News item: Republican gubernatorial wannabes Neel Kashkari and Tim Donnelly have come under criticism for not voting in a number of elections over the past decade. After Gov. Brown’s spokesman leveled criticism, it was pointed out that Gov. Brown had missed two elections as well.
Reaction: These candidates should be criticized – but not for the elections they skipped but for all the voting they did.
Show me Californians who have voted in every single election in which they’ve been eligible to vote – presidential, state, local and the never-ending special elections – and I’ll show you a person who needs to get a life. No one carrying on a career and family life could possibly vote in every election, nor should they.
There are simply too many elections, too many candidates, and too many measures for people to follow them all and make informed choices. I would wager that all three gubernatorial contenders made election choices without knowing all the facts – and would struggle to remember who and what they voted for in previous contests.
The persistence of these stories about the supposed “failure” of non-voting point to the need for changes. What to do? Local elections could be consolidated with state or federal elections. Special elections to fill open seats should be delayed until the next regularly scheduled election. Some elected positions – from statewide offices like attorney general and insurance commissioner and superintendent of public instruction – should become appointed. The goal would be to limit the number of candidate choices people could make, and how often they make them.
Such a consolidation – to two candidate elections every two years — would open the door to adding separate votes just on ballot measures—something we badly need, so we can make more informed choices on such measures and fit our initiative system with our legislative calendar.
But blaming candidates for not voting all the time is wrongheaded. Missing elections is very Californian.