By the People…

Sometime between now and whenever I go to vote tomorrow I need to figure out how to vote on the seven propositions on the ballot (as near as I can tell those are the only ones I need to worry about since Prop S doesn’t seem to be on the ballot in Altadena). My polling place is within an easy walking distance so I will probably postpone much of this though and research until tomorrow morning and then take a nice stroll to vote, get lunch, and wander around enough to declare it a day I exercised.

I try not to be politically apathetic. I really do but all too often the ballots are overwhelming and I end just guessing on a lot of it. While that’s perhaps not a bad strategy for your average multiple choice tests it seems like a lousy strategy when the test is “what do you want politics to look like for the next X years.” In some sense I think voting blindly is really worse than not voting at all so I often skip things that I haven’t had a chance to research, particularly if they’re non-partisan positions where I’d be voting based on something utterly arbitrary like gender or how melodious the names are.

I can’t help but believe that lots of people go to vote on the basis of one or two races that they’ve thought about and either ignore the rest of the ballot or wing it. We live in a world that’s really too complicated to understand the ins and outs of everything going on politically. And this brings me back to the propositions. On the whole my friends are a pretty informed bunch and typically a group of us get together before elections to discuss the various candidates and propositions. Often with enough people gathered together reading the information in the voter’s guide carefully it’s possible to figure out the general gist of a proposition and come to some conclusions about the potential consequences of voting for or against it. However, it’s not rare to have one or two (or more) propositions that no one in the room can quite manage to sort out well enough to even guess the implications. I suspect most votes just go off the small summaries that appear on the ballots. These often turn out to be pretty misleading once you delve into the actual text of an initiative.

I like the idea of the people having input into the political system. I’m just not sure that this system is the most sensible way to allow that. Lots of things end up on the ballot that leave me shaking my head and wondering why we are being asked to make this decision rather than professional politicians who actually know something about the state budget and needs. I mean there are lots of things that I think it’s important to spend money on: education, environment, infrastructure but I don’t have enough of an idea of the big picture to really be making budget decisions on those things. And if you don’t look closely at things it’s hard to know who is even asking you to make decisions about bonds, etc.

Usually when I read the voters guide carefully I find myself thinking something like “you know if I wanted John and Joan Everycitizen to run the state/city I would have elected them to office .” It’s not even really that I don’t trust my fellow voters to vote in their own self interest, I simply don’t trust them to take huge chunks of time out of their daily lives to figure out what’s actually on the table. I don’t mean that to be in any way condescending. I simply mean that if I can’t figure out what’s going on with these things even when I try can I really trust that everyone else is a) trying to understand the propositions and b) actually succeeding in figuring out what they mean and what their consequences are?

This time around things aren’t so bad. Four of the seven props are about Indian gaming and it appears at a glance that all four are a vote on the same agreement with four different tribal groups. So I only have to figure out how I feel about it once. And prop 91 is apparently no longer actually relevant due to a previous proposition. So I only have to actually make three different decisions at this point. But I do still find myself fantasizing about proposition stfuadyjl. That would be proposition shut the fuck up and do your job, legislators.

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