Reporters Win Award

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A Pacific Sun reporting team won an award for their series on the intersections between business, media and politicians in the North Bay. Credit: Giorgio Trovato/Unsplash

Reporters at the Pacific Sun’s sister paper, the North Bay Bohemian, won recognition from the Society of Professional Journalists’ Northern California Chapter last week

Longtime Bohemian-contributor Peter Byrne and Bohemian news-reporter Will Carruthers were awarded the Society of Journalists Northern California’s James Madison Freedom of Information Award for the first two parts of “The Power Brokers” series, published by the Bohemian last year.

The series scrutinized the actions of the Rebuild North Bay Foundation, a PG&E-funded nonprofit founded by Darius Anderson, a lobbyist and owner of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and other North Bay newspapers.

“[Byrne and Carruthers’] reporting showed how the Rebuild North Bay Foundation had performed little or no relief work, instead funneling money to benefit a handful of prominent local businesspeople,” an SPJ NorCal press release states.

“Byrne and Carruthers did this work in the face of fierce pressure in a community where the major sources of news are now owned by the same lobbyist who established the foundation they investigated,” the release continues.

Find the first two parts of “The Power Brokers” series—Juiced, July 24, 2019 and Charity Case, Nov. 20, 2019—online at Bohemian.com.

The Fund for Investigative Journalism supports “The Power Brokers” series, which receives pro-bono legal assistance from attorneys at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Levine Proposes Compulsory Voting

Assemblymember Marc Levine last week proposed legislation to require all registered voters to participate in future elections.

The announcement came as the Iowa caucuses devolved into disaster and a month before Californians cast their votes in the 2020 presidential primaries.

“This is not a time to be complacent at the ballot box. My Assembly Bill 2070 will ensure that the voices of all California voters are heard loud and clear,” Assemblymember Levine said in a press release.

If passed, the legislation would move California in the direction of approximately 30 countries which currently have compulsory voting laws on the books. Those countries include Belgium, Argentina and Australia, according to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), an intergovernmental agency that studies voting and democracy.

The Secretary of State’s office would craft rules to “enforce civil remedies” to ensure participation, according to Levine’s press release.

While it sounds like a good idea, compulsory voting laws may pose problems of their own.

“It has been proved that forcing the population to vote results in an increased number of invalid and blank votes compared to countries that have no compulsory voting laws,” according to the International IDEA. Furthermore, in order to avoid fines for not voting, people might just not register to vote at all.

On the other hand, more voters may lead to a better, more robust political debate. In November 2008, a particularly high-turnout election, 79.4 percent of registered voters cast ballots but only 74.6 percent of eligible voters were registered to vote.

Levine’s bill would take effect in 2022.

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The Pacific Sun publishes every Wednesday, delivering 21,000 copies to 520 locations throughout Marin County.

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