Many Californians stayed home and let yesterday’s primaries pass them by. (photo credit: Flick user Mariano Kamp)
June 5th came and went. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney (not suprisingly) won the primaries by absolute (100%) and large (79%) margins, respectively…although Ron Paul supporters could be seen still fervently advocating their candidate on message boards until the bitter end. The Republican/Libertarian hybrid wrangled almost 150,000 votes yesterday.
(Your moment of zen: Roseanne Barr managed well over 5,000 votes as a Green Party candidate. Neither Ralph Nader nor Tom Arnold could be reached for comment.)
The other big national news tied to yesterday’s primary was the ubiquitous tongue-lashing the DNC received via the mainstream TV media for not throwing enough weight behind the Scott Walker recall vote in Wisconsin. Fervent Dems in the state rounded up 900,000 signatures to oust the anti-union governor a mere 1.5 years after his election only to suffer a large-margin defeat that the GOP is calling emblematic of what’s to come nationally in November while left-wingers are lameting the influence of corporate money in politics.
The first and most significant news at the state level yesterday is the shockingly low voter turnout. Our own John Guenther breaks down the numbers and explores the pros and cons of online voting as a solution. Dan Walters from the SacBee also has his take on the turnout.
Beyond the turnout numbers, however, let’s take a look at what those who vote enacted and the impact of some of the procedural overhauls which debuted yesterday.
Political analysts are beginning to weigh in on what Tuesday’s primary election results will mean, but it does seem voters were sending a message last night. The appetite for reform in California seems very robust right now as people struggle economically and government (state government especially) fails to respond to the people’s demands for accountability, transparency and efficiency.
PENSIONS: In San Diego and San Jose, voters overwhelmingly approved city pension reform. In each city, pension payments represented close to a quarter of general fund spending this fiscal year, handicapping many civic services. The unions vow to take the battle to court, which will ultimately wind up costing taxpayers as well.
PROPS 28 & 29: As of now, it’s somewhat difficult to discern the meaning of the results of the two statewide propositions that were on the ballot.
Prop 28 passed and will reform term limits so that a future legislator can spend more time in one house (up to 12 years). Currently, they can only serve three two-year Assembly terms and two four-year Senate terms, for a total limit of 14 years with the result being electeds playing musical chairs. On paper, Prop 28 should mean better government because legislators will be more experienced in either the Assembly or the Senate. If you’ve seen the polls that show approval ratings of the legislators in the tank, voters might have simply been saying, “this can’t hurt.”
Prop 29 may be a little more nuanced. The $1.00 per pack cigarette tax looks like it may be narrowly defeated, but is still too close to call definitively based on the potential of absentee ballots (even though some outlets are reporting its defeat). Assuming the loss sticks, the easy explanation is that special interest money (the tobacco industry) spent millions to defeat it, which is true. This is very unscientific, but I talked to a lot of non-smokers who voted against it because they are just irritated about how the state spends taxpayer money, end of story. If this holds true as the dominant sentiment, Governor Brown’s initiative to raise taxes may be fighting those headwinds in November.
TOP-TWO PRIMARY: The new top-two primary system went into effect and although things looked positive at first, complaints began to arise later in the day of people receiving ballots that didn’t align with their party affiliation, leaving voters with some confusion and mixed feelings overall. But the real effects will be seen in November. When the results are tallied and there are potentially two Democrats or two Republican, or possibly an Independent versus either on a local ballot, we’ll see if this truly creates a move to the middle on the candidates’ part, or if it just makes more people throw their hands up and stay home.
BOTTOM LINE: Whatever you think about things in California, people are very, very frustrated with government. But allowing frustration to manifest itself in absence at the polls is not the answer. As the adage goes, “good people elect bad candidates by not voting.”
Look for more in-depth coverage on the scene at polling locations, Prop 28 and Prop 29 later today on the CAFwd blog as well as Thursday’s post-election wrap-up on CAFwd Radio.