Tomorrow, November 8th 2016, is a day that many Americans have been waiting for. It is the day when the 45th president of the United States will be elected by its citizens. Too much has been said about this election and its candidates. We will all let out a sigh of relief when Wednesday comes around. I have no idea what the media will focus on then. I can’t believe Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have any energy left after these grueling last months. We lost our fierce energy for caring and being upset a while ago. Following all the pre-election news, debates and arguments is exhausting and, since this is the first time Mark and I are in the States during this period, we wonder whether it is always like that leading up to a presidential election. We hope not! Life was less hair pulling on our sailboat… We could be happily politically ignorant there. 🙂
Since I am a Belgian citizen, I cannot vote, but Mark cast his ballot by mail a little while ago. People familiar with our lifestyle and ideals, will surely know who he voted for. As a Belgian, I am not a fan of the “two party” system. Not everyone fits in just one defined box. But, this blog post is not about the presidential candidates or anything that surrounds them. It is about the Official Voter Information Guide I stumbled upon, here in California. When this thick brochure, made of recycled paper, arrived in the mailbox, I was intrigued! I know Mark had to vote for four propositions (ballot questions in regards to proposed laws) by the legislature of Massachusetts, but he did not receive such a brochure… This Californian brochure is hundreds of pages thick and talks about 17 state propositions! The locals are supposed to vote for or against each one of them. Now, I understand why massive billboards, like “Vote no for proposition 61” graze the highways.
First, I thought “Wow. That is amazing that they involve the Californian people to vote on so many topics.” Then, I started reading the propositions, about public school funding, Medi-Cal funding by private hospitals, approval of state bonds, recording of all legislature meetings to put them on the internet, tax extensions for education and healthcare, an increase of cigarette tax, parole and early release for non-violent felons to save tax money, English proficiency and multilingual education, regulated political spending, condom use in adult films, pricing standards for prescription drugs, replacing the death penalty by life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, stricter firearms and ammunition sales, marijuana legalization and taxation, redirect money charged for plastic bags in stores, changes about the death penalty procedures, and a ban on single-use bags in grocery stores. It was all pretty clear and straightforward, until I started reading the “for” and “against” arguments…
See, the Quick Reference Guide in the front of this slab of paper provides the summary of each bill, the meaning of a “yes” and “no” vote, arguments “pro” and “con” and contact information for the main advocates “for” and “against” the proposition. You start to realize the wording is ambiguous and you end up being more confused about the propositions and what they actually mean. No worries! You can then read the 100 pages of in-depth overviews of every proposition, the background, an analysis, arguments in favor and against and rebuttals of the arguments. And, you better have a great vocabulary to make any sense of it all. To help you out even further, you can read the final 100+ pages of all the texts of the proposed laws with parts that will be omitted. Really?!
I doubt any Californian has the time and the desire to read this book completely, in order to understand what each proposition actually means and how he/she feels about it. Ideally, though, you read it from front to back and make a cheat sheet for the polls. It is the only way to make an informed decision. I think it is hard to find out the truth about these propositions, the wording used and the intentions behind them.
When you read the “small print” about the early release for non-violent felons, for example, you find that this proposition also allows rapists and killers of drive-by shootings to get out of prison earlier for good behavior. Having actors in adult movies wear condoms, seems like a good idea from a health and safety perspective, but who wants to see condoms in porn movies? Needless to say, the producers are against this one. And, the English proficiency/multilingual education bill seems multi-faced as well. I am all for immigrant children being immersed in the language of their new country (English in the US). It is the best way to learn and adapt. Except that this proposition actually means that the children can get an education in their own language if preferred… The same bill also allows native English speakers to learn other languages at school, which I totally encourage. How do you vote for such a bill? Some of these propositions may have provisions tagged to it which you might not agree with or makes the first part not count. Seriously…
I apologize for boring you with this political post if you have read this far. I’m usually not obsessed by this topic. But, what I first thought was a great example of democracy, I am now not so sure about anymore. Maybe some of this shouldn’t be put to the public to vote on, because all the information seems confusing and difficult to interpret, and people might cast a vote they didn’t intend to make. Isn’t that why citizens vote politicians into office? To make these decisions for us? It appears that you have to be a lawyer or extremely smart to make all these calculated decisions. I am neither. Nor should I care, since I don’t get to vote anyway. I just wanted to turn my intrigue into understanding about the Californian voting system. I might have gotten a little bit wiser. Then again, I’m not sure. If any Californians are reading this blog, I appreciate your input in the comments about your understanding and desire to be involved with these propositions. And, don’t forget to vote tomorrow!