The Democratic majority in the Legislature is at it again, attempting to manipulate election rules to favor a desired outcome with voters. It has happened a number of times in the last decade. The current effort is SB 300 by Senator Tom Umberg to place all constitutional amendments passed by the legislature in the coming days on the November ballot where the majority feels they have a greater chance for success.  Under current law, any measure that qualified after 131 days before the election would appear in the following election, June 2022 ballot. 

The Democrats are hoping to have some or all of the following constitutional amendments gain a two-thirds vote, which makes them eligible for the next appropriate ballot. If SB 300 passes and is signed into law, that election would be November.

Supporters of the bill might argue cost savings or urgency involved with some of the matters, and while there may be rational reasons involved, the truth is the maneuver is driven by politics—the belief that November 2020 will bring out a massive Democratic turnout who will vote the party line on both candidates and ballot issues. 

As noted, this won’t be the first time of such maneuvering recently by the Democrats in California. 

Remember just a few years ago when the Democratic controlled legislature and the governor teamed up to pass a law to lengthen the time to qualify a recall election for the ballot?  The bill added requirements to recall procedures so that voters who signed the petitions had time to rescind a signature and further delayed the go ahead of the recall election until a budget analysis was completed. The Democrats did this in hopes of protecting Senator Josh Newman who was the subject of a recall. The majority wanted Newman to face voters in the June primary instead of in a lower voter turnout special election. The bill passed, the legislative majority got their wish, but it didn’t help Newman who was recalled in the end. 

A decade ago, Gov. Jerry Brown and his Democratic colleagues put their collective thumb on the scale to influence a couple of elections. As I wrote previously, 

In 2011, Democratic legislators decided that all statewide initiatives and referendums must appear on General Election ballots. Any student of election turnouts knows that a higher proportion of Democrats turn out for a General Election than a primary election. As soon as that change was made, the governor and his allies realized that the tax increase measure they backed on the 2012 ballot would end up down the list of a number of qualified initiatives if the rules then in place were followed. Experts believe chances are better for a measure’s success to be the first one that voters see on the ballot. Voilà, a bill was passed and signed that said constitutional amendments had to appear on the ballot before statutes (and the tax, containing constitutional changes, jumped to the head of the pack.)

Now, the Democrats are at it again, trying to adjust the system to assure their positions succeed. 

First, the five constitutional amendments in question have to receive a two-thirds vote in the legislature. While the governor does not have to sign off on the constitutional amendments, he would have to approve the bill moving any successful legislative proposition to November. 

One would think the way things have gone for the Democrats in this state over the last couple of decades, they wouldn’t need any more advantages, but apparently that is how they choose to use their power—stack the deck even higher.