Much has been made about the governor’s effort to manipulate the ballot to get his tax increase initiative ahead of other measures on the ballot. The theory political experts gave for the move is that measures at the end of the ballot tend to draw more NO votes. There will be a great test for the End of the Ballot Theory in this November election.
Proposition 40, the last measure on the ballot, is a referendum. The proponents of the measure were challenging the lines drawn for state senate districts by the independent redistricting commission. However, the Republicans who gathered the signatures to put the referendum on the ballot have abandoned their effort.
In the official ballot book argument the proponent wrote, “The Supreme Court reviewed the process and intervened to keep district lines in place. With the court’s action, this measure is not needed and we are no longer asking for a NO vote.”
Whether an orphan or not, by law the referendum stays on the ballot and the people will vote on it.
Because it is a referendum, the measure requires a YES vote to maintain the redistricting lines drawn by the commission. In other words, the voters with a YES vote would be declaring: Yes, we want to uphold the current districts.
A NO vote by the people says: No, we don’t want the current senate redistricting lines. We want to throw out the current districts and have them redrawn by court-appointed officials instead of the citizens’ commission.
Now consider how the End of the Ballot Theory plays in this situation.
Many political observers argue that voters who get tired of making so many policy decisions just may start marking NO on the last few measures on the ballot. By voting NO, normally, if a measure is defeated things stay as they are. However, with a referendum the opposite is true. A NO vote on a referendum upsets the status quo.
Will voters tired of voting on a long list of ballot measures after voting for numerous candidates blindly mark their ballots NO on Prop 40 despite both proponents of the measure and supporters of the redistricting commission lines both urging a YES vote?
It would seem when a ballot has no opposition it should pass. However, in the unusual circumstance of trying to defeat a referendum that requires a YES vote to beat it, the End of the Ballot Theory, if it plays out, would upset the best laid plans of political activists.
It is also a test of the machinations the governor and legislators put in to make sure that the Brown tax measure is on top of the eleven initiative stack. Was all that maneuvering necessary? We shall see.