SB 202: Will More or Less People Vote in November?

Stan Statham
President/CEO of the California Broadcasters Association

Since the last minute passage
of SB 202, the legislation that will move all initiatives and referenda to the
November ballot, proponents have been arguing that the change would result in
more people voting on initiatives and referenda.  Although statistics show that more people vote
in the November general election than the June Primary, there are other factors
that may result in fewer people voting on initiatives in the November
election. 

The proponents cited that a
study entitled, "Democracy by Initiative: Shaping California’s Fourth Branch of
Government," by the Center for Governmental Studies, served as the basis for
the legislation.  But, that very study
warned of problems with long ballots containing too many initiatives.  The study found that: "Long
ballots present two other related concerns: voter fatigue and voter drop-off.
When voters face a lengthy ballot, a decreasing number of votes are sometimes
cast for items located near the bottom of the ballot. This has been called ‘voter
fatigue.’ ‘Voter drop-of’" consists of the disinclination of voters to cast
ballots for less important offices and propositions. While nearly every voter
casts ballots in the presidential race, for example, significantly fewer votes
are cast for Congress, fewer still for legislative candidates and fewest of all
for judgeships." (Italics added)

Will more people definitely vote
on initiatives if they are moved to the November ballot?  No. With the potential for 25 or more initiatives
on the ballot, voter fatigue and voter drop-off will negatively impact
participation.  Will moving all the initiatives
to November increase the public’s awareness and understanding of policy issues?
No. Ballots crammed with dozens of
issues will turnoff many Californians. The Jerry Brown that I know would not
want to burden voters with that. 

If Governor Brown really wants
to help the voters of California he should veto this bill and acknowledge the
important role of all voters, whether they vote in June or November.

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