On more than just local government

Friday, October 01, 2004

Finally, some real electoral reform

The redistricting of Legislative seats following the 2000 census was a demonstration of how far political parties will go to protect themselves and to demonstrate their disdain for the general public.

In California, redistricting is done by the Legislature and, with the approval of the Governor, creates the legislative map for the next ten years. With both the Legislature and the governorship in the hands of the Democrats in 2000, the Republicans had two choices to have any kind of say in the process. They could sue once the maps were released, or they could negotiate a plan in which all their present seats (and incumbents) were protected.

They chose the latter. The result of this has been the creation of primarily one party districts throughout the state. With this single party focus, the real election every two years occurs in the primary and not in November. Under present law, in primaries only party members can vote and turnout is usually low. Thus, the party faithful, usually more radical than the population as a whole, selects your representatives, not you.

On your November ballot are two propositions dealing with this, but only one represents real reform. Proposition 62 enables every voter, no matter what party they belong to, to vote for any candidate they wish. The top two vote getters in the primary will then face each other in the general election, no matter what party they come from. For example, two Republicans, one more moderate, one more conservative, or two Democrats, one more moderate and one more liberal, can face off in November, giving the voters a real choice rather than a rubber stamp.

This system has been in use for years in many cities and counties throughout California as well as in other states across the country. It has worked extremely well in bringing more moderate voices to legislative bodies. These voices are often silenced by the party-controlled primary system where extremism more likely prevails.

Proposition 60, placed on the ballot by the Legislature at the behest of the two major political parties, is a cynical means by which this status quo is maintained. It requires that, no matter how few votes they get in a primary, a member of every party is placed on the November ballot. In fact, the only reason this item is on the ballot is to confuse voters, since the process listed in the initiative is the same as already exists. No initiative was necessary to implement this system.

However, if both initiatives win and Proposition 60 gets more votes than 62, then the status quo is maintained.

With so many people becoming more and more fed up with the necessity of having to choose among the “lesser of two evils” every November, wouldn’t it be refreshing to actually have a choice you could vote for rather than against? Proposition 62 will lead us in that direction. Give it your consideration.