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Notes on Yesterday’s Election

June 9, 2010

There weren’t many surprises in yesterday’s election, at least in terms of the actual primaries. Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina won, setting the stage for months of media discussions about the new trend of female former Silicon Valley CEO candidates. The big names – GOPer Abel Maldonado and Dem Gavin Newsom – won the primaries for Lieutenant Governor. SF DA Kamala Harris overcame Facebooker Chris Kelly’s $12 million campaign to secure the Democratic nomination for Attorney General while LA County DA Steve Cooley, probably the only victorious moderate Republican, won the Republican AG primary.

Although the tension had pretty much dissipated from those races, the ballot initiatives were up in the air.

  • Prop. 14, which will institute a top-two primary system, received about 60% of the vote. Proponents say it will lead to the election of moderates and consequently reduce legislative gridlock. I’m unconvinced, mainly because of this PPIC study.
  • Prop. 15, a clean elections pilot measure, failed. Publicly-funded elections would be a good thing – I’d say a great thing – but, considering the Supreme Court just blocked Arizona’s public financing program, this probably wouldn’t have gone anywhere.
  • The PG&E Monopoly Protection Act (Prop. 16) and the Mercury Insurance Consumer Abuse Facilitation Act (Prop. 17) both failed by narrow margins, despite leading in early returns and massive spending by the two companies.

Even though they didn’t pass, the top corporate-sponsored initiatives are nonetheless proof that California’s initiative process should be amended. About 4 million Californians voted yesterday. Should a company be able to essentially secure itself a constitutionally-mandated monopoly by the vote of about 5% of California’s population? Should the California Constitution be changed, for any reason, with the support of 5% of California’s population? I don’t think so. The system should be changed. Constitutional initiatives should be allowed on midterm or presidential general election ballots and a two-thirds vote should be required to enact them. Direct democracy isn’t inherently deleterious; it’s just deleterious, and dysfunctional, the way California does it.

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