Supposedly, America holds to the principle of one-person, one vote. But we don’t live that principle in California.
Here, some people effectively get more votes. Old people who have been here a long time. Indeed, dead people are still voting, with more power than us Gen Xers and those pesky millenials.
That’s because of the relative ease of adding amendments to the constitution, and of locking statutes in concrete via the ballot initiative process. The previous ballots of those voters, old and dead, who got to put tax limits and spending mandates and all sorts of rules into the constitution and initiative law limit the power of our votes today. They’ve already decided the big question. Today’s voters are left with very little power to change things; we decide only how things will change on the margins.
What to do? Well, some of us believe a full-scale constitutional rewrite – via a convention or a revision commission – is the way to go. But the state’s elites – which is full of older folks who got to make the big decisions in long-ago elections – say that’s unrealistic.
So here’s another way, modestly proposed. Let’s balance the power by giving newer votes more votes.
If you were voting age by — just to pick a date out of a hat — 1978, you still get your one vote. But younger voters would have more votes. If you came of voting age between 1978 and 1988 (when Prop 98 ushered in the era of budget by mandate), you get two votes. After that, add a vote for every two-year election cycle you missed.
For someone turning 18 this year and voting for the first time, 11 election cycles will have passed since 1988, so your vote would count 13 times. That’s a lucky number in California, we are often told.
This would be a nice electoral balancing of the books; the vote’s of today’s voters would count as much as those who have been adding things all along.
Imagine the transformation of our politics. The long-term might be fashionable. We might have an entirely different discussion about higher education. And we might even be able to unlock all of those budget rules and constitutional provisions that have made the state so ungovernable.
Unreasonable? Sure. But no less unreasonable than letting votes cast decades ago determine today’s levels of spending and taxes. The young should demand an equal voice, which in California requires unequal counting of the votes.
And if the old folks won’t give it to us, how about a constitutional convention – so that we can be governed again by the living?