxious to hear from the Secretary of State regarding some ideas she has already shared with me.

Specifically, a centralized system for reporting election day errors, a public display period for ballot layouts, and some way to immediately communicate with every polling place in the state.

Before we proceed with our first witness, would any other members of the committee like to make a statement?

Committee Address