Stacking the Deck on Elections

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

A  budget bill has been introduced that would lengthen the time to qualify recall elections. One might say this bill came out of the blue—blue California, that is. Changing election rules to benefit their positions is becoming a habit with Democrats in the legislature.

The presumed object of the bill, SB 96, is to forestall the recall election of Sen. Josh Newman, hoping to combine the election with the regularly scheduled June 2018 primary when a larger turnout of Democratic voters is expected. Under current rules, if the recall qualifies, a special election must be called. Special elections have smaller voter turnouts and Newman is expected to be in greater jeopardy.

This would not be the first time in the last few years that Democrats in the legislature teamed up with Gov. Jerry Brown to play with the election rules to secure a more favorable election outcome.

In 2011, Democratic legislators decided that all statewide initiatives and referendums must appear on General Election ballots. Any student of election turnouts knows that a higher proportion of Democrats turn out for a General Election than a primary election.

As soon as that change was made, the governor and his allies realized that the tax increase measure they backed on the 2012 ballot would end up down the list of a number of qualified initiatives if the rules then in place were followed. Experts believe chances are better for a measure’s success to be the first one that voters see on the ballot. Voilà, a bill was passed and signed that said constitutional amendments had to appear on the ballot before statutes. The bill to re-order initiative measures, like the bill to alter the recall provisions, were done as budget bills so as to take effect immediately.

The tax measure was a constitutional amendment so it would be near the top of the ballot measures in 2012—but would it be first? A school reform tax measure sponsored by an outsider, Molly Munger, also a constitutional amendment, turned in its signatures before the governor’s tax plan.

Yet, the governor’s tax measure signature count was completed first and thus secured the top ballot position as Proposition 30. Munger sued claiming special treatment for the governor but lost the suit.

The Democrats have become experts at following the philosophy–if you can’t win under the rules then change the rules.

Who knows if the Democrats’ policy would have prevailed in any of these situations? But like the croupier stepping on the pedal under the roulette table to insure a result, they wanted a sure thing.

From moving requirements when ballot measures appear, to adjusting the order of measures, to now attempting to alter the course of recall elections, Democrats under the Capitol Dome want to stack the deck—as if the power they possess with a supermajority is not enough.

Perhaps, the more appropriate ancient political wisdom to apply to this on-going manipulation is: “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

 

 

 

 

 

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