Voting tips for all seasons: Decoding the California voter information guide without losing one’s mind
Certainly, the sexy issue on the ballot this year is not Barack Obama’s run for the White House. After 15 months in office, the POTUS (President of the United States) has done very well thus far against exasperating odds, with a long laundry list of accomplishments. These include shepherding through the very historic American Healthcare Reform Act (aka, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), and just recently, the equally important American Wall Street and Financial Reform Act (aka Restoring American Financial Stability Act), complete with its Citizens’ Consumer Financial Protection Bureau housed in the Federal Reserve, and new regulations against derivatives. That legislation should be on the President’s desk for signing within the next four weeks, after the conference committee acts and reconciliation has occurred.
To be sure, there is an anti-incumbent movement afoot primarily aimed, some believe, at stripping the president of his deep Congressional majority. It won’t work. At the end of the day in November 2010, the Democrats will certainly lose a few seats, as will the Republicans, but when the smoke clears, the Democrats will still be the majority party in both houses.
Closer to home in California, while those looming, hyped-up mid-term election battles may be all the rage in other states, some of California’s 53 House members as well as Senator Barbara Boxer may have a real dust-up on their hands to retain their seats. There are also many more ballot items this particular election season and local elections that will affect Black folks in the state more immediately and sometimes more painfully than those Congressional seat musical chairs. Propositions 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17, for example, should all be looked at and carefully considered.
But given the many gallons of political snake oil that will be used to persuade, convince, cajole, and snooker voters into one preferred action or another, how can Black folks decide intelligently which voting decisions to make? While voting for someone who merely looks good and smiles gleamingly or choosing a bond measure recommended by a favorite Hollywood type is still the most frequently bad political habit Black folks will engage in, and it remains a tendency they should terminate, there is help to figure all that out.
Specifically, one free source is the California Official Voter Information Guide that is sent out to all those currently registered to vote. This edition is just over 79 pages of narrative, text and intimidation (last fall, it was 140 pages plus). There are no pictures or cartoons to break the monopoly of semantics, so generally only the brave, retired, or have-no-other-life folk actually read this pamphlet (excluding political science students assigned the task). That’s unfortunate, since the information contained is excellent and on-point.
Here is some pragmatic, straight-ahead advice on how to utilize the voter guide beneficially this year. You can use this advice as a general reference for all elections. By the way, make sure to read and keep the Voter Bill of Rights printed on page 79 of this year’s pamphlet. For many of you, it may be the first time you’ve seen it, but please pay attention to it. Framing and hanging it wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
I. For the propositions, which are usually the bulk of the ballot in California and will be so again this year, go straight to the Quick Reference Guide section, on pages 7-9. There you get a useful summary of what each proposition and/or bond measure is all about, what your vote means to each, and brief arguments for and against them. This is always short and sweet.
II. Right behind the Quick Reference Guide is the Legislative Analyst’s report on pages 11-35. Look especially at the proposal and the fiscal effects which are usually on the same page. You can ignore everything else, if you want, since this information is generally definitive, or you can read the longer arguments and background material.
III. Follow the general principles below (always ask the following questions of voting propositions)
1. Will this proposition help my primary group? (i.e., ethnic group, gender group etc.) (If yes, consider voting yes; if no, vote no)
2. Will it harm my primary group? (If yes, clearly vote no; if no, ask more questions)
3. Will it help me as an individual? (If yes, vote yes; if no, consider more questions)
4. Will it harm me as an individual? (If yes, immediately vote no; if no, consider the other questions)
5. Who is accountable for making sure the proposition project is done the way it says? (If that is not explained, vote no)
IV. For bond measures, always look to see who is responsible for making sure the money is spent on what it promises to spend it on; if no one is responsible, or that issue is vague, vote no. If you have to pay more for the bond measure, and it’s not about school, fire/police, etc., vote no.
V. If all else fails, you can always wait for Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ list of what to vote for, although you should decide on your own. Be an informed voter.
David Horne, Ph.D., is executive director of the California African American Political Economic Institute (CAAPEI) located at California State University, Dominguez Hills.
DISCLAIMER: The beliefs and viewpoints expressed in opinion pieces, letters to the editor, by columnists and/or contributing writers are not necessarily those of Our Weekly.
May brings us holidays from May 1 (May Day) through Memorial Day, May 27 (originally, Decoration Day), the preeminent celebration of loyalty and courage in America’s Civil War. In between May Day and Memorial Day, there is also Cinco de Mayo and the always adventurous Mother’s Day.
In fact, May hosts more than 25 distinctive political observances, including the annual Malcolm X birthday gala and festival (there’s also another Malcolm X festival held annually in April), held in most major urban areas in America.
Yikes! Just when you thought you had safely come to terms with Twitter, tweets and tweeting, let alone LinkedIn, Instagram, and seemingly hundreds of other digital headaches, here comes another one straight down the YouTube downloads, called Twerking.
Twenty-first century politics are almost always more effective and efficient when they are based on well-organized coalition politics—i.e., the political efforts of several groups coordinated around mutual interests. The issue of California historical place names is ripe for such coalition politics between African Americans and California’s Native Americans, groups that have not usually worked together well in the state.
What happens when you’ve pried the door wide open with courage and persistence, and those for whom the deed was done lose interest in walking through it?
The new movie “42” (a very good piece of work, by the way, that should be seen by everybody) depicts the story of Jack Roosevelt Robinson’s first year in major league baseball (1947) as the major character in the glorious experiment of integrating modern professional baseball.
Although still very cautious, cognizant of starting a firestorm that can become instantly uncontrollable, a growing number of African American leaders and spokespersons are asking the Obama administration, “OK, you’re a second-termer now—not running for reelection . . . . Where is the love you’re supposed to show us?”