RANT: How to make voting fun again

Yesterday was the primary in California, and as I attempted to determine how I wanted to vote on the two statewide propositions and four local measures, I freaked out. I realized that voting sucks. Democracy as we know it sucks. I've never known politics to be any other way, but ballot-box legislating and budgeting...sucks. We have to vote too often, and ballot propositions are way too complicated to be understood by any ordinary, working person with a limited amount of time for "extras" like current affairs.

I have a solution, and the only problem is that this blog post feels about as insignifcant as my pathetic one vote. But I'll go on anyway. My solution is two-pronged: hold elections once a year at the same time every year, when people expecct to be voting. That keeps it exciting. No primaries, no special elections, nothing, just one Tuesday in November when people understand it's their one chance to vote. This would help the turnout problem. The second prong helps the other issue: NO MORE PROPOSITIONS--period.

We ordinary individuals didn't go into politics because...news flash!...we're not genuinely interested in the ins and outs of government. I'm secure enough in my intelligence and worthiness as a human being to be able to admit that if I truly understood that vast policy implications of raising taxes on this or that segment of the population, or if I really knew so much about how best to run the California public schools, I'd be out there doing that instead of writing about videogames for a living. I mean, I care about the issues and how they affect my life, but I honestly have no idea how to make any of it better. So why am I being asked to vote on complex public policy issues I have no chance in hell of understanding?

I thought this was a representative democracy, anyway! I thought the whole tradeoff for not actually getting to make decisions ourselves was that we didn't have to make decisions ourselves. I mean, if you're going to expect me to learn all this stuff about the best way to improve public education, libraries, attendance at city council meetings, and real estate transactions, then dammit let's get rid of the thousands and thousands of suits in Sacramento whose salaries are paid by our tax dollars, and let me and my friends figure out how we want to run our own damn backyards.

My protest solution? Vote no on ALL ballot propositions, just to make a point that nobody wants them, nobody understands them, and they must be abolished. Of course, this won't happen, and nothing will change, and the voting public will just become more and more apathetic, and soon enough, the empire will crumble or some group will rise up and take charge, and something will change, and I'll look back on this time when I had the luxury of writing and ranting all I wanted about the ills of early 21st century American democracy. But until then I say, Vote No on ALL Propositions! Do it to prove a point!


Kevin said...

Hilarious post Jennifer! Although it is said that ballots with low turn-outs tend to be represented by voters who are well informed about the issues. It is somewhat disheartening to see democracy in america fallen apart by the way of apathy...alas we just do what we can.

Jennifer said...

thanks Kevin. It is disheartening isn't it? I guess my basic argument boils down to "absence makes the heart grow fonder"--make voting rarer and people will be more inclined to do it!

Elizabeth said...

It's actually been really weird since I moved to Virginia to NOT have all those propositions to deal with.

EJ Dionne in the Post had an interesting column this morning on California's election: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/08/AR2006060801669.html
(You need to sign up with the Post to read it, I'm afraid. But the Chron used to run him on Saturdays, so maybe tomorrow this'll be in your paper?)

Matt said...

A couple people here at DF vote no on pretty much all propositions, as a matter of principle. I tend towards that as well, but I still vote yes if something's strongly in my self-interest. :)

In addition to ballot measures, I think the same phenomenon occurs with all the small offices. There's a primary for state assessor-recorder? What is that?

I think democracy works best when more people vote, and as you create more and more obscure positions and ballot measures, the only people who can afford to pay attention are people with careers in politics, or with an immediate self-interest. Small turnout encourages deceptive propositions and bought politicians.