Newsletter: Essential Politics: The biggest proposed change to California elections you’ve never heard about

There are few parts of the election day experience more familiar than the neighborhood polling place. And yet, in eight years’ time, thousands of those community centers, family garages and even laundromats may no longer play a role in California elections.

It could, instead, be voting by mail and one-stop election centers sprinkled around your community.

Good morning from the the state capital. I’m Sacramento Bureau Chief John Myers, and we’ll be watching an expected vote in the state Capitol today on a sweeping piece of election legislation of which you might not have heard much about.

In my story this morning, we examine how Senate Bill 450 would — if the counties embrace it — lead to most every California voter being mailed a ballot. That would include millions who these days cast their votes in a polling place. Instead, counties would open “vote centers,” one-stop locations for registering to vote, changing registration and, with a few voting booths, allow in-person voting even for some who live in a different city.


The bill’s fate remains to be seen. Supporters, including Secretary of State Alex Padilla, say it’s an overdue remedy for a voting experience that doesn’t hew to modern life. But while vote by mail is now hugely popular, some groups of Californians — especially Latino voters — haven’t embraced it.

It’s one of several big debates we’re watching in our bill tracker project for the end of the legislative session, which gavels to a close on Aug. 31.


President Obama travels today to flood-ravaged Louisiana to see conditions on the ground and to pledge the continued help of the federal government.

As in so many cases, there’s a strong political overlay on this natural disaster. Obama held off on a visit at first, a decision supported by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, but found himself the target of Donald Trump’s criticism for doing so.

Meantime, Hillary Clinton said Monday that she’ll visit “at a time when the presence of a political campaign will not disrupt the response.”


A conservative activist group, which had filed a lawsuit seeking Clinton’s emails from the State Department, released a new batch of documents that continue to show the complex relationship between the Democratic nominee’s official work as secretary of State and her family’s foundation.

And speaking of the foundation, Bill Clinton said on Monday that he’d leave the foundation he created if his wife is elected president.


Trump denied on Monday that he’s modifying his positions on illegal immigration, days after a BuzzFeed report suggested as much. Nonetheless, the GOP nominee has scrapped plans for a big immigration speech for later this week. One report said the speech’s content is still a work in progress.


Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers have a little more than a week to finish their work on new, and controversial, climate change policies for 2016. And reaching a deal involves a careful balancing act of who gets the final say over state regulations and how they’ll be targeted at helping low-income people who live in polluted areas of the state.

“It’s great to hear about saving polar bears and hugging trees, and making sure we address global warming from a world perspective,” said Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), who has authored one of the bills. “But how about people?”

We’ve been carefully following the debate over climate change in the statehouse and beyond. Check out our compilation for full coverage of the issue.


One of the most talked-about legal fights of the past two years, one that went to the heart of California’s long-standing legal protections of the teacher tenure system, quietly ended on Monday.

The California Supreme Court refused to take up Vergara vs. State of California, after the student plaintiffs lost in an appeals court back in April. Self-styled education reform groups had fashioned the case as a test of the rights of students to a fair education, while the state’s powerful teachers unions saw it as undoing a legal protection to being retaliation by school officials.

Few political watchers, though, believe this battle is anywhere near over.

And speaking of the state’s highest court, Maura Dolan examines how legal watchers say there’s a clear movement toward the left, most notably on death penalty cases.


— Trump’s selection of a far-right news organization’s executive to help lead his embattled presidential campaign was inevitable, say some watchers.

— Clinton kicked off a two-day swing through California with an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and a poke at the GOP talking points suggesting she has health problems. Kimmel played along, putting his hand on Clinton’s wrist to check her pulse and said, “Oh my God, there’s nothing there!”

— Two years after a bus deadly crash, the Assembly advanced a new safety standard for charter transportation operations on Monday.

— A bill to expand overtime pay for farmworkers cleared the state Senate as expected, but not without some hesitation by a few Democrats. Even so, the real showdown awaits it in the Assembly.

— A man who quietly shaped decades of California education policy, and once helped draft a plan to impeach former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, was applauded on Monday by the Legislature as he announced his retirement from the ranks of legislative staff.

— And as for Schwarzenegger: He tweeted a promo on Monday for his new role replacing Trump on “Celebrity Apprentice.”

— Two Californians — a neurosurgeon and an astrophysicist — will participate in the 2016-2017 White House Fellows Program.

— A plan to ease legal restrictions on so-called ballot selfies went to Gov. Brown’s desk on Monday.

— Pharmaceutical companies have contributed more than $16 million this month alone to oppose Prop. 61, a ballot measure that aims to limit the price the state pays for prescription drugs.

— The big overhaul of the state’s energy and gas regulator is starting to move its way to the governor’s desk.

— Legislative history, of sorts, was made in Sacramento on Monday: An Assembly member made her point during a bill debate by asking Siri a question on her iPhone.


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