Wednesday, June 16, 2010

California's New Election Law

      Those zany California voters have done it again. Back in 1978 they sowed the seeds of their present horrendous budget deficit by passing Proposition 13, the People's Initiative to Limit Property Taxation. Among other things, the proposition lowered property taxes by rolling back property values to their 1975 value, and restricted annual increases in assessed value of real property to an inflation factor, not to exceed 2% per year. It also prohibited reassessment of a new base year value except upon (a) change in ownership or (b) completion of new construction.
      Because I had bought my property in 1973, I benefitted immensely from the proposition. When I sold it in 2004 the property taxes were approximately $700; in 2008 they were over $4000. The voters had successfully capped property taxes for long term residents and had made sure that tax revenues were well below the inflation rate. It was not the only factor that put California into its present budget predicament, but it was a major contributor.
      Now the voters have come through with another new idea: Proposition 14, the Top Two Primaries Act. In an effort to shake up the electoral process, which many people think is broken, the proposition will change the way all statewide and national candidates, except for president and vice-president, will be chosen.
      In the primary election, all candidates for a particular office will be listed regardless of party affiliation, if any. All voters will be given the same ballot, and the top two winners will be the candidates in the general election. It will be possible that in the general election, the only two candidates for an office, e.g., US Senator, will both be from the same party.
      Proponents of the idea say that it will give minor party (or no party) candidates a chance to be on the final ballot. Voters will be free to select whomever they consider to be the better candidate, regardless of his party affiliation. Supposedly candidates will be selected who will not be beholden to the fringe element of either major party; elected officials will be those who are willing to reach across the aisle and work for the good of the country. Through cooperation, it will return the country to the political center. Of course, both major parties are against this proposition because they will no longer have control of who will appear on the general election ballot.
      Perhaps this system will work, but I can see several problems with it. Final candidates will be those with the most money to spend, or the greatest name recognition. Minor parties will be able to get their candidates on the primary ballot, but unless they can afford to run two campaigns, a primary as well as a general, they will be shut out of the general election. (Formerly if they qualified for placement on the primary election ballot, they were assured a spot on the general election ballot.) In areas where large concentrations of like minded voters of either party live, candidates from the opposing party will never be on the general election ballot.
      There is one other problem: I have often mentioned that our system relies upon an informed electorate, but I know there are many people who go to the polls without knowing anything about some of the candidates. I believe that as a result, these people vote for the first two names on the list. It would be a shame if a good man’s chances of getting elected were reduced simply because his name began with W instead of A.
      Several other states are considering a similar move. Whatever happens, let us hope it will be interesting, not devastating.
      So far in our discussion we have seen primitive man practicing what may be called “private magic,” i.e. magical rites and incantations practiced for the benefit or injury of individuals. But whether it was because of consistently good results from private practice, seeing a cultural advantage, or some other reason, certain individuals soon began practicing as shamans, wizards, or witch doctors. Magic moved from the private to the public sector.
      Man Takes Control – The Spirit Runs Through It.

      The book or a free download is available in paperback or on Kindle.

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