SMCLC Has Reviewed Assembly Bill 1148 and Urges Assembly Committee to Impose More Requirements on Slate Mailer Groups to End Voter Deception and Confusion Stemming from Recent Santa Monica Election
May 2, 2011
To Assembly Elections & Redistricting Committee
From: The Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City
Re: AB 1148
Dear Chairperson Fong and committee members,
We understand you are holding a hearing on this bill that seeks to change the asterisk reporting requirements for slate mailers.
SMCLC is a nonprofit group formed by Santa Monica residents in 2005 to take an active role in local development and governance issues. In November 2010, after the election in Santa Monica, SMCLC filed a complaint with the FPPC about various election activity improprieties concerning a slate mailer organization calling itself "Santa Monicans for Quality Government." In response, the FPPC issued a warning letter to SMQG and its political operative.
We have read the bill and believe that it may not curb the widespread deception practiced by slate mailer groups perpetrated on voters throughout California under current election rules. While it could be helpful to require that candidates for whom the slate mailer organizations were formed and funded have an asterisk by their name, it does not go to the root of the problem we witnessed in Santa Monica.
Therefore, we respectfully make two suggestions:
1) Require slate mailer organizations to report electronically. Those who fund mailers are able to get around timely, needed disclosure to voters of their identities until AFTER an election. They do so simply by paper reporting the names and contributor amounts with the Secretary of State. The backlog of such filings virtually guarantees that the needed disclosures won't be forthcoming before an election. Moreover, these slate mailer groups also flout local election requirements for timely local reporting with no consequences. Requiring slate mailer organizations to report electronically would put an end to this practice.
2) Require disclosures that "voter guides" are commercial advertising, to be in bigger and bolder font and placed more prominently. The so-called "Voter Guides" put out by these slate mailer groups are manifestly deceptive in spite of existing rules. Voters should not be deceived into taking these guides to the polls believing that they are official political party guides. In Santa Monica, the voter guides put out by SMQG were widely believed to be official Democratic Voter Guides and were used at the polls.
Our group recently wrote to the FPPC urging these reforms. A copy of our April 6, 2011 letter is attached.
In sum, we urge the Committee to amend the bill to require that slate mailers electronically file their reports with the Secretary of State and to include provisions in the bill for voter guides that make the disclosure of lack of party affiliation clear, bold and prominent on every page.
Thank you for your time and attention to meaningful reform of slate mailer
requirements which goes to the heart of a fair democratic voting process.