Words can mean life or death for ballot measures, including a November one in Santa Ana

Column: Attorney threatens the city with legal action over noncitizen voting measure, but not for the reasons you might think

Officials are notorious for sticking their thumbs on the scales as Election Day approaches. But how much is too much? It’s a question Santa Ana officials might do well to ponder.

We’re not talking Venezuelan manipulation of voting machines or fake ballots stuffed in suitcases or other fantastical flights of fancy here. We’re talking about the comparably mundane use of language, and how officials crafting ballot measures (and titles and summaries) can bless, or curse, an idea with words and words alone.

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A rose is a …

Remember the Republican-backed attempt to repeal gas taxes in 2018?

Drivers hated the gas tax and registration fee hikes (which aimed to raise some $5 billion a year for much-needed infrastructure work), but officials loved them. Proposition 6 would have repealed them and, like all statewide ballot measures, it had to traverse officialdom before reaching the great unwashed masses at the ballot box. When the Attorney General’s office wrote the title and summary for the measure, it didn’t simply say “repeals recently enacted gas and diesel taxes and vehicle registration fees.” It said, “Eliminates Recently Enacted Road Repair and Transportation Funding by Repealing Revenues Dedicated for Those Purposes. Requires Any Measure to Enact Certain Vehicle Fuel Taxes and Vehicle Fees Be Submitted to and Approved by the Electorate.”

Huh? Prop. 6 failed.

And who can forget all those pension reform attempts?

s the cost of generous public worker retirements gobbled more and more of state and local budgets, reformers circulated some pretty logical plans to get future costs under control. These plans would not have impacted current public workers; only workers hired in the future. But you couldn’t tell that from the title and summary from the AG’s office.

“Reduces pension benefits for current and future public employees … including teachers, nurses, and peace officers ….”

TEACHERS, NURSES AND PEACE OFFICERS?! Reformers went ballistic, calling the language “provably false or grossly misleading” — but, well, here we are, sans pension reform.

Enter now the extremely interesting measure from the city of Santa Ana for the fall general election that raises all sorts of tremendous questions.

Who votes?

On Nov. 5, Santa Ana voters will decide if noncitizens will get to vote in city elections.

The measure says, “Shall the City of Santa Ana City Charter be amended to allow, by the November 2028 general municipal election, noncitizen City residents, including those who are taxpayers and parents, to vote in all City of Santa Ana municipal elections?”

A conservative Orange County attorney threatens legal action over this — but not for the noncitizen voting part.

“‘Taxpayers and parents?’” said Laguna Niguel attorney James V. Lacy, one eyebrow raised.

Which is to say, just as no decent human being would claw pensions away from righteous teachers and nurses and peace officers, who’s going to deny righteous taxpayers and parents the right to weigh in on local governance?

Of course, Lacy points out, the measure would also allow non-taxpayers and non-parents — which is to say, just about exactly everyone of legal voting age — the right to vote on local governance. So the words do nothing except try to tip the scales in the measure’s favor.

“That language is jimmying with the ballot,” Lacy said. “It’s election interference.”

If “taxpayers and parents” isn’t dropped from the measure, Lacy — who served in the Reagan administration and has filed similar suits before — will ask an Orange County Superior Court judge to step in.

We asked the Santa Ana folks their thoughts. City spokesman Paul Eakins said the city attorney’s office will be providing an impartial analysis of the ballot measure at a later date, and referred us to the city clerk’s website for more election information at www.santa-ana.org/elections/.

No idle threat

Lacy has worked in this space before.

A few years ago, voters in San Francisco amended the city’s charter to allow noncitizen parents and guardians of school-aged children to vote in school board elections. Lacy took the city to court, citing Article II, Section 2, of the California Constitution: “A United States Citizen 18 years of age and resident in this state may vote.”

The city violated the constitution by allowing non-U.S. citizens to vote, he argued. The court agreed.

But the city appealed, arguing that the state constitution doesn’t expressly say “only” U.S. citizens may vote and doesn’t prohibit expanding the electorate to noncitizens. You might recall that, once upon a time in America, women were denied the vote, as were Black Americans and “natives of China.”

It’s important that San Francisco is a “charter city” — operating under its own voter-approved set of rules and regulations — as opposed to a “general law city,” operating under the general laws of the state. The appeals court reversed the lower court and handed the city a victory.

“(W)e agree with the City that the plain language does not restrict the Legislature’s discretionary power to expand the electorate to noncitizens,” the appeals court said. “(I)t makes sense to confer on charter cities the authority to expand the electorate where, as here, the city’s voters determine that doing so would better serve local needs. Conversely, where a charter city’s electorate determines expanding the electorate would not serve its local needs, it need not do so.”

Down the road, Lacy fears Santa Ana’s measure would dilute the voting power of minority citizens, thus running afoul of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. Santa Ana is 77% Latino, 12% Asian, 9% White and 1% Black, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The overwhelming majority of noncitizens are presumed to be Latino.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

How Mass Mail-In Voting Changes Everything

When the emphasis in elections shifts from turning out conventional in-person voters to chasing mail-in ballots, we have entered a qualitatively different electoral world than the one we inhabited before.

ince 2020, elections have been under assault by a complex of leftist lawyers, nonprofits, and election activists as they attempt to implement schemes and introduce administrative changes that fundamentally transform the way elections are conducted.  

Most of these changes have been undertaken in the interest of promoting mass mail-in voting. The objective of mail-in voting activists is an electoral world in which polls, historical trends, economic issues, messaging, voter enthusiasm, candidate quality, traditional get-out-the-vote efforts, candidate debates, and voter persuasion no longer matter in elections.  

All that ultimately matters in mass mail-in voting states is the number of absentee ballots that can be distributed, harvested, and ultimately counted in local election offices by partisan election activists over the weeks and months preceding election day. Through the strategic expansion of mass mail-in voting, Democrats are creating a new urban based, activist driven electoral playing field where they alone can win.

The idea that mass mail-in voting expands general “voters rights” is not what it appears to be. Instead, the spread of mass mail-in voting since 2020 has greatly increased the political power of urban and university-based bloc voters, partisan election activists, and the many wealthy nonprofits that support them, such as the Center for Tech and Civic Life and the National Vote at Home Institute. Meanwhile, conventional, in-person suburban and rural voters see their votes diluted by a flood of questionable absentee ballots emanating from heavily Democratic cities and university towns.

It is important to understand the insidious logic of mass mail-in voting, as it systematically empowers Democratic Party insiders, big left-leaning nonprofits, and partisan election activists at the expense of conventional, individual voters. Elections based on mass mail-in voting are not normal “elections” as that term has been understood for the last century.

The Democrats’ use of mail-in ballots and ballot harvesting techniques to win elections burst into full view in 2020 with the Center for Tech and Civic Life’s $332 million COVID-19 Response Grant Program (“ZuckBucks”), which was aimed at gaining control of election offices in areas that were critical to Democrats in 2020 though large, “strings attached” CTCL grants.  

The bulk of that money was used to fund a sophisticated “inside” effort to mobilize the mail-in ballots of specific blocs of voters in order to benefit Democratic candidates. Large CTCL grant recipients were required by the terms of their grants to “encourage and increase absentee voting” mainly through providing “assistance” in absentee ballot completion and the installation of ballot drop boxes, and to “expand strategic voter education & outreach efforts, particularly to historically disenfranchised residents.”

The funding and direction of election administration by highly partisan, demonstrably ideological private actors was virtually unknown in the American political system before the 2020 election. 

Big CTCL money had nothing to do with traditional campaign finance, media buys, “dark money” advocacy, or other expenses that are related to increasingly expensive modern elections. It had to do with financing the takeover of election offices at the city and county level by partisan activists, and using those offices as a platform to implement preferred administrative practices, voting methods, ballot harvesting efforts, and data sharing agreements that were favorable to Democratic candidates. Many CTCL funded election offices then became launching pads for intensive multi-media outreach campaigns and precisely targeted, door-to-door voter turnout and mail-in ballot chasing efforts in densely populated urban areas packed with potential Democratic voters.

The explosion of mail-in voting in heavily Democratic urban enclaves in the swing States, fueled by big CTCL money, played a significant—if not a decisive—role in Joe Biden’s victory in 2020.

The most convincing theory of Democrat overperformance in the 2022 midterm election in the face of an objectively terrible political and economic environment is James E. Campbell’s “Breakwater Theory,” which focuses on the impact of mail-in “ballot mobilization” in key statewide races with lax mass mail-in voting rules. 

According to Campbell, the expected “Red Wave” of 2022 failed to materialize because Democrats concentrated their attention and resources on changing the rules and conducting “ballot mobilization” campaigns (a euphemism for mail-in ballot chasing and mail-in ballot harvesting) in a handful of states. 

Strategically, a small set of competitive states allowed [Democrats] to focus their resources and offered, through mail-in voting, performance-enhancing electoral rules conducive to well organized mobilization campaigns that could raise the turnout of Democratic votes in those states. That is just what it did.

The problem with this explanation is that “turnout”—as Campbell uses the term—does not mean “voter turnout” in the conventional sense, because the only people who “turn out” are the Democrat election activists who are chasing and mobilizing mail-in ballots. Handing off a mail-in ballot to a ballot harvester at one’s front door that has been filled out with the assistance of some third party is qualitatively different from going to a designated polling place and voting in person, yet these two dissimilar activities continue to be lumped together under the term “voter turnout.”

In the states that were targeted by Democratic election activists for mass mail-in ballot mobilization, the majority of Democratic voters stayed at home, and under circumstances prevailing before 2020, their “votes” would not have counted because they would not have voted.

It is important to understand that heavily funded mass mail-in “ballot harvesting,” and ballot canvassing, at a scale that is likely to have a significant impact on election results, will not be successful outside of densely populated areas where homogeneous, highly partisan voting ‘blocs’ can be identified. 

The logistical difficulties and expense of a mass mail-in ballot mobilization campaign in less densely populated areas with politically diverse populations would be prohibitive. This is why Republican attempts to replicate Democrats’ urban based ballot harvesting machines in other areas will be prone to expensive failure.

Deep blue urban areas and large universities, with their heavy concentrations of Democratic bloc voters, on the other hand, are perfect settings for successful ballot harvesting and canvassing efforts based on mail-in voting.

Politico’s Charlie Mahtesian and Madi Alexander inadvertently illustrate the growing impact of expanded mail-in voting and mail-in ballot “chasing” on statewide elections, as they describe the increasingly Democratic partisan lean of university students. The authors explain how large college towns, especially in states that have relaxed mail-in voting rules, such as Colorado, Michigan, and Wisconsin, have become “Republican-Killing Death Star[s].”

As Mark Graul, a Republican strategist who ran George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign in Wisconsin, put it: 

This is a really big deal….What Democrats are doing in Dane County [home of the University of Wisconsin] is truly making it impossible for Republicans to win a statewide race.

Mahtesian and Alexander are right about the leftist lean of college age voters, but their high powered, college town voter turnout operations are only made possible by an avalanche of mail-in ballots, and the presence of, well-funded, data driven election activists in university towns who know how to mobilize them.

Suburban and exurban areas, where voters of diverse party affiliation live in proximity to one another, or rural areas, where population is more widely dispersed, do not lend themselves to the mass distribution and harvesting of mail-in ballots for partisan purposes. This reduces the impact of conventional voters who live in these areas in statewide elections with mass mail-in voting. 

On the other hand, vast new powers flow to process-oriented election activists and the nonprofits that fund them. Since their power is based on the mass distribution and harvesting of mail-in ballots, the political impact of the geographically concentrated, partisan voting blocs they target also increases.

James E. Campbell notes something similar in considering the “unintended consequences” of the spread of mail in voting in 2022, and his observations are worth quoting at length:

As intended, [the move toward mass mail in voting in 2022] made voting more convenient for many voters, but it also unintentionally has made big mobilization operations much more possible and has made the “big money” funding these operations even more important than it had been. Although voters are unlikely to be aware of it, easy and early mail-in voting is at the expense of voters who care enough to expend some effort to vote by conventional means (emphasis added). Their votes are less important to election outcomes than before.

It is important to note that when the emphasis in elections shifts from motivating conventional voters to chasing mail-in ballots, we have entered a qualitatively different electoral world than the one we inhabited before.

There is a substantive difference between mail-in ballots and conventional votes, which means that there are fundamentally different election systems operating in parallel with one another to determine outcomes in many states. The most important difference is that mail-in ballot distribution and collection is far more susceptible to manipulation by outside influences than conventional votes cast at polling places.

In elections in which mail-in voting plays a decisive role, the initiative of election activists, tech firms, and the nonprofits of the Democrats’ Election-Industrial Complex play the dominant role in determining elections. Under conventional, in-person voting, it is the initiative and rational faculties of individual voters that drive election outcomes. This is a critically important distinction.

Elections won on the basis of mail-in voting and ballot harvesting tell us far more about the ingenuity and logistical efficiency of ballot harvesters and election activists, than about candidate quality, voter enthusiasm, voter policy preferences, and whether voters are persuaded by political messaging.

It is important to understand that there have been recent exceptions to the vote-by-mail “Republican Killing Death Star” rule, especially in states that have maintained more conservative voting rules. The principle that underlies those rules is that fair and secure elections must not be sacrificed on the altar of “convenience,” or an expansive conception of “voting rights” that envisions a bespoke voting experience tailored to the preferences of the most disengaged, apathetic “unlikely” voters in the general population.

States like Tennessee and Texas, which limit the use of mail-in ballots, greatly reduce the impact of Democrats’ mail-in ballot mobilization efforts on elections. In other words, the key to destroying the Republican killing “Democratic Deathstar” is to restrict the use of mail-in ballots to registered voters who have a legitimate reason for not voting in person.

Click here to read the full article in the American Conservative

Deep-Blue Santa Ana, California, May Give Voting Rights to Illegal Aliens

Voters in Santa Ana, California, a deep-blue city in Orange County, will soon decide whether or not to give local voting rights to potentially tens of thousands of foreign nationals, including illegal aliens.

Next year, during the November 5 election, voters in Santa Ana will be asked whether or not they want to approve giving the right to vote in municipal elections to foreign nationals, including illegal aliens, which would then go into effect by 2028.

According to the latest estimates, foreign nationals are nearly 25 percent of the resident population in Santa Ana. Potentially 60,000 illegal aliens reside in the city, parts of which voted 81 percent for President Joe Biden against former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

The measure is significant because local elections are often decided by very small margins where a few hundred votes can make or break a candidate. If voters approve the measure, Santa Ana would become yet another deep blue locality to afford local voting rights to foreign nationals, including illegal aliens.

Most recently, as Breitbart News reported, Democrats on the Boston, Massachusetts, city council introduced a plan that would extend local voting rights to foreign nationals living in the city who arrived on visas, green cards, and other forms of legal status.

Click here to read the full article in BreitbartCA

Voting group founded by Abrams, once led by Warnock, faces financial scrutiny

The New Georgia Project, a voting rights organization founded by the state’s Democratic star Stacey Abrams and overseen for more than two years by Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock, is beset by allegations of financial misuse and irregularities, according to a six-month POLITICO investigation.

The organization, which played a key role in registering the new voters necessary to turn Georgia from a red state to a swing state with two Democratic senators, is conducting its own internal probe into its finances in response to the claims of irregularities, one of its two board chairs, Frank Wilson, said.

The move comes as the group’s tax filings indicate that its former executive director — who was hand-picked by Abrams in 2014 but fired last year without notice — owes the organization thousands of dollars in “non-work-related” reimbursements. The former director, Nsé Ufot, who left the group last year after heading it for eight years, denies owing money and calls the allegation “a fucking lie.”

The debt attributed to Ufot — a nationally recognized leader in voting rights efforts and frequent political commentator — is one of multiple instances of poor financial record-keeping and allegations of misuse of funds uncovered by POLITICO. The New Georgia Project didn’t properly track company expenses that were allegedly prepaid to employees on Visa gift cards and failed to account for salary advances and other expenditures, according to a review of financial disclosures, internal documents and interviews with 12 current and former employees, including senior leadership. Most were granted anonymity to discuss sensitive internal matters.

The organization has also been fending off other administrative battles, including a state ethics investigation over whether its election advocacy violated rules limiting direct political activity by nonprofits, which it has sued to terminate, and a dispute with the IRS over payment of payroll taxes, which the group’s new CEO, Kendra Davenport Cotton, said has recently been settled.

Like similar nonprofits, the New Georgia Project operates under two federal tax designations — 501(c)3, which cannot engage in politics, and 501(c)4, which can devote up to half its work to politicking — but has one CEO and a common staff leadership.

Wilson, chair of the New Georgia Project Action Fund, its 501(c)4 arm, said the group is committed to rooting out any irregularities and tracking expenditures more closely.

“We’re going to do a forensic look at our records,” said Wilson, a civil rights activist and retiredscholar at Albany State University. “We’ll start at the beginning, and just lay it out, clean it up and redirect as necessary … so we’ll be in a position where anybody who will come — be it authorities, be it media, be it whomever — we will not be concerned about who looks at our records because we’ll have all our i’s dotted and t’s crossed. So I’m comfortable with that, you know, and I’ll almost welcome it.”

The organization’s troubles loom larger in the world of Democratic advocacy because of the intense national excitement generated by Abrams and her network, which audaciously set out to move one of the pillars of the Republican South into the Democratic column. Organizers and activists in other states have sought to emulate her success.

Abrams, who created the New Georgia Project in 2014 as an offshoot of another Abrams-founded nonprofit called Third Sector Development, declined to comment. Abrams hasn’t been part of the group’s leadership since 2017, when she began her first run for governor.

Warnock, who served as chair from 2017, when the group first registered as an independent 501(c)3, to January 2020, when he launched his first Senate campaign, did not respond to requests through his office for an interview. In a brief interview in the Senate subway, when asked whether he was aware of any mismanagement at the New Georgia Project, he said “not at all.”

After Abrams’ 2018 campaign for governor ended in a narrow defeat to current Gov. Brian Kemp, then the Georgia secretary of state, her forceful claims of voter suppression drew the attention of Democrats around the country. What followed was a huge influx of donations, many of them from out of state, intended to advance voting rights and voter registration. In fiscal year 2020, the New Georgia Project collected more than $36 million in donations to its two entities.

While the organization has built up political capital in the state among Democrats and a large volunteer base for canvassing and voter education events, behind the scenes there was often disarray, according to multiple former staffers. There was frequent turnover in the top finance role, allegations of money misspent or missing and complaints of inadequate tracking of expenditures. Ufot was fired at the start of 2022’s early voting period — ostensibly the group’s busiest moment.

“I went there all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but I’m disillusioned now,” recalled a former C-suite employee. “I got the assumption that it was driven by ego after the 2020 elections. That there was this: ‘We can do anything we want, look at how much money we got.’ … I think these things combined with no checks and balances, not having an operations department in place that is allowed to put in policies, procedures and safeguards — which is what I thought I was hired to do — and the rapid growth has just facilitated this.”

Ufot’s staff was notified of her firing on a Zoom call before she was told, she and other staff members said. Other resignations followed, including from the chief legal officer and chief communications officer. Then came a round of layoffs as executives in internal Signal group chats discussed the desperate need to ramp up donations. In October 2022, the head of HR told staffers on a Zoom call that the company could no longer afford to make payroll, according to a video of the call made by a participant.

Francys Johnson, board chair of the New Georgia Project,the 501(c)3 arm, and board treasurer of the New Georgia Project Action Fund, said the group is “taking all necessary steps” to secure the return of a $8,865 salary advance to Ufot that is detailed in the organization’s tax filings, which also identify $4,377 that Ufot allegedly owes its 501(c)4 branch.

Johnson, a noted Georgia civil rights attorney, acknowledged the organization has made “some mistakes,” but suggested the book-keeping problems and organizational issues stemmed from hiring people from underserved communities who had strong grass-roots ties but little management experience. He claimed the group’s critics have disrespect for the type of people on its staff.

“It goes back to people who disdain the kind of communities we serve and disdain the kind of people we seek to employ,” Johnson said. “They believe that we need to have a bunch of Northeastern educated folks who come down and freedom rides, we love to talk about that, and help them liberate the South, as if the South can’t help liberate itself. And so we hire people from community, we hire people who live on the margins, primarily because politics has failed them. And we have to deploy tactics that are not necessarily consistent to what POLITICO might have.”

“And in some instances, I will tell you that, you know, where we are aware of good intentions, but not nearly enough transparency, we’ve course-corrected for those things,” he added.

But multiple staff members said the recent turmoil at the New Georgia Project was only the outward expression of a climate of chaos that dated backto at least the 2018 midterm elections.

“What you saw was real, the people that were knocking doors and doing other things, incredible, incredible,” said another former high-level New Georgia Project employee. “The sad part is those are the people that were incredible. And they deserve better. The volunteers, the people that were on staff were absolutely incredible, believed in the mission, were the mission. It was a complete failure of leadership.”

The sense that New Georgia Project funds weren’t being appropriately tracked has long been a matter of internal concern. Regular turnover in the top finance manager role served to limit institutional knowledge and continuity on the budgeting side.

Management disarray was compounded by infighting. Multiple former employees claimed the organization had a toxic work environment that became unnecessarily stressful and fomented distrust between staffers. Frustrations often erupted in private Signal group chats.

Wilson, who said the ongoing internal review will look at finances and procedures dating back to the start of the organization,said he first heard of potential financial mismanagement when he received an anonymous tip that about $50,000 had been withdrawn from the organization’s accounts by a then-senior administrator who was serving as one of Ufot’s deputies prior to 2020.

“I had no reason to believe the rumors,” Wilson said. “I had gotten an anonymous call — and I don’t really know where it came from — saying that [the senior administrator] had taken money.” He added that the fact Ufot, as executive director, did not file any complaints against the administrator made him feel like he could forget about the tip.

The administrator denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of the alleged transactions. Nonetheless, the administrator was fired in 2019 by Ufot. POLITICO is not naming the administrator because they have not been formally accused of any offense.

“Definitely not talking about that,” Ufot said, when asked about the allegations. “[The administrator] left the New Georgia Project because [they] weren’t that great at [their] job. And that’s all I’m gonna say.”

Wilson said the administrator called him after their firing and expressed concern about what the allegations would mean for their future employment. He said he offered to be a job reference but hasn’t spoken to the person since.

The administrator declined to comment. Four former New Georgia Project employees said they had been told contemporaneously or after the fact that the administrator had withdrawn money from the organization without proper authorization, raising ongoing doubts about financial controls.

POLITICO obtained records from two Wells Fargo bank accounts controlled by the New Georgia Project, which had been turned over to the state Ethics Commission as part of its probe into possible violations of its tax status. The administrator’s name appears in the memo lines of the Wells Fargo bank accounts’ transactions, a copy of which was provided by the state to POLITICO in response to an open records request. There were 16 outgoing transactions totaling $57,693 from mid-2017 to mid-2019, matching the roughly $50,000 mentioned in the tip received by Wilson.

Current New Georgia Project leaders declined to answer questions about the administrator since the withdrawals occurred before their tenures.

“I don’t have any knowledge of that,” Cotton said, “And only a fool would speak on something that they have no direct understanding of.”

Johnson also declined to speak about it. “I don’t have any situational knowledge of that matter of fact,” he said.


Fallout from the Wells Fargo accounts continued after the former administrator was fired, and eventually led to the removal of the group’s chief financial officer and Ufot herself.

Ufot said she received multiple fraud alerts from the bank, flagging withdrawals that the bank deemed suspicious. At first, she said, she ignored them, but when they started coming “regularly” she alerted Randall Frazier, then the group’s CFO.

“So periodically when they come through, like, whatever,” Ufot said of the alerts, “but when they started coming through, like, regularly, I contacted our CFO, and was like, ‘Help me understand what is going on.’ And then he told me to call Wells Fargo and make the fraud claims. And that’s exactly what I did.”

However, Ufot said, she never officially filed the claims because “we started, and then they asked me a bunch of questions, and they wanted to shut the [company] cards down immediately, like, while I was making the claim.” She explained that others in the organization used these cards and she didn’t want to disrupt business operations without notice.

“We started to file and then I asked for a pause so that I could consult with our CFO,” she said.

Separately, New Georgia Project and New Georgia Project Action Fund, in both of their most recent 990 filings, are claiming that Ufot herself owes the organizations thousands of dollars from fiscal year 2021 for what Johnson said were “expenses that need to be reimbursed to the organization.”

The New Georgia Project reported that Ufot received a salary advance of $8,865 in 2021 that has not been “corrected” and New Georgia Project Action Fund noted that Ufot owed the 501(c)4 arm $4,377, according to the respective Schedule L sections of the 990 form.

Johnson said the organizationwas “discharging our fiduciary responsibilities as an organization. … My expectation is, is that will be resolved in the general course of business.”

Johnson said the $8,865 paid to Ufot was, in fact, not an advance, but represented non-business expenses. The New Georgia Project is taking “all necessary steps” to get paid back, he said.

In an interview with POLITICO, Ufot said she’s never used New Georgia Project funds inappropriately orfor personal expenses.

“This is also the subject of litigation and dispute — like, it’s the subject of an active dispute right now between me and NGP and their lawyers,” Ufot said. “It’s complete bullshit.”

Disputed spending from Ufot allegedly continued in 2022, according to two former employees and internal messages seen by POLITICO. These came in the form of Uber Eats, Apple, Hulu, Lyft and other expenses.

Ufot said that as a boss, she wouldn’t hold meetings without “food, music and child care” and that those expenses could account for some spending that current leaders consider questionable.

According to an internal memo in 2022 that was shown to POLITICO by a former administrator, the CFO, Frazier, had flagged withdrawals from the Wells Fargo accounts in emails to Ufot, other members of senior leadership and the two board chairs. Frazier also brought up other charges in 2021 as he was preparing to file the 2021 990 form to the IRS.

Shortly after he shared his concerns, on July 7, the then-chief legal officer, Aklima Khondoker, asked members of the organization’s C-Suite Signal group chat for information about Frazier’s job performance.

Khondoker wrote in the chat, which was shared with POLITICO by an administrator: “We need all emails, signal threads, texts, meeting notes, and the like concerning Randall’s performance. This would include anything related to his job as CFO, interactions with staff members, and anything that shows his lack of performance or insubordination … please feel free to send that over as soon as you can.”

Soon after, Frazier was fired by Ufot and asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement.

Khondoker, who has since resigned in the wake of Ufot’s own departure, said she couldn’t go into the details of anyone’s specific employment situation. But “more than anything, the organization did not have the right match for what it needed,” she said, referring to Frazier’s performance in the CFO role.

Johnson said the organization doesn’t speak about internal operations or personnel matters.


These disputes followed two fundraising boom years during which, former employees said, the New Georgia Project’s fast growth strained its guardrails.

In 2019, the New Georgia Project and New Georgia Project Action fund raised only $1.6 million and $1.8 million, respectively. But in 2020, the coffers ballooned to $24.5 million and $11.9 million for each organization. The organization also restructured in 2020, adding a host of C-suite employees. Ufot, who was already heading the organization, officially became CEO (with a $60,000 raise to roughly $187,000 per year), in addition to new hires CFO Chineava Georgia and then-COO Kendra Cotton, according to 2020 990 forms and LinkedIn accounts. In 2021— when the project was basking in the triumph of helping carry the state of Georgia for Democrat Joe Biden and elect two Democratic senators — fundraising dipped, but both arms took in $12.5 million and $3.6 million, respectively.

During this time of growth, multiple New Georgia Project employees said the board operated in a hands-off fashion.

Click here to read the full article in Politico

‘No Party Preference’ voters decline in California as political polarization increases, data shows

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — With the 2024 presidential election less than a year away, a new report from the California Secretary of State shows the changes happening with the state electorate.

The data shows that for the first time in years, the number of voters registered with “No Party Preference” is shrinking, while the numbers of both registered Republicans and Democrats have both grown since 2019.

“We always have to think about the fact that there are environmental factors like what’s happening in our culture, what’s on the news, what’s on social media. And then there’s mechanical factors,” said Paul Mitchell.

Mitchell is the vice president of Political Data Inc., a bipartisan voter data firm.

Mitchell says one of those mechanical aspects is the fact that California does a better job than most states in getting people registered to vote.

“California definitely, especially in 2018, made it much, much easier to register and much easier to stay registered,” he said.

Beyond that, Michell says increasing polarization in our society as a whole likely also contributes.

He says in recent years both parties have rallied their respective sides around issues like trans rights and abortion to drive voter turnout.

“It wasn’t just a flash in the pan that it happened just in the election immediately after the Dobbs decision, but it has extended to this midterm election and I would hazard a guess it’s going to extend to the 2024 election,” Mitchell said.

California voters aren’t alone either.

Across the country, polls have shown Americans are becoming increasingly partisan.

A trend that Mitchell says likely won’t reverse any time soon.

“Nationally, I think that the culture has gotten more partisan, especially around the presidential races,” Mitchell said.

Click here to read the full article in FoxNews11

Councilmembers Restart Conversation About Allowing Noncitizens to Vote in Santa Ana Elections

At least two Santa Ana councilmembers said they think local voters should decide if noncitizen residents in the city should be allowed to vote in local elections.

Noncitizen residents make up about 24% of Santa Ana’s population, and nearly 20% of Orange County’s noncitizen resident population lives in Santa Ana, city officials quoted from US Census Bureau statistics. Immigrant residents, including noncitizen residents, in Orange County contributed $10.5 billion in taxes in 2018, according to the American Immigration Council.

But noncitizens can’t vote for the local lawmakers who help set the policies affecting their everyday lives, councilmembers Johnathan Hernandez and Benjamin Vazquez said in requesting their City Council colleagues consider putting on the November 2024 ballot the question of allowing residents who are not U.S. citizens to vote in local elections. The City Council is set to decide at its Tuesday night meeting whether or not to direct city staff to look into the options.

“We know that the right to vote isn’t set in stone. It’s an open book and we’re fighting to push it forward,” Vazquez said during a press conference Tuesday afternoon before the meeting. “The founding fathers of this country could not have imagined a world where the Black community, (community) of color or women had the right to vote. We have won those rights. Now, we ask that you see immigrants for their humanity with the rights that give them a role in the government in which they live.”

At least two Santa Ana councilmembers said they think local voters should decide if noncitizen residents in the city should be allowed to vote in local elections.

Noncitizen residents make up about 24% of Santa Ana’s population, and nearly 20% of Orange County’s noncitizen resident population lives in Santa Ana, city officials quoted from US Census Bureau statistics. Immigrant residents, including noncitizen residents, in Orange County contributed $10.5 billion in taxes in 2018, according to the American Immigration Council.

But noncitizens can’t vote for the local lawmakers who help set the policies affecting their everyday lives, councilmembers Johnathan Hernandez and Benjamin Vazquez said in requesting their City Council colleagues consider putting on the November 2024 ballot the question of allowing residents who are not U.S. citizens to vote in local elections. The City Council is set to decide at its Tuesday night meeting whether or not to direct city staff to look into the options.

“We know that the right to vote isn’t set in stone. It’s an open book and we’re fighting to push it forward,” Vazquez said during a press conference Tuesday afternoon before the meeting. “The founding fathers of this country could not have imagined a world where the Black community, (community) of color or women had the right to vote. We have won those rights. Now, we ask that you see immigrants for their humanity with the rights that give them a role in the government in which they live.”

Now, the conversation “is not about whether the city of Santa Ana has the legal power to do it or not. Today is about whether they have the political will to do it,” said Carlos Perea, executive director at the Harbor Institute for Immigrant and Economic Justice, who participated at Tuesday’s press conference with the two councilmembers.

Santa Ana has already been a leader in protecting civil rights and its immigrant and refugee communities with recent policies and this would continue that momentum, Hernandez said.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Lacking U.S. Citizenship, These San Francisco Parents Are Excited To Vote Again

A court ruling has restored the right of noncitizen San Francisco parents to vote in local school board elections, giving them a say in their children’s education and reopening the door to a key democratic right previously only granted to U.S. citizens.

In 2018, San Francisco began to allow noncitizen parents or guardians with at least one minor child living in the city to vote in the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education elections.

However, after a few elections with a relatively small number of noncitizen participants, legal challenges ensued. A San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled the practice unconstitutional in 2022. The city appealed the ruling immediately.

A year later, the First District Court of Appeal sided with the city.

“Neither the plain language of the Constitution nor its history prohibits legislation expanding the electorate to noncitizens,” Justice Mark Simons wrote in the decision. “The relevant constitutional provisions authorizing home rule permit charter cities to implement such an expansion in local school board elections.”

Thrilled To Vote Again

Many noncitizen parents who voted in local school board elections before are excited about the news.

Amos Lim, a gay father originally from Singapore, said he’s relieved to see this latest ruling, especially since the new school year is starting soon. His child is about to begin the 10th grade.

“I hope this ruling will encourage more immigrant parents to vote,” Lim told The Standard. “Having a voice at the ballot box to decide the educational goals for my daughter is very important to me.”

The next school board election is scheduled for November 2024.

“We are public school parents,” said Angela Zhou, an immigrant from China and an activist during the 2022 school board recall. “Even though we are not U.S. citizens, we should not be silenced.”

As Zhou’s son will attend 12th grade at Galileo High School this coming school year, he will have graduated before the November 2024 school board election, meaning his parents will not be eligible to vote But Zhou’s still excited because many other Chinese American parents can weigh in.

Another well-known noncitizen parent is Siva Raj, an Indian immigrant who founded the school board recall campaign in 2022. He also voted for the first time last year after moving to the U.S. for more than a decade. Raj told The Standard that he’s glad to see the new ruling and “totally will vote again” next year.

China, Singapore and India do not recognize dual citizenship, which prompts many immigrants to remain green card holders in the U.S. instead of acquiring U.S. citizenship. Except for permanent residents, other noncitizens include visa holders, refugees and undocumented immigrants.

James Lacy, an attorney and conservative author from Orange County, is the leader behind the lawsuit that aims to overturn noncitizen voting.

In a statement to The Standard, he said the latest ruling denigrates the integrity of elections by devaluing citizenship as the key qualification for voting. He made an example saying foreign diplomats, like Chinese consulate staff members living in San Francisco, could be qualified to vote in local school board elections based on the ruling.

Click here to read the full article in the SF Standard

San Francisco Can Allow Noncitizen Voting in School Board Races, Court Rules

Noncitizen parents in San Francisco have a right to vote in local school board elections under a ballot measure approved by the city’s voters in 2016, a state appeals court ruled Tuesday. The ruling would also apply to a similar measure in Oakland endorsed by voters last November.

San Francisco’s Proposition N, the first such measure in the state, was approved by 54% of the voters in 2016 and took effect in 2018. It was ruled invalid in July 2022, however, by Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer, based on a provision of the state Constitution declaring that “a United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this State may vote.” Ulmer said the language prohibited state and local governments from allowing noncitizens to vote.

But the First District Court of Appeal said Tuesday that the “may vote” language did not restrict the authority of state or local governments — particularly charter cities like San Francisco, which have substantial powers of self-government — to expand voting rights. The court, following standard legal procedures, had put Ulmer’s ruling on hold and allowed noncitizen parents to vote in November’s election. 

“The history of home rule in the California Constitution demonstrates an intent to confer broad authority on charter cities over municipal affairs,” Justice Mark Simons wrote in the 3-0 ruling. “It makes sense to confer on charter cities the authority to expand the electorate where, as here, the city’s voters determine that doing so would better serve local needs.”

California’s 125 charter cities also include Oakland, where 66% of the voters approved Measure S in November, authorizing the City Council to approve voting by noncitizen parents or guardians in school elections.  

Tuesday’s ruling is “a wonderful victory for immigrant parents, who can continue to exercise their right to vote in San Francisco school board elections,” City Attorney David Chiu said in a statement. “When more parents have a voice in the direction of our schools, it leads to better outcomes for all students and communities.”

Both measures are being challenged by the United States Justice Foundation, a conservative nonprofit. Its founder attorney James Lacy, said Tuesday his organization might appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court but was more interested in raising the issue in federal court with arguments that noncitizen voting dilutes the votes of U.S. citizens.

“I can’t imagine that the founders of our Constitution expected that employees of the Chinese embassy in San Francisco … would have an equal right to vote with the citizens of San Francisco on the school board,” Lacy said. In the meantime, he said, his group will sue any other city in California that allows noncitizen voting.

In response to the vote-dilution argument, the appeals court said San Francisco voters “could reasonably find that extending the franchise to noncitizen parents or guardians of school-age children will increase parental involvement in schools, which will in turn improve educational outcomes.”

Tuesday’s ruling, if it becomes final, will be binding on all Superior Courts in the state, although other appellate courts could reach different conclusions.

Lacy’s organization also argued that the state Supreme Court had disapproved of noncitizen voting in a unanimous 1898 ruling overturning a state law that would have expanded voting rights. The court said state lawmakers were attempting to extend voting rights “to certain classes of citizens outside of those classes mentioned in the constitution. If the legislature has such power, it could extend the right to aliens, to minors, to women. It has no such power.” 

That language, including its reference to “aliens,” “reflects neither a thorough analysis nor compelling logic” and does not apply to the current case, the appeals court said.

Simons also noted that a 1926 amendment to the state Constitution, repealed in 1972, prohibited the Legislature from granting voting rights to noncitizens, such as Chinese immigrants, who were then ineligible to become U.S. citizens.

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

California Has Made Voting Easier, But Regular Voters Still Skew White and Old, Poll Finds

Voting in California has never been easier.

Eligible residents can get help in 10 languages. Ballots are sent to registered voters’ homes. They have a month to drop a ballot off in boxes around their municipality. That’s on top of multiple days of voting in person and the ability to register to vote up until the last minute.

Despite all that, the people who vote most often remain older, whiter and wealthier than most Californians, according to a new survey from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies.

Just under 4 in 10 of the state’s registered voters are what Berkeley defined as regular voters — those who have cast ballots in at least five of the last seven statewide elections. Berkeley researchers determined the frequency of voting by verifying the voter histories of more than 6,000 registered voters whom they surveyed.

That pool of regular voters is 71% white, a share that is significantly larger than the white share of registered voters. Latinos, at 14%, were underrepresented among regular voters. Those frequent voters were also disproportionately over the age of 50.

Roughly another 4 in 10 registered voters are either infrequent voters — those who have voted only once or twice in the last seven elections — or people who haven’t voted at all despite being registered. That group is about one-third white but about 40% Latino.

Infrequent voters are also much more likely to be young, to be renters and to be unmarried, Berkeley found.

Registered voters who identified as Asian or Pacific Islanders were also more likely to be infrequent voters or to not have cast a ballot in the last seven elections.

Black voters were represented about equally in each group.

Asked why they didn’t vote more often, registered voters who cast ballots infrequently or never cited a lack of information or interest. About 3 in 10 said they didn’t know enough about the candidates or the issues to vote. A similar share said they were “not that interested” in the contests.

About 1 in 4 registered voters who didn’t vote frequently or hadn’t voted at all said they felt their vote didn’t matter much or that no matter how they voted, special interests and big money controlled politics.

Fewer than 1 in 10 said that voting was inconvenient or confusing.

By contrast, those who vote regularly said they did so to “stand up for the candidates and issues I believe are important” (65%), “to influence the direction of state and local government” (64%), or because voting is “an important civic duty” (62%).

The poll results “dramatize the differences that we knew existed. The differences are just profound. … It’s two very different worlds,” said Berkeley IGS poll director Mark DiCamillo.

“The state has invested in trying to make voting easier. That’s what the state is doing when it’s sending out ballots early,” DiCamillo added.

“What still needs to happen is the communication of the value of voting to voters. And that’s the task ahead.”

The prospect of Latino voters coming to the polls in numbers proportional to their 40% share of the state’s population and transforming local and state races has tantalized activists and analysts for years. But it has not come to pass.

The latest example came last year when Rick Caruso ran for Los Angeles mayor.

Part of his strategy rested on the idea that he could engage working-class Latino voters with an army of paid door-knockers and messages about public safety, corruption and homelessness.

Polls showed that those issues potentially could mobilize voters, and Caruso’s large fortune gave him tens of millions of dollars to spend on televised advertising to drive home his message.

Nonetheless, turnout lagged in neighborhoods that were majority Latino, one reason Caruso lost the race to then-Rep. Karen Bass by 10 points. 

California has been relatively successful in getting people registered to vote. The state has just under 22 million registered voters, 82.3% of the eligible population, according to the most recent statistics from the secretary of state’s office. A decade ago, 76% of the eligible population was registered, and a decade before that, 69%.

California’s level of registered voters is significantly higher than the nationwide average, which was 69% in 2022, according to the Census Bureau.

But the state has lagged in actual voter turnout.

In the 2022 midterm elections, California’s turnout was 43% of the voter-eligible population, which ranked the state 35th in the country, according to statistics compiled by the U.S. Elections Project, based at the University of Florida.

The state’s efforts to increase voter participation have included a law adopted in 2021 requiring that every voter be mailed a ballot.

A large majority of registered voters, 63%, say voting is easier now that ballots are sent a month before election day, the Berkeley poll found. Just 27% said the new law had caused no change in the ease of voting, and 4% said voting was harder.

Reflecting the partisan division nationwide over voting, 77% of Democrats said that it’s now easier to vote, while among Republicans, 36% said so and 49% said the law had not changed how easy it is to vote.

About two-thirds of registered voters said they thought it was the state’s responsibility to expand voter outreach among underrepresented groups. About the same number of registered voters said they’d back devoting more state money to this mission.

Candidates for statewide office next year — including in the race to replace Sen. Dianne Feinstein — have already emphasized the importance of turning out voters who have either been ignored or are not in parts of the state that receive as much attention.

Political consultants in California say, however, that it’s a tall order to engage and excite potential voters who are less well off and are concerned with the tasks of getting through the day.

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times

Incarcerated Californians Could Vote from Prison Under Proposed Constitutional Amendment

Incarcerated Californians would be allowed to vote from prison under a proposed constitutional amendment announced Tuesday.

The proposal by Assembly Member Isaac Bryan, D-Los Angeles, would let people vote while they are serving a prison sentence. If two-thirds of lawmakers in both chambers of the Legislature approve the proposal, it would go to voters, who would decide whether to change the law. A majority of voters would need to approve the amendment for it to become law. 

“It’s the right thing to do,” Bryan wrote on Twitter. “All of the data shows that voting reduces recidivism and increases the community connectivity for people upon release.”

He also noted that nearly 10,000 veterans are incarcerated in California, and argued that they should be allowed to vote after fighting for their country. Veterans are more likely to become incarcerated than the general public, he said.

California already allows felons who have completed their prison sentence to vote. Three years ago, California voters approved a ballot measure to let people on parole vote, too. Bryan’s proposal, ACA4, would expand that right to people in prison. 

More than 90,000 adults are currently incarcerated in California state prisons, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

If passed, California would join Maine and Vermont in allowing prisoners to vote.

The measure could face a significant hurdle in the Legislature, even though Democrats hold supermajorities in both chambers. In 2019, lawmakers passed the proposed amendment allowing parolees to vote by only narrow margins. When it went before voters in the 2020 election, it passed the needed 50% threshold by a wider margin, winning about 59% of the vote.

ACA4 has not yet been assigned to a committee. 

Bryan chairs the Assembly’s elections committee. The Republican who serves as vice chair has already come out against the measure.

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle