There’s an election coming up November 7, and I was reading over the California ballot initiatives today during the lull at work. California has a unique system where — supposedly — California voters can get a law on the ballot if they get enough verified signatures. Unfortunately, it’s not really the voters that take advantage of this system. What happens is that interest groups and lobbying firms with a specific agenda dupe a few thousand people to signing a petition, sometimes paying them money to sign the petition, and thus a new law can be voted on!
For example, for just my local county there’s an initiative called “Measure A”. Measure A basically ammends Santa Clara county so there will be new zoning laws that prohibit too many houses to be built in set acreage of land. Now, this law was mostly written up by wealthy folks who don’t want to see their land decrease in value as new homes are being built in Santa Clara. Of course they pepper the law with some creative language such as “oh we’re trying to save the environment!” — whatever. When it boils down to it, this measure is purely about one thing — protecting a small minority’s real estate investment. Meanwhile Santa Clara county is still badly in need of new affordable homes (even with the housing slump). Yeah, fudge the rest of us.
I can definitely see why so many people don’t vote — it’s junk like this that tick people off when they find out what’s the reality behind so many of these propositions. Sometimes it works the other way, where a decent initiative is inundated with misinformation from the opposition, like Prop 87 which has the opposition creating quite a few myths about the way it works and what its meant to do. Of course, the opposition to this are the big energy companies, which don’t want to see their revenue taxed. Yet that fact is smudged when you attempt to find out who’s behind the opposition.
My point of all this is that it’s truly disparaging when you’re trying to be a responsible citizen. Either things are misleading, slimy, obtuse, or just plain too complex. The California ballot initiative system is truly broke. In the end I will still vote of course, and will always vote (and wish that people can come into the fray of voting!), but I definitely see why people are turned off by it.