When hundreds of Californians got together to roll up their sleeves and talk about elections last week, they were joined by a looming, unwanted problem. “And that voter turnout. That’s really the elephant in the room, isn’t it?” said California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. “November 2014. June 2014. We can and must do better. And there is no magic wand to get more and more Californians to vote.” The room was filled for the Future of California Elections (FOCE) annual conference in Sacramento. The theme of the conference was building a more inclusive democracy, taking up issues of elections funding, language and disability access, election data and other nuts-and-bolts. But, the low voter turnout and what to do about it dominated several of the discussions.
California voters can expect to receive free weed from some pot clubs in the Bay Area city of San Jose for casting ballots in state primary elections next Tuesday that include local races and battles for governor and secretary of state. The city’s cannabis collectives, which have also offered up a voter guide to the races, are offering free marijuana and discounts when members show a ballot stub or an “I Voted” sticker on June 3. “Primary elections tend to have much lower turnout because people don’t even know there’s a vote that day,” said Dave Hodges, a cannabis club owner and member of the Silicon Valley Cannabis Coalition. “We want to help people know when to vote and who to vote for.”
There was a special election in Los Angeles County last week. Didn’t know? Didn’t vote? Didn’t care? Well, you’re in the majority. Less than 9% of registered voters in the 54th Assembly District bothered to show up at the polls or mail in ballots. Angelenos, a generally disunited bunch, coalesced around apathy. But what does it say about us that the one thing we can agree on is indifference? The appalling turnout last week is a symptom of a much larger problem. Why did we even have a special election Dec. 3 in this district that includes Westwood, Ladera Heights, Culver City, Mar Vista and other neighborhoods in west and southwest Los Angeles? It was held to replace former Assemblywoman and current state Sen. Holly Mitchell. Thanks to term limits, which were enacted as a political “reform,” politicians in Los Angeles and California play an endless game of musical chairs, hopping from one elected office to another, sometimes in the middle of their terms.
It certainly doesn’t stack up to David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged or Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, but this fall’s voter’s guide in San Francisco will certainly help prop open just about any door. The voter’s guide for the 2013 fall election will clock in at more than 500 pages. The phonebook-sized guide is courtesy of a city law that requires the full text of a referendum, as it was presented during the signature drive, to appear in the voter’s guide. The legal text for the referendum — regarding the height of a condo project — includes numerous pages of text from the city’s planning commission, board of supervisor meeting testimony and environmental studies. “If printed with the referendum, this would be San Francisco’s largest voter guide,” explained Jon Arntz, director of elections for San Francisco.
California: San Francisco goes for the Guinness — 500-page ballot book blockbuster | San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco voters this fall will be treated to some extra reading in the form of a 400- to 500-page ballot guide, thanks mostly to a referendum on the height of the 8 Washington waterfront luxury condo development. “It’s going to look like a phone book,” said Department of Elections head John Arntz. That’s because under city law, the Nov. 5 ballot book, which is mailed to 500,000 voters, must include the “full text” of the referendum as it was presented during the signature drive that put it on the ballot. In this case, that means the city must include more than 500 pages of documents, including those from the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors’ hearings and even copies of studies on shadows that the condos may cast. And it is not going to come cheap.