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wshaffer
I voted today! 
3rd-Jun-2008 10:48 am
talent, pencil
Not that I can say that it's a very exciting election - I rubber-stamped the single Democratic candidate for Congressman and State Assemblyperson, and did my best to pick out reasonable candidates for a raft of city/county positions. I did take some satisfaction from voting against both Propositions 98 and 99 (each of which proposes to reform the states powers of "eminent domain" - its ability to take private property (with compensation) for a variety of uses). While I didn't manage to research these two propositions as thoroughly as I wanted to, and I'm willing to be persuaded that we need eminent domain reform, the proponents of these propositions didn't persuade me. Nor did they explain to me with sufficient clarity what their propositions were actually going to do.

I suppose I have a tech-writer's view of direct democracy: If you can't explain in plain language that an ordinary person can understand what your proposition will do, you don't deserve to have it pass. (Or alternatively, if an issue is so complex that a law addressing it can't be explained in plain language, it is not an issue that's suitable to be addressed by referendum.)

As an amusing side note: I'm a permanent by-mail voter, but I waited too late to be able to mail my ballot on time, so I walked to my polling place this morning to drop it off. The polling place was someone's house, a few blocks up the street from me. When I dropped off my ballot, the owner said to me, "Oh, I know you! I see you walking every morning, with your headphones!" He said he admired me for walking every morning. I admire him for offering his house as a polling station every election. We're just a mutual admiration society.

I do wonder if Santa Clara county's push to have people become permanent vote-by-mail voters has increased voter participation. I'll admit that it seems to have made me more likely to vote. (The polling place wasn't busy when I arrived: one person was there voting, and another person arrived to drop off a by-mail ballot as I was leaving. When I've voted in presidential elections or primaries, I've usually had to wait in a short line.)
Comments 
3rd-Jun-2008 06:38 pm (UTC)
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<em.I suppose I have a tech-writer's view of direct democracy: If you can't explain in plain language that an ordinary person can understand what your proposition will do, you don't deserve to have it pass. (Or alternatively, if an issue is so complex that a law addressing it can't be explained in plain language, it is not an issue that's suitable to be addressed by referendum.)</em>

Sounds like common sense to me. If it must be voted on by the public, word it and explain it in plain English, or don't bother.

Has there been much anxiety over voter fraud? That seems to be the bogeyman preventing the uptake of permanent vote-by-mail in other parts of the world. It certainly seems convenient.
3rd-Jun-2008 07:57 pm (UTC)
There hasn't been much concern about voter fraud, at least not that I've seen. They have set it up to discourage the most obvious types of ballot-stuffing: You have to return your ballot in a special pre-printed envelope with your name and address on it, you have to sign the envelope when you seal it, and if you have someone else drop off your ballot, you have to sign a separate form authorizing this person to deliver your ballot.

It's not a perfect system, and in theory it compromises the secretness of the ballot, but I haven't heard any reports of problems.

3rd-Jun-2008 07:04 pm (UTC)
auros posted what I thought was a pretty good bit of analysis of propositions 98 and 99 here.

The short form of 98's real justification for why eminent domain needs to be reformed is, "When the gummint zones my property so that I can't run a cement plant in the middle of a residential neighborhood, or puts rent controls into place on my slum, that's decreasing the value of my property, and I ought to be compensated for all of that under eminent domain." This probably suffices as an explanation for why the effects of the proposition were not clearly explained in plain language.
3rd-Jun-2008 07:44 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the link! I did get the impression, even in its obfuscated language, that Prop 98 was distinctly skanky. I am now wondering if I should have voted for 99 as extra insurance against 98 passing, but...the ballot is cast.
4th-Jun-2008 06:24 am (UTC)
I think we may've had more VBMs dropped off in my precinct than we had regular votes.
4th-Jun-2008 03:20 pm (UTC)
That wouldn't be surprising. In Santa Clara county, they've tallied the number of VBM versus in-person votes as part of the results, and it was nearly 2 to 1 VBM to in-person.
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