Yet Another Election Day Eve


Just a friendly reminder that tomorrow is, indeed, another Election Day here in California. Depending on where you live, you’ll be faced with a slate of statewide ballot initiatives, some local measures, and possibly even a candidate or two for public office.

Still don’t know where to vote or – if you’ve been doing your best ostrich impression to avoid the never-ending roll of campaign commercials – on what you’ll be voting? Check out the Secretary of State website where you can find the language of all statewide measures, the official pro/con arguments for each, and your polling place (which in many counties may be different for this election because they’ve been combined to conserve costs, so far estimated to be betwee $40 and $80 million dollars).

If you’re in the mood to advocate for or against any particular measure, all campaigns will be glad to have your help today and tomorrow as they engage in what’s known as GOTV efforts (GOTV = Get Out The Vote).

I happen to be firmly on the No side of pretty much everything on the statewide ballot – as are most Democrats. If you share the idea that this Special Election is an ill-conceived folly and a threat to representative government, you might want to vote No as well. On everything. And staying home doesn’t count as a “No” vote. There are a lot of well-publicized fights out there and then there’s the oddly quiet Proposition 73 which requires parental notification before teen girls can abort an unwanted pregnancy. It also defines some terms that could sneak up and smack pro-choice types sqaurely in the face if they let this measure pass.

If you want to GOTV against the governor’s agenda, check out the California Democratic Party website and check out the links under the heading “Get Involved.”

If your a don’t-love-the-Democratic-Party type, check out the Alliance for a Better California, a related effort made up of a coalition of party, labor, and other progressive activists.

At the very least – please remember to vote tomorrow . . . and drag some friends and family members with you. Remember, if you get any static at the polls (they can’t find your name on the rolls, etc), you always have the right to cast a provisional ballot. And if you requested an absentee ballot but forgot to mail it back, most counties will accept the absentee ballot at any polling place within the county (check your absentee ballot materials or google up your local county registrar/recorder).

Happy Voting!

4 Comments so far

  1. Josh Trevino (unregistered) on November 8th, 2005 @ 11:27 am

    “A threat to representative government”? How so?

  2. cd (unregistered) on November 8th, 2005 @ 12:25 pm

    Glad you asked Josh – though be warned, you’ve now opened the door for me to wonk out in a way I usually reserve for my own blog.

    As I’m sure you recall from your high school civics class, the Greeks experimented with direct democracy and realized that it flopped when the population exercising it grew beyond, oh, let’s say 7 people or so. Any true majority view ran the very real risk of getting lost in the white noise of everyone having a literal, direct say in running the state. So they had to get a bit creative with how they ran things. Compressing and mutilating years of political history gets us to the representative democracy. A republic. The form of government guaranteed to us in the Federal constitution and the term that best describes our current system of government (sorta).

    The idea is that – see, we’re all busy people who’d like to spend more time enjoying the guarantees of freedom, life, liberty, etc, than we would like to spend enacting the laws that guarantee it. So we elect people to take care of it for us – endowing in them our unalienable rights, etc [cue “1776” songs here].

    In California, we have 3 branches of government: legislative, executive, and judicial. The representative branch of government is the legislative branch. The executive branch is supposed to execute the laws written and passed by the legislators, and the judicial branch is there to hash out what the hell the first one said and how the second one got it right/wrong/took a walk/etc.

    But in 1911, under the corrupt, unbearable influence of greedy railroad dudes, Californians said “enough” and gave themselves the rights of initative, referendum, and recall. Ah the Progressives . . . . Hiram Johnson, the governor at the time, is the historic architect of the 3 powers and if you have a problem with the consequences of his reforms (ie: the 2003 recall and subsequent selection of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the unending California election season), you can visit his grave and have words with him – he’s buring in Colma (file that under slightly useful local trivia for your next pub quiz emergency).

    So now, what have we got? We have a branch 2 dude (that’s Arnold) talking about how’s going to do branch 1’s job by taking legislation straight to the people via the initiative process, removing our representatives from the process altogether. The practical effect is that most voters learn what they can from 30 second, absurd television ads and a few ballot pamphlet paragraphs, if they haven’t already thrown it out come Election Day.

    More practical effect: anyone with a few million dollars can qualify ANYTHING for the ballot. The courts don’t have the power to say “yo, dude, you wrote that wrong/into the wrong section of the code/it’s stupid/etc” – their power to pre-adjudicate ballot measures is highly limited to a few issues (single-subject rule; prohibition on revisions, etc).

    More reality? There’s a term in political science known as “drop-off.” That describes what happens when people drawn to the poll for the top of the ticket (Presidential elections, etc) give up on the rest of the ballot because it either stretches on too long, they don’t know as much about everything else on there, or they just don’t care. This is their right as voters, of course, but it undermines the idea that ballot measure are “The Voice of The People.” They are more likely The Voice Of Well-Funded Interests Who Could Get Their Targeted Language On The Ballot And Run Enough Ads To Convince People To Stick Around Long Enough To Vote Their Way.

    This election, featuring very few candidates, will play out a bit differently – but in the normal course of things, the butchered “direct democracy” idea doesn’t bear out and usually serves to hamstring our elected representatives to the point that they can’t legislate effectively. Which in turn makes the well-funded types or others antsy. Which makes them run more initiatives, which makes the legislators look like they aren’t doing anything . . .Rince. Repeat. Dizzy yet?

    Now – there are some – some – things that might need to go directly to voters. And those things are provided for in the State Constitution. But we’ve mucked up that bad boy too. If you haven’t read it – take a moment to marvel at its girth:

    Little of what Arnold is trying to pass was fully cooked by the time it landed on the ballot. For instance, my personal preference is for redistricting reform – the sooner, the better. Except not the way Ted Costa wrote it. He botched it. Bad. And Arnold’s threats of “if you don’t do it, i’ll go to the ballot box” aren’t really the best way to start meaningful deliberation about needed reforms. He wanted to blow up boxes, but all he’s really terminating is representative government by removing the representatives as often as he can.

    I elect legislators to legislate. I don’t elect the governor to legislate. I certainly didn’t vote for the recall or Arnold, but even if I had, I would not – and do not – favor any governor who’s main selling point is “vote for me so I can get rid of that pesky first branch of government.”

    So I voted No on everything today because I completely disagree with the motivations for this election and I want today’s results to send a message that Californians are smart enough to protect they form of government guaranteed to them by the United States Constitution and given them by their own State Constitution.

    There. I have wonked.

  3. Josh Trevino (unregistered) on November 12th, 2005 @ 5:28 pm

    Indeed you did. It’s moot now, I suppose, since it’s all over and was generally a bloodbath for anything I wanted passed (ie, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, and 78); but I do agree that as a rule of thumb, referenda are terrible ideas.

  4. cd (unregistered) on November 13th, 2005 @ 8:38 pm

    I don’t think it’s moot necessarily. Someone else could call the same kind of boneheaded special election in the future – so the overarching discussion is still valuable.

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