Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Voting Sux!

Just for the record: I DID vote yesterday.

But, it pisses me off. And not because I think that ‘votes don’t count’ or that they are somehow ‘rigged.’ What bugs me most are two distinct (but related) issues…

First, there are all the court appointments that we had to vote on (in California, at least). What really bugs me is that there is no easy way to learn about the people are who may be appointed to judge. Who are these people? On my ballot, there were about 15 different court seats open for new Justices on the Supreme and Appellate Courts, with about 35 candidates who needed a “yes” or “no” vote to be elected.

Now, I actually sat down and read through all of the voters’ information guides that came in the mail. When it came to these candidates for judge-ship, there was NO information to be found. I did find a website ( that listed all of the candidates, each of whom had a dry ‘resume’ page. This tells you where they went to school, if they were in the military and specifics about jobs. But not who they are and what they stand for.

The voter’s guide says that these people are “nonpartisan.”

But what does that mean? These days—and especially in a state like California—there is a disturbing trend for judges to actually MAKE laws instead of interpreting and enforcing them. And the voters seem to like this idea. Therefore, I think the politics of these candidates should be made public and easy to determine.

It makes me want to vote “NO” for ALL of these candidates. How can I hire someone who I don’t know?

The second maddening thing about voting is all the Propositions and Ballot Measures (are they the same thing?).

Yesterday, Californians voted on 13 Propositions. Some involved with “Rebuilding California,” one about parental notification for minors to receive abortions, and the much-publicized “Prop 87” which deals with “New Energy.” Fun stuff like that.

Like everyone I know, I have been inundated with information about these Propositions. I don’t watch TV, but I’ve heard plenty of radio ads, received a ton of mailers arguing the pros and cons, listened to proponents and their opposition on talk radio, and even took part in a phone survey about “87.” My favorites are the recorded phone calls from Arnold. I personally received 4 with Arnold’s voice and maybe a dozen from others. One was from Clint Eastwood who wanted me to vote for his “buddy,” Tom McClintock (or was it Tony Strickland…?)

I read the descriptions of all the Propositions, I read the analysis, and all the arguments and rebuttals.

And I still had no idea what to do about them.

The problem is this: I am not qualified to determine the legal or fiscal ramifications of the proposed laws.

It isn’t even like you can just take a moral stand, because the issues, and more specifically, the methods of dealing with them, are not black & white.

For fun, I’ll make up my own Proposition, to make my point…

Lets say, for example, that fictitious “Proposition 5000”claims to “end racism without raising taxes” by selling bonds to raise money for groups to spend on education, or whatever. That sounds good, right? Who can argue with that? (Whoever does argue with that would probably be labeled as a ‘racist,’ but that’s a separate issue)

Still, I read through my imaginary voter’s guide, and try to comprehend the letter of the law. It seems reasonable. So, I move on and read the “Argument For Prop 5000,” which has been prepared by the group behind it: “Peoples Against Racism.” It is basically the advertisement; a nice mixture of hyperbole, fear-mongering and name-calling. Still, it sounds pretty good.

So, I read the rebuttal: “Nobody likes racism, but Prop 5000 is a sloppy piece of legislation that will do NOTHING to end racism! It was drafted by SPECIAL INTERESTS that can use the money at their own discretion! No Accountability! Misleading fine print! Phony reform! Et Cetera…”

Hmmm. That sounds good too. I hate racism, but what’s the point to spending money on something that won’t work? I continue reading…

“Argument Against Prop 5000” is a more fleshed-out version of the rebuttal. It is even more convincing. When I’m done, I’m sure that Prop 5000 is an insidious plot that will actually increase racism, raise my taxes, and doom the future of California for generations. Next is the rebuttal to this argument. It says, “ DON’T BE FOOLED BY SPECIAL INTERESTS! Opponents to Prop 5000 are pawns of big-business, the tobacco industry and big oil!” It then repeats the main selling points from before.

This example may seem hugely over-simplified, but I must say that ALL OF THE PROPOSITIONS, ARGUMENTS AND REBUTTALS READ EXACTLY LIKE THIS. How can one really make a decision about these issues based on these arguments? All one can do is make knee-jerk decisions. Maybe the best you can do is read from the list of who supports what Proposition, and try to align your vote with the supporters you recognize, if not trust.

I actually read all of the materials for the propositions on my ballot, and I can admit that I am clueless about which ones will actually WORK, which ones benefit only the groups that support them, which will raise taxes or cause legal loopholes. I can only assume that a huge majority of voters did NOT read all of the materials, and were therefore even less qualified than myself.

This makes me want to vote “NO,” to all propositions. And I did just that. So there.

What is the point of these measures anyway? Do they exist because our elected officials run into logjams trying to push through legislation of their own? Are these Propositions the only way to ‘get things done’ because putting the issues to the voters is the only way for government officials to circumvent opposition or partisan politics?

If that is the case, then I think it is ridiculous. All it does is put the decisions in the hands of more unqualified people, who, in any case, can be bullied by partisan politicians and interest groups who flood the media with ads.

Don’t get me wrong—I generally trust the American voter. I’m not saying people are stupid, but I do know that the average Joe & Jane are not qualified to interpret and understand the ramifications of these new laws. In any case, they probably never even read them. Personally, I think we should let our elected representatives make these decisions and give them the power to do the things we elect them for.

If you have anything to say about this, please comment. Maybe I’m just missing something. I ain’t no fancy-talkin’ college graduate, after all. Just a disgruntled citizen yappin’ on the blogosphere.

1 comment:

Sara Kocher said...

I've been promising a comment on this for about a week, sorry about the delay. I'd just hoped to have something pithier to say than this.

I love your Prop 5000 example. The Sec. of State could save time and hassle by just using your template. Oh wait, they already do. It's dead-on what EVERY prop looks like in the official voter guide.

And I feel your pain on the judges. The LA Weekly used to do recommendations on the judgeships complete with WHY they were or were not endorsing. I used their reasons to inform my own decisions...better than having nothing at all to go on. But this year, the Weekly didn't do endorsements at all, so no dice. I couldn't find anything meaningful on the judges (at least not from a source whose biases I knew).