(Last UPDATED 12/1/18) Recently the California General Election Official Voter Information Guide landed in my mailbox – all 224 pages. Yikes! I bet you pretty much had the same reaction when you received your Voter Information Guide in the mail.
Almost all of the 224 pages are devoted to the 17 state initiatives on the ballot. The remaining few pages are devoted to informing voters of their rights, and about voter registration, ways to vote, online resources, how to find your polling place, etc.
I have to admit that since retiring May 1st I have not been keeping as close an eye on the initiative process as I normally would have when I was working as a Sacramento lobbyist. I definitely have a lot of research to do so that I will be prepared to cast my ballot.
Yes, it is a chore – but one I feel is important given the potential impacts of passage or failure of an initiative.
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I know that surveys consistently show that voters like the ability to make public policy decisions – whether making new law or changing existing law – but the end result is not always what the voters intended.
The initiative process supports a variety of related businesses whose specialty is to help shape voter perceptions. A lot goes on behind the scenes.
Pollsters test the waters with varied concepts to get an idea of what resonates with likely voters. Next up – focus groups help refine the message or messages that have the most appeal. From there, using the data gathered, the initiative language is drafted or re-drafted. Depending on the amount of funding and time available, the process may be repeated in preparation of the campaign push.
The “yes” or “no” campaigns develop and utilize, as a result of the process outlined above, the “soundbites” most likely to catch the attention of voters and hopefully influence their vote. “Soundbites” and the actual language of the initiative may not have much in common.
In the initiative process, especially when there are competing initiatives, millions of dollars can be spent to influence how the electorate votes. It is not uncommon for a competing initiative to be aggressively pursued when in the end the supporters of the initiative are only too happy to have both fail. Mission accomplished.
Over time it has become clear that voters, faced with conflicting messages, tend to vote “no”. I admit, if I can’t make up my mind after doing my due diligence, that is what I do.
Clearly there are reforms that could or should be made to the initiative system. For my part, I have for 15+ years refused to sign any petition to put an initiative (no matter how worthy) on the ballot. The petition gatherers make a point of saying something to the effect “signing this will just give voters the chance to decide”. That may be true – but from my perspective the initiative process is not the ideal way to make important public policy decisions.
So, I will be sitting down soon to start my due diligence. I am a permanent vote-by-mail voter so I have some time – but not too much time given the number of initiatives – to get busy.
The following propositions are on the November 2016 ballot:
- Proposition 51. School Bonds. Funding for K-12 School and Community College Facilities.
- Proposition 52. Medi-Cal Hospital Fee Program.
- Proposition 53. Revenue Bonds. Statewide Voter Approval.
- Proposition 54. Legislature. Legislation and Proceedings.
- Proposition 55. Tax Extension to Fund Education and Healthcare.
- Proposition 56. Cigarette Tax to Fund Healthcare, Tobacco Use Prevention, Research, and Law Enforcement Initiative.
- Proposition 57. Criminal Sentences. Parole. Juvenile Criminal Proceedings and Sentencing.
- Proposition 58. English Proficiency. Multilingual Education.
- Proposition 59. Corporations. Political Spending. Federal Constitutional Protections. Legislative Advisory Question.
- Proposition 60. Proposition 60. Adult Films. Condoms. Health Requirements.
- Proposition 61. State Prescription Drug Purchases. Pricing Standards.
- Proposition 62. Death Penalty.
- Proposition 63. Firearms. Ammunition Sales.
- Proposition 64. Marijuana Legalization.
- Proposition 65. Carryout Bags. Charges.
- Proposition 66. Death Penalty. Procedures.
- Proposition 67. Ban on Single-Use Plastic Bags.
Want a bit of fun as you wade through the 17 initiatives and decide how you are going to vote? Check out the Proposition Song complements of the California Voter Foundation. (Updated 12/1/18 – Broken link removed).
Comments on the California Initiative Process?
What sources of information do you utilize to help determine your position of a particular initiative?
(UPDATED 12/18/2016) The California Secretary of State last week certified the November 2016 election results as follows:
- Proposition 51 – K-12 and Community College Facilities – Passed with 55.2% of the vote.
- Proposition 52 – Medi-Cal Hospital Fee Program – Passed with 70.1% of the vote.
- Proposition 53 – Voter Approval of Revenue Bonds – Failed with 49.4% of the vote.
- Proposition 54 – Legislative Procedure Requirements – Passed with 65.4% of the vote.
- Proposition 55 – Tax Extension for Education and Healthcare – Passed with 63.3% of the vote.
- Proposition 56 – Cigarette Tax – Passed with 64.4% of the vote.
- Proposition 57 – Criminal Sentences & Juvenile Crime Proceedings – Passed with 64.5% of the vote.
- Proposition 58 – English Proficiency. Multilingual Education – Passed with 73.5% of the vote.
- Proposition 59 – Corporate Political Spending Advisory Question – Passed with 53.2% of the vote.
- Proposition 60 – Adult Film Condom Requirements – Failed with 46.3% of the vote.
- Proposition 61 – State Prescription Drug Purchase Standards – Failed with 46.8% of the vote.
- Proposition 62 – Repeal of Death Penalty – Failed with 46.8% of the vote.
- Proposition 63 – Firearms and Ammunition Sales – Passed with 63.1% of the vote.
- Proposition 64 – Marijuana Legalization – Passed with 57.1% of the vote.
- Proposition 65 – Carryout Bag Charges – Failed with 46.1% of the vote.
- Proposition 66 – Death Penalty Procedure Time Limits – Passed with 51.1% of the vote.
- Proposition 67 – Ban on Single-use Plastic Bags – Passed with 53.3% of the vote.
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