The California primary is exactly one month away, and today I got my first three pieces of campaign propaganda — and my absentee ballot. I didn't even have to request it, because it's the only way I can vote. There's no polling place in my area, so even if I wanted to stand in line and have a volunteer cross my name off a list, then step behind a curtain and pull a lever, I couldn't. I have to vote by mail unless I want to return my ballot in person to the county clerk's office or another polling place.
Mine is a Democratic Party ballot, so for governor I have a choice of Gray Davis, the incumbent whom I despise, and three people I've never heard of. I don't know who'll get my vote in November (man, that's a long way off!), but it won't be Davis. I'll have to start trying to find out who these other people are, although there's not a chance in the world any of them will win the nomination.
We seem to have only six statewide propositions to wade through this time around. That's down from the usual fifteen or thirty. I assume I'll be getting a ballot pamphlet with all the text and arguments in plenty of time to make an informed choice. You can't go by the titles and descriptions on the ballot itself.
Proposition 40 (that's the first one listed) is called "The California Clean Water, Clean Air, Safe Neighborhood Parks, and Coastal Protection Act of 2002." Wow. On closer inspection, it's a $2.6 billion bond measure. How do they come up with an amount of money like that? I can't even grasp what it means.
Proposition 41 is the "Voting Modernization Bond Act of 2002," while the title of Proposition 43 is "Right to Have Vote Counted." I think I'm for that, on principle. I guess a lot of people have been thinking about these problems since the Florida Fiasco of 2000. Wouldn't it be funny if they had to have a recount on these two? Well, not funny, exactly.
Proposition 42 is "Transportation Congestion Improvement Act." That sounds good until you read the subtitle, "Allocation of Existing Motor Vehicle Fuel Sales and Use Tax Revenues for Transportation Purposes Only." Now it sounds a little restrictive, especially with a huge budget deficit looming. Besides, don't we already spend gas tax money on roads and buses? We do, don't we?
Proposition 44 is "Chiropractors. Unprofessional Conduct." I'm probably against that, but I have a feeling there might be more do it than a yea-or-nay endorsement.
Finally, we have Proposition 45, "Legislative Term Limits." Dearie me, haven't we been here before? Oh, wait. This one allows local voters to petition the state to override existing term limitations for the incumbents in their district. I don't believe in term limits in the first place, but I'm not sure I can endorse a half-assed attempt to override them. This either entrenches the existing law or begins the process of repealing it, depending on how you look at it. I have to decide whether to stand on principle or bow to expediency. Yes, that old bugaboo, the oldest dilemma in politics. I wonder where Gray Davis stands on this one.
I have four weeks to figure all this out, along with all the other statewide and local races. Some people don't get into this stuff, but I'm all over it. I take it just as seriously as I would if I thought my vote actually made a difference. After hanging on every chad for over a month in the last presidential election, I'm not sure it doesn't. Especially if they actually count all the votes.