Let me get this straight:
Proposition 14 is based on the premise that primary voters are too partisan. or some other, similar complaint against primaries.
That’s why it was enacted into law by a primary vote, where fewer than 4 million of roughly 16 million registered voters showed up.
I know it’s a bit early for Californians, but if you’re going to have initiatives to reflect the “real will of the people”, why not at least hold them during the general election?
Used to really like California; San Francisco area, anyway. Now, it just seems to be awash in the ridiculous.
I just don’t see that proposition not being challenged in the court. What sort of circular idiocy came up with… oh wait, asked and answered.
Primary voters are too partisan? Really? The ones where you pick a party to vote for, when you have to register as a member of that party?
That is an excellent question, mistermix. Why are they holding any proposition elections during a primary vote? I don’t live in Cali, so I have no idea. But from everything I’ve read, direct democracy via proposition is total fail.
All kinds of bad initiatives become law in off-peak elections here. It’s a common trick. California’s initiative system has been giving the state a swirly for my entire life, starting with Prop 13 in 1980.
I understand that a similar law partially survived a legal challenge in some other state. But I don’t see how this isn’t unconstitutional on its face. I mean, where do citizens who are not registered members of a party get any right to dictate how the party holds its primaries or elections?
Much as I loved the bay area when I lived there the sheer nuttiness and the destructive side of CA politics as produced by the propositions is astounding.
As a member of a third party – although not living in CA – I’m seeing this as yet another way to effectively gut ANY attempt to expand voters ability to choose any option besides Democrat or Republican. Knock third parties all you like, but if you only have 2 options, you’d better not complain when they start looking identical. It’s well known that the Democrats and Republicans join together to keep out any other parties in most states – as well as the national presidential debates.
CA is sounding a bit like a game of ThreeMan that has gone on so long that the rules are becoming simply absurd.
Since it’s sponsored by a republican I figure it’s too partisan for republicans. But it kinda seems like the legislation will have the opposite effect: Republicans better take up more democratic-friendly positions if they don’t want every election featuring two democrats.
A better question is why any other state would ever allow voter initiatives after seeing how they have destroyed California’s ability to function.
CA is ungovernable any way. They have passed so many ‘bread and circus’ amendments that require spending & forbid taxing that there is no room for dealing with the economic crisis we have been suffering for the last decade. The fact that there are no adults screaming about the obvious suicide pact they have voted themselves into indicates to me that there is no chance this will get fixed before it gets very much worse. Does not matter who votes when.
And to think I used to want to move to CA. We have referenda on the ballot in PA, but rarely and never in a primary. Too few voters in a primary to get a true picture of the voters’ will. Just insane. Of course primary voters are partisan. That’s the point.
Ohio puts issues on the primary ballot. It increases the primary turnout. I don’t see how that’s a bad thing.
Nor do I see how primary voters are more partisan than general election voters. They’re still picking a side.
Bill E Pilgrim
Yeah, California used to be a really cool and interesting place but if they pass election rules that I don’t agree with, it must be a horrible place full of nothing but complete idiots and I’d never think of moving there.
Get a grip, guys.
It sounds like kind of a screwy decision, as is the 3/4 majority law that California has, but some of the comments already seem over the top. Said as a someone who grew up there. I mean, I’ve lived in states on the East coast too so er, sorry, screwy people can be found in abundance in any state in the union. Trust me.
There is a sizable number of voters who are not registered for either party. In many states, you have to be a registered member of a party to vote in that party’s primary. How does that not make them more partisan?
In fact, one could argue that putting ballot initiatives on a primary ballot effectively disenfranchises anyone who doesn’t want to belong to a party.
ETA: And let’s say that an “independent” wanted to vote on one of these initiatives. They would have to go to a party primary to vote, where they would immediately be registered as a member of that party.
It’s like when I was in Texas, in a part of the state where there was no Republican party to speak of (reconstruction-era politics FTW!), you had to vote in the Democratic primary just to get a say in who ran county government. And so, you were registered as a Democrat regardless of your actual political beliefs.
First, “decline to state” voters like me simply ask for a ballot for the party whose primary we’d like to vote in.
Second, even if one didn’t care enough to vote in a party’s primary, one can still vote for the nonpartisan offices and state and local propositions. So how is anyone disenfranchised?
I should add that I’m talking about California elections.
Ohio voters just amended their own constitution to cut out the legislature and turn food safety and “farm management” (environmental standards) over to an appointed board.
Issue 2, which passed, was an big-ag industry funded power grab.
There’s no appeal process on the appointed board’s decisions. Look for further degradation of ground water, and larger and larger factory farms. They’ve essentially cut out the Ohio EPA’s role in regulating agriculture.
“would have far-reaching powers to set standards for livestock and poultry care, food safety, supply and availability, disease prevention, farm management and animal well-being. It would have minimal legislative oversight.”
I’m not a fan of direct democracy. Fact is, these issues are complicated, and a slick advertising campaign and confusing ballot language is an absolute recipe for abuse by well-funded industry actors.
Anything that weakens the power of parties will be good for California. This may weaken and water down the Democratic Party, but if there is no way to break the discipline that the GOP holds over its elected members there will be no way to fix California.
Maybe we will get more wealthy vanity candidates. I would prefer more Bloombergs and Schwarzeneggers over Issas and Fiorinas any day.
I may not have worded my comment correctly. My point was that general election voters are just as partisan as primary voters — they’re all picking sides.
Anyway, in Ohio you can vote in a primary without declaring for a party. You can’t vote for any candidates, but you can still vote on the issues. Are there actually states that do not permit a set-up like this?
I recently heard that there’s now a drive to Constitutionally amend Issue 2. FWIW.
I’m tired of all this crapping up the Constitution. As if gambling weren’t bad enough! It wouldn’t be necessary in the first place if the legislature did their job.
The real will of the people: “Leave me alone with this!”
I think this proposition will make California a little more governable again. It might become a land of a thousand Dianne Feinsteins now since the jungle primary requires one to go for maximum centrist appeal. The out-wingnutting of the primary season will be gone. But the effect also shouldn’t be overestimated…
I think I better understand your first point, although I’d say that general election voters are still somewhat less “partisan,” unless they vote straight ticket.
However, going back to my example from Texas – which is not a hypothetical, btw – if you’re living in an area where the only candidates running for an office only run in one party, and would run unopposed in the general, you’re still screwed.
It’s all well and good to be able to vote on the issues only, but the officeholders are the ones who will make most of the major decisions.
Sorry to disagree with folks, but ballot initiatives should go on a general ballot in a general election. Period.
Primary voters are much more partisan than general election voters. There is no doubt about it.
One reason for why there is so few voters in a primary is that most voters who don’t care about politics, don’t even know that there is an election.
Well the Calif constitution merely requires that an initiative go on the ballot at the first statewide election occurring more than 131 after the measure qualifies, which could be a primary election, general election, or even a special election.
Proponents usually try to time the signature gathering and verifying process to coincide with the election they want, but it’s still a bit of a gamble. And sometimes their plans get really thrown off when a special election is called.
Oh, I couldn’t agree more. Issue 2 should be the textbook case against direct democracy. It was inspired by Humane Society plans to put an issue protecting livestock on the ballot. Big Ag saw an opening, scared farmers, and went all the way, and took themselves out of the oversight process. Just a screw up of massive proportions, and all inspired by dueling ballot initiatives.
The Ohio Constitution is a really liberal document. It was hugely influenced by Lefty religious (Methodists). It would never be ratified today. Too liberal!
The fall back position for liberals who don’t want to read and decipher the ballot language should be “if it amends the Ohio constitution, vote ‘no'”.
Any liberal is safe keeping the original language. It was a beautiful thing, as written.
Sorry, a statewide election occurring more than 131 days after the measure qualifies.
Couldn’t one argue that party primaries aren’t actually statewide elections, since you can’t vote for all candidates, but only candidates appearing on one party or another’s ballot, but merely opportunities for parties to select candidates for statewide election?
I realize this is a little bit of semantics, but treating party primaries as akin to statewide elections only entrenches the system we have.
I again say: ballot initiatives should only be placed on general election (amended: or special election) ballots. Keep the party primaries out of it.
ETA: And while we’re at it, get the parties to pay for their own damned primaries.
Kay @ 17 – I also was very unhappy to see Issue 2, setting up that farm board, pass — but IIRC, that went up for a vote last November. Which was an off-year admittedly, but it wasn’t a primary.
That said, groups in Ohio do tend to use the primaries for things like school, cultural organizations & health-related levies. They figure their ardent supporters will be sure to come out, and also count on those who might show up at a general election and vote against the levy on general anti-tax principle or just for the heck of it, forgetting to show up. This ploy often works. Since I generally support the sorts of things that use this tactic, it’s fine by me.
Yes, now people are whining about the implications of Issue 2. If they’d only read the language beforehand (though that implies an understanding of big words).
I’d argue the the real poster child against direct democracy is the casino issue. It was worded so specifically that we now have to pass Constitutional amendments to make changes for any number of things.
That sounds like the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which was just a legislative creation. Once established it operated largely outside of political control and accountability. After twenty years of efforts by a number of Governors, Deval Patrick finally killed the damn thing last year.
As I recall, it was an issue dealing with gay marriage that was thought to have won Ohio for Bush in 2004. Crafty Blackwell…
Because they use public resources and the government facilitates a primary election, the state gets all kinds of leeway in setting rules for primaries. If parties want more control, they need to use caucuses and run them themselves.
@arguingwithsignposts: In Texas, we don’t “register” as a member of a party. Our voter registration cards don’t have party ID on them. And we have open primaries. You can vote in whichever party’s primary you want to, just show up and vote in it. It’s true that they stamp your card “voted in the Democratic primary” or “voted in the Republican primary” when you vote in a primary because you can only vote in one. And the stamp gets you in to the post-primary party caucus where you can vote on the party platform, for party leadership, and in the case of the Democrats, additional delegates (the Texas Two-Step) etc. But it’s different from states where you have to register as a party member or as an independent or decline to state or whatever when you register to vote.
I have mixed feelings about the open primary system. Not having a party stated on your voter registration application form prevents this kind of mischief and encourages more participation in the primaries, I think. But I do think that a lot of dittoheads followed Limbaugh’s marching orders and showed up to vote in the 2008 Democratic primaries in an effort to get what he saw as the more “defeatable” (Hillary) candidate on the ballot in November.
Just running this scenario through the Massachusetts Senate race to replace Teddy Kennedy – We would have had a runoff between Coakley and Capuano, and Brown would have been knocked out even though he had most of the Republican votes. Capuano, the Democratic primary loser, had, IIRC, more than twice as many primary votes than Brown.
So if this system tends to favor a majority party when there is an open seat, it will definitely whittle down the field to the strongest opponent to go against an incumbent. Frankly, it sounds like an improvement on the status quo.
Edit- just found a source on wikipedia. Capuano had more primary votes than Brown, but not a lot more. If the primary had been open, that well might not be the case.
Thanks for the clarification. I never voted in a Republican primary because of the lack of Republicans where I lived. (yellow dog democrats, though, all of them). But I did get a stamp on my voter card. This was back in the early 90s though.
Right. The political term is “stealth levy” and I’m tempted by that too. I worked on one for the library.
But, I think the levy process is different than writing law, which is what ballot initiatives do. The process for funding schools etc. was drafted by the legislature, and all we’re doing is up or down on funding. That’s a mechanism, not a change in law. Our current school funding mechanism is unconstitutional under the state constitution (as you may know) and it fails because the original Ohio constitution was really, really liberal regarding education. Those founding Lefties again!
To me, voters should be immediately wary of any change in law that goes around process, because the Ohio constitution protects process, and they drafted it that way very deliberately. Initiatives approach this sort of dumb “mob rule” that I’m probably temperamentally geared not to trust. I have to read them line by line, and I look for words like “shall” (get around a judge’s discretion: warning! probably bad!). The whole approach is a sloppy shortcut.
They are considered statewide elections for purposes of the state constitution.
Great idea. But California voters rarely create the initiatives themselves anymore and don’t get to decide when to vote on them.
This last election, Prop 13 was written by the legislature (why they couldn’t simply pass a law instead is beyond me).
Prop 14 was Arnold Schwartzennegger’s pet project.
Prop 15 was sponsored by a state senator.
Prop 16, AKA the PG&E monopoly protection act, was written by PG&E.
And Prop 17 was written by the auto insurance industry.
Those groups don’t care if the initiatives reflect the real will of the people, they just want their bills to pass.
Now, I suppose we could write up an initiative to require all others be held during the general election, but who would fund the campaign for it?
I’m independent, but I rocked the GOP primary ballot.
This is just something else they have to try before we get a constitutional convention. There seemed to be some momentum for a bit, but then the money dried up. At some point it has to happen. Until then, more ballot initiatives.
CA is not the only broke-ass state. If you’re pointing a finger at CA, how do your state coffers look? Keep in mind better doesn’t necessarily mean good.
The next few years will be a lesson in limited state government & the politics of budget cuts for most everyone in the US.
I do believe one of the casualties of the recession will be the war on (some) drugs. That, at least, is good.
The motto of California for some time has been you can’t be too broke or too stupid.
And the majority seem to be proud of it.
Also, shitty public schools, too.
Because if God wanted you to have children he would have made you wealthy enough to send them to private school.
In response to your question, even though Prop 13 was written by the Legislature, it amends the state constitution, so must be approved by the voters.
Prop 15 was a legislative measure that amended the Political Reform Act of 1974, an initiative measure. So it is subject to the act’s requirement that any amendment to its provisions be approved by the voters.
And Prop 8 was also brought by various religious groups (Mormon and Catholic) and paid signature-takers (who cheated outrageously, with false explanations of what people were signing for and covering up the real petition with a more innocuous one (like a petition to fund cancer research) and just claiming that one needed to sign “both parts” (with the covered up petition being the Prop 8 one).
My problem with Prop 14, the open primaries initiative is how it’s not going to be a problem in the Karl Rove era of applied political ratfucking. Come on, Republicans, let’s get out the vote for Mickey Kaus! Sure, the Dems could have voted for Orly Taitz, which would be a nice tit for tat, but this is our fucking state, for God’s sake.
Following Jinchi’s comment above, Prop 14 was placed on the ballot by the state legislature as a payoff to Republican Senator Abel Maldondo in exchange for a vote in favor of a budget (California requires 2/3 to pass a budget, so the minority GOP basically controls the budget process). The blog Calitics has lots of background on the subject, such as this piece.
16 and 17 got on the ballot via petitions (most likely paid signature gatherers). Choosing a primary election for your proposition is a time-honored strategy to avoid the will of the people. PG&E and Mercury Insurance, the sponsors and potential benefactors of Prop 16 and 17, respectively, probably realized that the June primary would be heavy on Republicans, so they got it on the ballot then, so as to avoid the Democratic riff-raff that shows up during general elections.
The proposition system is totally broken, but I don’t know how it can be fixed — any reforms most likely need to be voted on by the public and then would be subject to vast pools of corporate money.
Perhaps that explains why both the Republicans and Democrats were against Proposition 14.
Oh wait a minute. What was your point again?
@arguingwithsignposts: Since we’ve had elections run *entirely* for the purpose of voting on ballot initiatives, your gonna have to bring a better game than that.
Been in CA since 1950. Have been voting since 1968 (or thereabouts). I cannot recall:
Care to be more specific? Granted that my personal history is so long and includes so many elections that you may be right but I do not think so.
Yeah, California is nuts.
Everyone in the fly over states should not come here – ever.
With Carly and Meg buying their respective primary wins and the scotus knocking down any restrictions on corporate money, Prop 14 is fairly terrifying. RoveCo’s shadow RNC is salivating no doubt.
As a Californian, I agree completely. There shouldn’t be referenda during primary elections. (Frankly, we shouldn’t have them at all, they’re completely fucking us and have been for decades.)
@bill: Yeah, my first thought went to “let’s spend a little money on a ringer whose entire job will be to smear the hell out of the incumbent/Democratic candidate/whoever” while the “real opponent” remains squeaky clean. With the proper application of sheer bullshit, the main candidate could be wiped out of the race with the ringer taking a well-paid dive, leaving the “real opponent” to face some weak third-stringer.
I thought that the Schwarzenegger amendment thingy a few months back was an election for a single initiative & nothing else – am I wrong about that?
I wish I could find the link to an post about the current state of the CA constitution. At the moment I don’t even remember which blog it was on but the gist of it was that the thing runs 150+ pages and has specific amendments dictating spending & forbidding taxes of various types or sizes. They excepted long bits & it was stunning to see the depth & detail. The point was the voters demand bread and circuses and nobody should have to pay for any of it. Because it is the constitution the leg can’t make changes when bad times hit.
Felanius Kootea (formerly Salt and freshly ground black people)
From the Maldonado piece linked to by meander:
Maldonado was the lone sane Republican who helped break the budget stalemate in CA. This ballot initiative was his reward.
You are absolutely correct. How soon we (meaning me) forget. The 2009 off-year special election for a series of ballot propositions put forth by Arnold and the Keystone Kops (the legislature).
It’s not legitimate to compare the vote totals in a Democratic primary to those in a Republican one and assume that they are comparable to the numbers each would have gotten if they had been on the same ballot. They aren’t the same election and they draw different groups of people. If all 3 had been on the same ballot, the numbers would have been completely different.
That’s why Brown won in the end, despite having received only 150,000 votes in his primary compared to the 300,000 votes Coakley received in hers.
I voted against Prop. 14 and am not happy to see it passed. The two biggest problems with it are that a) it limits the ballot to two candidates and b) their party affiliation might not be clear on the ballot (although it should be clear with basic research). Prop. 15 (public funding for some elections as a pilot program) would have been a better advance for more fair elections, but it failed.
Out here in CA, during every election, there’s an avalanche or ads for candidates and propositions. Typically, at least one side in every proposition battle stretches the truth or outright lies. It can get exhausting. The official voter guides are pretty good, listing arguments for and against each proposition and who’s backing and opposing them. Still, it means conscientious voters need to research all the damn things each time.
The idea behind ballot propositions wasn’t so bad, but in practice they haven’t been that good. Propositions only during general elections would probably be an improvement. The bigger problem with CA is the 2/3rds requirement to raise taxes. CA is a portrait of our federal Congress, except that the GOP have more tools for obstructionism.
As others have already pointed out, Prop 14 is not based on too much partisanship. It’s based on Abel Maldonado’s desire to receive more Hispanic votes without leaving the Republican party and sold on the basis of too much partisanship.
As for Maldonado being “sane”…? The reason — the only reason — he voted for the budget was so he could get this in exchange. That is not “sane.” If anything it makes him even more cynical and scummy than the rest of the CA GOP who’re at least willing to stand firm on their wingnut principles. A guy who goes, “Oh my god, the party I belong to is fucking nuts” and then arranges to sell his vote in a backroom deal to create an end-around said nuts without having to leave said party is not what I look at and call “sane” by any stretch.
@TomG: And yet in light of that fact both the CA GOP and CA Dems are opposed to this. That shows you how truly horrible an idea this was.
My only solace is imagining the wingnut primary voters who approved this 60/40 freaking wayyyyyyyyyy the fuck out when their choices in the next Senate general are Diane Feinstein and a Democrat to the left of Diane Feinstein. Even with that in mind though I’d gladly trade my pre-emptive schadenfreude for a return to the normal way of doing primaries.
“In fact, one could argue that putting ballot initiatives on a primary ballot effectively disenfranchises anyone who doesn’t want to belong to a party.”
One would be wrong in doing so, because in CA an unaffiliated voter receives a non-partisan primary ballot containing non-partisan offices ie. school board and clerk recorder-assessor. This also allows said voter to vote on any initiatives that’re on the primary ballot.