Low Turnout In 2014, High Initiative Count In 2016

Elections have consequences. Ironically, California’s abysmal election turnout this November has teed up a veritable flood of ballot initiatives for 2016. Because the signature threshold for qualifying initiatives is pegged to the number of Californians who cast votes in the previous election, activists with a losing track record are angling for a breakout opportunity just around the political bend.

Only a third of those eligible to cast ballots did so on Nov. 4. “Of those who registered to vote, little better than four in every 10 – about 42 percent – actually voted, either in person or by mail,” according to the California Secretary of State. Even more important, the total votes cast for governor, which determines the numerical hurdle signature-gatherers must clear to get their initiative on the ballot, hit a quarter-century low. The San Francisco Chronicle reported:

“In California, the number of signatures required to qualify a measure for the ballot is a percentage of the total votes cast for governor. Since the 42 percent turnout on Nov. 4 meant only about 7.3 million people bothered to take a side in Gov. Jerry Brown’s landslide win over Republican Neel Kashkari, the bar for qualifying ballot measures in 2016 will be at the lowest level in at least 25 years.

“The change isn’t a tiny one. Since the last governor’s election in 2010, it has taken 504,760 valid signatures to put a standard initiative on the ballot and 807,615 signatures for a constitutional amendment. Once the November election is certified Friday, those numbers will drop to about 366,000 and 586,000, respectively.”

A host of initiative hopefuls has already begun to plan for a big 2016, including public employee unions and taxpayers rights’ groups. But attention will focus most strongly around two high-profile efforts that have failed in the past, but enjoy the support of powerful backers: marijuana legalization and the breakup of California into six smaller states.

Hemp hopes

As Reason magazine observed, advocates of marijuana legalization and regulation have picked up steam in recent years, thanks to voter support. Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia all have given pot the green light; emboldened, activists have turned for 2016 to Maine and Massachusetts in the East and Montana, Arizona and California — the biggest prize — in the West.

Along with proposals to fly the California flag at the same height as the U.S. flag, and to require the use of condoms in pornographic video performances, the marijuana legalization initiative has already been publicly proposed, but not yet made official with the Attorney General’s office.

Pot advocates hope to use 2016’s low bar to land on the ballot in a well-publicized but cost-effective way. In 2010, voters rejected a legalization initiative; this year, advocates see themselves catching a nationwide wave in favor of looser drug laws — and capitalizing on recent changes to California criminal law that treat inmates convicted on drug charges more leniently.

Six Californias 2.0

Venture capitalist Tim Draper, meanwhile, hasn’t given up his own hopes for an up or down vote on his Six Californias proposal. That idea, ridiculed in many corners of the press but viewed favorably by those seeking to shake up dysfunctional state governance, didn’t make it onto the ballot last time around. It would break up the state into six new states.

“Draper put about $5 million of his own money into gathering some 1.13 million signatures for ‘Six Californians,’ only to have the California Secretary of State’s office rule that just 752,000 were valid,” the Chronicle reported. “That was not enough to make the 807,000 required this year to make the cut.” In an interview with the Chronicle, Draper chose his words carefully:

“’We’re going for 2016, and we have 750,000 signatures, but they say we have to start all over again,’ he said Tuesday. ‘It’s a kind of Catch 22.’

“Asked if he will re-launch the signature-gathering process in light of the new 2016 lower bar, Draper said, ‘We want Six Californias to happen. We’ll see.’

“’This is a mission critical for the state,’ he said. ‘I live here and so does most of my family,’ and more than ever, he said, ‘we’re saying wait a second: we can make this change.’”

That’s an attitude typical of those who struggle to land initiatives on the statewide ballot. For them all, 2016 offers a once-in-a-generation chance to do so.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

“Six Californias” would be a nightmare

DIVIDING CALIFORNIA – California has launched more than a few inventions considered utopian that were eventually adopted throughout the nation.

Some of the more famous are Sour Dough Bread, Barbie Dolls, Pet Rocks, Hula Hoops, wetsuits, theme parks, the computer mouse, and — yes — even the Martini!

But no state has ever put forth a plan to completely replace itself — until now.

Tim Draper, a multimillionaire venture capitalist, would like to do just that.

If the constitutional amendment he is proposing succeeds, it would divide the Golden State into 6 separate duchies Six CAseach with its own sovereign government.

There is little doubt that Californians have strong differences about how exactly they want to be identified and what traits best epitomize their particular regional lifestyles. That diversity is part of our beauty.

There is little similarity between a Stockton cattle rancher, a business executive from Los Angeles, a hi-tech entrepreneur from Silicon Valley and a fisherman from Eureka.

Under Draper’s plan none would have to go through Sacramento any longer to address their concerns. Instead they would each have independent lawmaking bodies that would compete with their neighboring states for revenues and services.

Of course many things such as water and electric power, mass transit, highway systems, reservoirs and bridges, colleges and universities, hospitals, prisons and countless other attributes of statehood already exist and the benefits are intended to be shared.

While some residents may consider themselves disadvantaged because they come from regions that are less populous and rightfully complain they sometimes get short shrift, as separate states their political clout would only be further fractured and diminished.

Through reapportionment, which received bipartisan support, the majority of governmental entities meet the requirements of geographical contiguity and commonality of interests and this is reflected in the makeup of the legislature. Rural and urban lawmakers alike must vie for one another’s support.

In a big vs. small state arrangement compromises would be harder to achieve and intractable conflicts would be inevitable.

For example, one could envision the new state of Silicon Valley voting for reasons of regional self-interest to refuse collection of taxes assessed on out-of-state businesses under Proposition 39 which is adding billions of dollars to California’s treasury for education and energy efficiency.

Pitting less populated, agriculture-based Fresno and Stockton, bulwarks of the “Central California” under the Draper scheme, against mighty “Silicon Valley” with commercial giants, San Francisco and San Jose, at its epicenters would be comparable to Nevada dictating policy to California.

Central California with all its farms would have even less reason to negotiate with chronically water-starved Los Angeles, the southern colossus that would dominate the new state of “West California.”

As the drought-induced water wars escalate, it is not surprising that some polls show Central Valley inhabitants favoring the Draper plan. It so happens that the majority of valley residents tend to vote Republican as do many others along a large swath of territory running through the state’s interior. 

Many feel disempowered since the state, for now, is in the firm control of the Democrats.

However, it was not that long ago when Republican governors ruled and the newly installed “open primary” system gives outsiders a fighting chance to get in.

Carving up the state would only accentuate these partisan divisions with little incentives for the strongest regions to reach agreements or strive for parity.

This article originally appeared on citywatchla.com