There are 10,289,851 Californians who share this year’s Fox and Hounds Daily’s Black Bart Award — because they didn’t vote. They are the registered voters who did not bother to vote in the November Election. This is not a good thing, but since the Black Bart end of the year award recognizes the individuals or groups or even actions that greatly affects California policy or politics during the year there is no ignoring the impact of non-voters on our governing process.

The 42.2-percent turnout was a record low for a November General Election. As stated in the nomination of the Non-Voter, the low turnout is a sign of lack of interest in public affairs, not good in a democratic society that requires the people to make decisions. When so many refuse to partake that affects the policy decisions in the state and the direction in which the state moves.

It is a concern that when voters ignore public affairs the democracy can wheel out of control. One can be cynical about voting, as Mark Twain remarked, “If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it.” But in truth, the lack of voting signifies lack of interest; lack of watching those who run the government. Voters’ non-participation while seemingly following along aimlessly as government does its business might lead to danger. Journalist Edward R. Murrow said, “A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.”

The impact of non-voters will likely become more vivid in future elections because so many Californians decided not to cast a vote in the recent election. As noted on this page and other places, the low voter turnout will make it easier to qualify initiative measures and referendums for the next couple of elections. For a statutory or constitutional amendment initiatives, a proponent now needs almost 28-percent fewer signatures to qualify for the ballot.

The floodgates for initiatives and referendums have been opened. Expectations are that many will rush through.

By not participating in the election the many non-voters have affected the direction the state will take. That is why Fox and Hounds names the recipient of the Black Bart Award for 2014 California’s Non-Voters.

We named the Californian of the Year Award in Politics after gentleman highwayman Black Bart, a California original. He mixed a bit of larceny, artistry, and good manners with the character to pushback when he thought the system was working against him.