The Bright Coast

Progressive Thoughts from San Diego Alums on Law, Politics, and Culture

Once Again, CA Voters Fail

Posted by demkid on May 20, 2009

Of course, last November we had Prop 8, where about 2% (500,000) of all California eligible voters made the difference in amending the consitution to take away rights from a segment of the state’s citizens.  Now, we have the defeats of Propositions 1A-1E, where another small portion (1-1.4 million) rejected important measures that would have helped the state in these economically troubling times.

Michael Finnegan has written a terrific little piece on California’s flawed initiative process, and why the state’s voters are partly to blame for the economic mess.  He states, “Nearly a century after the Progressive-era birth of the state’s ballot-measure system, it is clear that voters’ fickle commands, one proposition at a time, are a top contributor to paralysis in Sacramento.  And that, in turn, has helped cripple the capacity of the governor and Legislature to provide effective leadership to a state of more than 38 million people.”  Finnegan argues that California voters merely look at one measure at a time, when they should be looking at the bigger picture.  We have no problem voting for measures that increase spending on education, health, and transportation, but when it comes to freeing up money that was previously set aside for these programs, we drop the ball.  One thing’s for sure: California voters are quick to blame politicians who are in the best position to fix serious problems.  In fact, the only proposition that won yesterday was one that will freeze elected officials’ salaries in any year where the state is running a deficit.  Congrats, people…that’s sure to just wipe all of our problems away! 

What it really all boils down to, is that we want tons of stuff that we just can’t (or won’t) pay for, and when it comes to fixing problems that were a direct result of our own handiwork, we blame the politicians.  How can California survive with this stupid initiative process?  Do we really trust the knowledge of our fellow citizens more so than the representatives we elected to serve?  Why should important economic decisions be made by a handful of voters who have absolutely no idea what they’re voting on and can’t remember what they voted on in the past?  Just imagine the ballot-measure system on a national scale.  If similar California-approved measures were passed nationally by just a bare majority, this country would be seriously troubled.  Finnegan also mentions voter-approved term limits at the end of the article.  That’s really a topic for a completely different post, but I just want to say that I fully agree with the argument that term limits do far more harm than good.  It’s just another example of voters reducing the effectiveness of legislators to fix important problems facing this state.

California: An example of direct democracy gone haywire.

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One Response to “Once Again, CA Voters Fail”

  1. Matt said

    “Why should important economic decisions be made by a handful of voters who have absolutely no idea what they’re voting on and can’t remember what they voted on in the past?”

    To be fair to voters, their representatives have made every awful decision in the book. This led to the major increase in initiatives. Now representative and direct democracy have both failed.

    There is only one ballot initiative that needs to go to voters. The initiative to have a new constitution. If you have a chance, swing by an assemblyman’s office and pick up a copy. It is completely ridiculous and outdated.

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