It’s not just the ballot that’s long—with all sorts of federal, state and local offices, and those 17 statewide ballot measures.
It’s the ballot measures ourselves.
We get quite angry when we hear about elected officials who don’t read the proposed laws they vote on. But California voters don’t read the laws they vote on either. They reply on ballot titles or maybe the ballot guide or any number of sites and news organizations that offer summaries, or maybe they listen to friends and family.
Only a sucker or an idiot would read all 17 statewide measures.
I am your sucker and idiot.
It took me a while but I have completed the task – twice. And I will pause now for a round of applause.
I read a lot this year—more than 70,000 words. That’s longer Alduous Huxley’s novel Brave New World, Alduous Huxley’s 1931 novel imagining 26th-century London.
The length of all 17 measures is almost exactly the length of Mark Twain’s the Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Twain’s book and the ballot measures are both full of mischief—though Tom Sawyer is a lot more fun.
The length of measures—and their growing complexity—continues to be a problem. As state law and the constitution get longer and more complex, measures to change them get longer. The late, great Center for Governmental Studies documented at the end of the previous decade the big increase in ballot initiatives that are 5,000 words or longer (it found nearly a third reached that length).
This year, the longest measure on the ballot, by far, is Prop 64, the marijuana legalization of recreational use measure. I counted it at 62 pages and 16,000 words—more than twice the length of the U.S. constitution. Prop 63, the gun control measure, comes in at 34 pages and more than 8,000 words.
Both are backed by Gavin Newsom—meaning that the legislature should steel itself for some long legislative proposals if he’s elected governor in 2018.