Back When Ballot Propositions were REAL Ballot Propositions

I miss the good old days of ballot propositions. Who could forget the rabbit punch of Proposition 187 coupled with the haymaker of electricity “deregulation”?1 Distract the electorate and chattering classes with a red meat issue, while sneaking in a hopelessly complex piece of legislation that nobody bothers to pay attention to. Ah, good times, good times.

Back in the good old days, we were ruled by Machiavellian masters, and we liked it! But now? Feh. After scanning today’s ballot propositions, it is clear that today’s political manipulators are mere shadows of the masters of old. This year’s batch of propositions is so… transparent. To paraphrase one of the great observers of the American political scene, “Scruffy. So morbid. A sentimental replica of a politics long since vanished. No style at all.”

Actually, a couple of the propositions might be good ideas if they weren’t so hopelessly, so laughably, so obviously crafted by one organization based in Washington to cripple the political power base of the other. It sounds fair for union workers to get to vote on where their unions distribute campaign donations — until you realize that A) unions already do this, and B) I don’t get to say fuck-all about the lobbying practices of my company. “Pardon me, Mr. Semel, those ten dollars of my salary you’re spending this year on Lobbyist #833251? I’d like it back please. Thanks.” The same goes for fairer redistricting. Taking redistricting out of the hands of the party in power sounds like a very fair idea in principle. That is, until you realize that for some strange reason, this “fairer redistricting” only applies to California and not say, every other state in the Union. Or at least Texas. Weird oversight by the sponsors, isn’t it? I’ve heard of taking a knife to a gunfight, but throwing away your knife on the way to the gunfight, that’s something else entirely.2

The only ray of sunshine this year was that we do see the old trick of, 1) consumer advocates throw in one bill, 2) industry throws in a couple of very similarly worded ones and, 3) wooo, now we got ourselves a proposition par-tay! Still, I remember years past when the one consumer insurance proposition was surrounded by — what, three industry-sponsored ones? Seven? I forget. Anyway, this year the ratio is a pathetic 1:1. It’s like they’re not even trying. I am Officially Depressed.

1. I have to use quotes around “deregulation” so as not to offend the tender sensibilities of those people who like to scream, “But that wasn’t electricity deregulation!!!111!one! You Californians just fucked it up with your… California-ness!” Much like unreconstructed Communists (just sub in “communism” and “Russians”), you have to throw these people a bone and back sllloooowly away.

2. Anyway, fairer redistricting has nothing to do with “retired judges” — go back to playing canasta and bocce ball, retired judges! No, it’s really just a simple math problem. Set ((perimeter squared) / (area)) to some pretty low number. And allow lines to be drawn into U.S.-owned waters in order to eliminate problems with jagged coastlines. Poof. Gerrymandering disappears. I would consider it my duty as a citizen to spearhead this proposition myself… except, well, duh.

6 thoughts on “Back When Ballot Propositions were REAL Ballot Propositions

  1. Yes, I guess you must try harder to get rid of us.

    Alas, I don’t think redistricting is as simple as the math problem you propose. At least not without major changes to federal law. Some of the requirements/constraints for districts are:
    1. Roughly equal population in each district (no mention of area).
    2. Try to keep district boundaries consistent with community/city/county lines.
    3. If there are enough members of a minority in a given area to make a district, the district lines must be drawn to create a minority-dominated district. Even if you need insane lollipop style geometry for this. Federal law requires this.
    4. Preservation of political subdivisions. Yuck.

    Unfortunately, these rules, especially the last two, make it nearly impossible to write a good algorithm to choose the districts. So humans will make the choice. Ugh. The questions is how to make a choice in a somewhat sane and fair manner.

    I agree that sane redistricting in CA alone would have screwed up the national political scene, especially after the @$*#@ing Hammer’s job in Texas. OTOH, someone needs to lead the charge. We will never have responsive politicians if something isn’t done. And the feds can’t do it without a change to the constitution; it has to happen at the state level.

  2. The P^2/A limit should mesh pretty well with Rule #1 and #2, and could even be useful for weakening Rule #4. But I forgot about Rule #3 — is that a side effect of the Voting Rights Act? Huh.

    As for counteracting the Hammer… I was thinking, is there any requirement in the U.S. Constitution that prevents California from just saying, “We’re changing our congressional representation rules to one big pool of 52, winner-takes-all”? Of course a stunt like that wouldn’t be very fair or nice, but it does have an appealing Hammeresque quality, does it not?

  3. Yeah, Rule #3 is a consequence of the Voting Rights Act, plus many subsequent court rulings. I think the original Act prohibited intentionally choosing boundaries that would break up minority-dominated areas, but the courts have ruled that no proof of intention was required to contest a particular set of boundaries. I don’t really know the history well enough to comment intelligently about the wisdom of this Rule.

    In general, I think the P^2/A limit would be useful. But in the end, humans will still be needed to draw the boundaries.

    Hmmm, winner takes all. I’m not sure what the constitution says. But if you’re trying to be Evan DeLay, I don’t think you’d care much.

  4. This latest drivel was dated 8 Nov… no pressure, but Hey! Where’s the NEW drivel! I guess it’s time to read the fiction piece…

    oh, the topic is redistricting…. on a somewhat related note, I’d like to say: How about mandatory voting, like Australia? So lazy youngsters like us have no choice but to get up and do it. Yeah, totally not related to redistricting.

    queen of non-sequiters

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