Author: Jeffrey

Why California’s “yes” and “no” ballots are so rare

Why California’s “yes” and “no” ballots are so rare

The journey of a vote-by-mail ballot in California

As ballot measures go, California’s “yes” and “no” votes to raise taxes on the wealthy are, well, a bit odd. Because these taxes would take effect only if voters here approve them on Election Day, there was no need to mail a ballot to every eligible voter. The idea was to send a ballot to every registered voter, and make sure they received it with their in-person ballots, but it also raised the prospect that those voters would return their ballots by mail and risk losing them.

Now, in theory, it was a great idea. It’s hard to think of a more democratic way for voters in one part of the nation to express their will than by using a ballot rather than a pen and paper. And in fact, when the proposition was passed by the California Supreme Court in June, it became the fastest-passed ballot measure in the nation’s history — a process that took just a little over a month and produced a ballot language that could be considered a model of public deliberation.

Of course, one of the reasons that ballot propositions are so rare is that they’re almost always difficult and time-consuming to pass. By the time of Prop. 30, which dealt with California’s income-tax increase, voters had been considering the proposition for more than a year. The effort began in the summer of 2013 when lawmakers proposed a tax on the state’s wealthiest residents.

Initially, legislators in Sacramento proposed just implementing the tax by a two-thirds vote, but after residents protested, the State Assembly passed an “advisory referendum” instead, which would have been enough to force voters to vote yes or no on the tax. The measure would have gone into effect if enough state lawmakers approved it. After that, it would have gone to the statewide ballot.

California voters are no strangers to ballot referendums. In fact, California voters have passed more than 300 them since 1959, a number that has been growing. There are a few big reasons why that is so.

One is that most candidates run for office when polls show that there’s at least a 50 percent chance that voters will approve the measure — a far cry from today, when voters typically have a much lower chance of supporting a candidate for office. Additionally, many measures tend to be extremely narrow, focusing on one or two

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