The Weiner Component #101 – Democracy & The Vote

English: Logo of the Democratic Party of the U...

On Tuesday, November 4th the people of the United States will vote in the Midterm Election of 2014. What they, as a majority, decide in each state will determine what happens in the country over the next two years and even possibly beyond that time.

The Founding Fathers, when they established the United States set aside the funds from a section of all government land sold to be used to set up public schools. They believed that an educated electorate would vote intelligently and elect the best possible people for public office. Unfortunately over the years life and politics have gotten quite complicated and many people do not have the time and inclination to delve into the issues and vote intelligently. As a result of this we have the thirty second or less adds on TV, both being generally a fountain of misinformation and also telling people how to vote.

Today we have two major parties and a number of minor ones that may or may not exist in all 50 states. The largest political party is the Democratic Party. It has the most members but is not as aggressive as the Republican Party which also is better financed and represents mainly the upper echelon of the country. The Republican Party includes a good percentage of the top 20% of the population and also tends to contain the evangelical element within the society. They can be at any economic level going from poverty to super-rich. Together they are well less than 50% of the population, probably from 30 to 40%.

In the states where the Republicans have been successful, controlling both the legislature and the governorship they have both gerrymandered the voting districts in 2010 and attempted also to pass voter restriction laws to limit the voting of non-Republicans. They have been partly successful. The probability is that if the electoral process had been truly democratic President Obama would have gotten a much larger vote in 2012. As it was, in that year, the Democrats cast 125,000 more votes than Republicans for members of the House of Representatives but the Republicans were able to win the majority in the House through gerrymandering, adjusting the voter districts in the states they controlled so they would come out ahead.

The third largest group is the independents; people belonging to no political party. These people don’t trust any of the political parties. Then, but not necessarily in order of size, there are the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, and the Peace and Freedom Party. There are also the American Elect Party and the American Independent Party. We probably have a few more that are limited to a small number of states.

Not all political parties are represented in all 50 states. In the United States we have 50 plus separate elections. One in each state and in the territories and other areas the Federal Government controls. Each state sets its own general rules for the elections. They are not always fair and reasonable.

People vote for candidates and referendums and initiatives. The candidates are easy. One votes either by party or for the candidate he or she prefers. The referendums are propositions passed by the state legislature, whereby the legislators want the people to assume responsibility for particular measures or for amendments to the state or Federal Constitution. Initiatives are potential laws that have been issued after a voter signing process. They are done by individuals or groups. An example in California would be Proposition 13, passed in 1979, which lowered all property taxes in the state. This was put through essentially by a landlord’s association.

The meanings of these referendums and initiatives is another matter entirely. In many cases one has to take time reading them to fully understand them. Sometimes a No vote can mean yes or a yes vote can mean no. One has to be careful and read them thoroughly.

The ballots tend to be long, particularly on Presidential Election Years. For example: being a Midterm Election the current California ballot is only five pages. It contains thirty-nine items. The first ten deal with political party entries, starting with the governor and ending with who will be a Member of the State Assembly. Here the political party each person belongs to is listed with their name. Nonpartisan offices follow. There are twenty-four of these, going from different levels of judges through the Director of the Municipal Water District. We have the Governing Board of the local school district and the City Council of the local city. After that comes the referendums and the initiatives. On this ballot there are six of them, two referendums and three initiatives. There is also one Legislative Constitutional Amendment. The last three items deal with county issues.

The Referendums often deal with long term financing and taxing issues. The legislatures wants the public to approve state financing and their own tax increases. The initiatives deal with issues deemed important by specific groups.

There is a pamphlet that was sent to the voters explaining Proposition 1: State of California Water Bond, Funding for Water Quality, Supply, Treatment, and Storage Projects. It explains the referendum and ends with an argument for the proposition and one against it. These pamphlets are sent out several weeks before the election with a sample of the ballot.

Proposition 2 is a Legislative Amendment to the State Constitution: State Budget. Budget Stabilization Account. This referendum requires the state to set up a reserve fund in good financial years that can be used in lean times. This has been a pet project of Governor Brown since he was elected to office.

Proposition 45 is an initiative statue: HealthCare Insurance Rate Changes. This will require among other things approval from the Insurance Commissioner for insurance companies to facilitate rate increases. It gives state officials the authority to deal with the issue.

Proposition 46 is also an initiative which deals with drug and alcohol testing of doctors and raising the current fixed rate in medical negligence lawsuits to $250,000.

Proposition 47 is an initiative that deals with Criminal Sentences and Misdemeanor Penalties. My position on this initiative is expressed in The Weiner Component #92 – The American Prison System.

Proposition 48 is an Indian Gaming Compact. A   Referendum that requires the approval of the voters of California. It allows two tribes whose reservations are on unusable land to open their own casinos outside of the reservation. The legislature has approved the referendum; the voters have to make the final decision by a yes or no vote.

There are also local city and county matters that need to be voted on.

Registering to vote can be done online with the online form Register to Vote.(list your state abbreviation).gov). Voter registration applications are also available at most post offices, public libraries, city and county government offices, and from the State Secretary of State’s office. In order to receive the voter literature a person should be registered at least a month prior to the election.

A democracy is supposed to be a society where the will of the majority determines what the government does. Each vote should be, more or less, equal. This has not happened over a number of years. The wealthy have been able to predominate. It is time for the government to again become the instrument of the majority.