I headed to the polls Tuesday morning wondering if I was doing the right thing.
In general, I try not to participate in frauds. Given how broken California governance is, how constrained elected officials are, and how our media and government keep calling June elections “primaries” even though primaries were eliminated in 2010, California elections today are fraudulent. I skipped a couple of recent elections (and spent part of the day doing civic-minded things instead), and found I didn’t mind being among the overwhelming majority of Californians who choose not to vote.
But I still enjoy the shared ritual of voting. And in this election, I felt pulled to the polls by two down-ticket races: the Secretary of State’s race, with its multiple strong candidates, including Pete Peterson, whose work in civic engagement is hugely important for California, and the L.A. County sheriff’s race, with Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell bidding to take on an insular, badly broken department.
Time is short and my commute is so long, so I got my three boys – none older than 6 – out the door sooner than usual, and headed to my local polling place, the lobby of a senior citizens apartment building.
It was just before 8 am when I entered, and I was the only voter there. And I remained the only voter there for the 10 minutes I spent voting.
It was a tight and awkward set-up, with senior residents walking directly through the polling place, inches from me, as I tried to vote. (The only real problem of the morning: the dog of one senior citizen spooked my 3-year-old son, who is easily spooked by dogs).
I showed the boys how the voting process works – a card, and ink blot. And then, with their help, I started to go through the ballot – and not vote in most of the races.
I couldn’t vote for governor. As you know if you read this space, I think the governor, for all his success at managing within California’s broken system, has made himself part of the problem by resisting reform of that system. But none of his challengers seem worthy of the office. Abstaining felt like the best choice.
I decided not to vote in several other races for a different reason – I don’t think those offices should be elected positions. California would be better off without a lieutenant governor, so I left that blank. The attorney general, treasurer, insurance commissioner, and superintendent of public instruction should be appointed. So should judges. I didn’t vote in any of those races either.
I voted for Secretary of State, since the elections officer should be elected. I also talked myself into voting for controller, which has three strong candidates in John Perez, Betty Yee and Ashley Swearengin, though that’s a job that might be better filled by appointment as well.
I almost always vote no across the board on ballot measures; they carry too many unintended consequences, and it’s too hard to undo laws and amendments made by ballot measure in California, which means I would be obligating my kids’ generation in ways that make me uncomfortable. But I made an exception for Prop 42, out of self-interest; those of us in the information business need more information, even though I’m worried about how the state mandate for local government public information will work in practice.
Then came the best part of voting—helping the boys slide my ballot into the box. All three got “I Voted” stickers, which they liked so much that they wore them to pre-school and daycare.
So I voted. I guess it was worthwhile, but mostly because of the stickers.