My mail-in ballot has arrived. Now I can participate in a historic election without having to wait until November 3rd and waiting in line at a polling booth, which is what I have done in the past elections.
The ballot is not just a simple document listing choice for President and Vice President, but five pages of multiple people and items to be voted on. This is the participative democracy in action.
I skip pages 1–4 in my first reading of the ballot and go to Page 5, the most important one. I am given a choice to select not just between the two well-known opponents in the Presidential election but among several. Standing in the election are the Republican and Democratic candidates, but also those from The Green party, The Libertarian Party, The Peace and Freedom Party, and The American Independent party. The last pair intrigues me; the candidate Roque “Rocky” de La Fuente Guerra for President and Kanye West as Vice President. Just imagine they getting elected. Then, if something were to happen to Rocky, Kanye West would be our President and Kim Kardashian, the first lady. Wouldn’t that be interesting? On the other hand, when I think about it, that wouldn’t be worse than the current situation. May be even better.
Next, I start from the front of the ballot. The choices are neatly arranged according to levels — -City/Local, County, and State. Being new to this area, I know almost nothing about most of the candidates in City/Local level except for our Congressman. The representative of the 28th district is none other than Adam Schiff. In addition to him, I can claim some familiarity with our mayor. He knocked on our door a few months ago, soliciting our vote. However, I know next to nothing about the candidates who are standing for the State Senate and State Assembly.
Things get more complex when I come to the County candidates. I need to vote for District Attorney, and three judges for the superior court. Yes, I have seen ads on TV. If I vote for one of the DA candidates, I am told that hell will break lose. There will be riots on the street and the attorney will do nothing. She is supposed to be the meanest person on earth. No such ads for the judges.
Now wait. A few days ago, I had received a thick packet from the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk (whoever that is) with candidate statements & measures. When I read about the candidates, they all promise to work for me and assure that heaven on earth will be created by their tireless activities.
Intermingled with the candidates are “measures” on which voters are supposed to vote as “for” or “against” each measure. Californians are experts at introducing measures. This time, we have two measures at the city/local level, one at the county level, and twelve at the state level. Yes, twelve. They are literally all over the map, from County measure “J” — — Community investment and alternatives to incarceration minimum county budget allocation — — to State Measure 24 which seeks to amend consumer privacy laws, initiative statute.
I have a choice to vote yes for all measures, or no, and be a bad citizen, or read up on each one — what it is about, and make an educated choice. The packet that arrived before the ballot has the full text of ballot measures and pro and con arguments. The full text of Measure “O” runs to more than eight pages of double column densely packed information. Besides some bureaucrat saying that “we informed citizens about what the measure was all about,” and thereby reduce the likelihood of being sued by the defeated party, I don’t see what purpose the descriptions serve. I may not have time to read them or ability to comprehend.
Of course, once again, I can watch the TV ads. One projects of images of patients who claim that they all will die if a specific measure is passed. An ad for another measure mentions that untold hardship awaits a huge segment of the society if that one is not given the nod.
I wonder what is wrong with this picture.
How will an average citizen be able to weigh pros and cons of each proposition and decide what is good for the society? Most of them will have the “other” side, increasing deficit, or bringing hardship to some segment of the society while benefiting others. Don’t we elect representatives to make tough decisions such as those presented by these measures? What is their job? To get elected and then worry about re-election?
Also, I am, or should be, familiar with some of the local and state representatives, but how will I know the rest? As I mentioned, some of them have provided statements in the packet that I got. Are those sufficient for me to make an informed selection? Or, should I rely on the TV spots where each one gets trashed?
I am a fairly educated and experiences voter, and I am having a hard time filling this ballot conscientiously. What will happen to my less educated or informed fellow citizens? Yes, a participative democracy is the best form of government, but how effectively and efficiently is it functioning?