CA Governor Gavin Newsom Signs Three Key Bills to Prohibit Local Gerrymandering, Expand Election Day Registration and Set Campaign Contributions

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California Common Cause and its allies won several victories as Governor Gavin Newsom signed three key bills banning local gerrymandering, expanding state voting access and setting campaign contributions in city and county elections yesterday.

AB 849, the Fair Maps Act, authored by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, establishes local criteria for redistricting cities and counties and requires more public engagement. The bill prioritizes people by keeping neighborhoods and communities intact and, for the first time, prohibits partisan gerrymandering at the local level.

“Though California leads the nation in fair maps, gerrymandering is still a problem in our cities and counties,” said Rey Lopez-Calderon, executive director of California Common Cause. “In many places, local incumbents use the line-drawing process to disenfranchise growing ethnic and language minority communities, reduce the voting power of minority political parties, and even draw political opponents out of the district they were planning to run in. AB 849 will help end this discrimination and give the power to local voters to pick their politicians instead of politicians picking their voters.”

SB 72, authored by Senator Thomas Umberg, requires election day registration at all polling sites in California. Although the state has made great strides to reducing barriers to voting, 20 percent of residents are not registered to vote. SB 72 gives every eligible voter the chance to cast their ballot by mandating same-day registration at polling sites. California becomes the tenth and largest state to offer election day registration at polling sites following in the footsteps of Hawaii, Iowa, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Utah, Vermont and Wisconsin.

“Making election day registration available statewide will help increase voter turnout, close crucial voter participation gaps, and make our democracy reflect the people of California,” said Lopez-Calderon.

“By making election day registration available at every polling site in the state, SB 72 will increase voter engagement for eligible voters who are eager to cast a vote, but who were unable to register or update their registration by the deadline,” said Raúl Macías, a voting rights advocate with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Governor Newsom also signed AB 571, authored by Assemblymember Kevin Mullin, establishing campaign contribution limits of $4700 in city and county elections. This amount matches the limit on state campaign contributions. A 2016 Common Cause study found around 75 percent of California cities and countries do not have campaign contribution limits. Common Cause discovered some candidates for local office receiving six figure contributions.

“AB 571 will fix a big loophole in our campaign finance laws that allows wealthy special interests to give six-figure campaign contributions to city councilmembers,” said Lopez-Calderon. “Contribution limits force candidates to reach out to more of their neighbors to fund their campaigns, which promotes more representative and accountable officeholders. Candidates for local office should not be funded by just a few mega-contributions from the mega-wealthy.”

“Keeping big money out of local elections is a win for representative democracy and the people of California,” said Dora Rose, Deputy Director of the League of Women Voters of California. ”Setting a reasonable contribution limit puts the interests of ordinary Californians ahead of donors.”

AB 849 supporters include Asian Americans Advancing Justice, ACLU of California, California League of Conservation Voters, League of Women Voters of California, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Mi Familia Vota, Service Employees International Union and Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

SB 72 was sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), California Common Cause and the League of Women Voters of California.

AB 571 was supported by California Common Cause, the League of Women Voters of California and the California Clean Money Campaign.