The Riggs Report: Crowded ballot ahead for California
Voters face long list of measures in November
California voters could be faced with doing a lot of homework this fall. Stacks of petitions turned in this week by campaign groups indicate that somewhere between 15 and 20 initiatives will end up on the November ballot, making it one of the longest in years.
What actually makes it on the ballot depends on a number of factors. County clerks have to confirm that enough valid signatures have been gathered by campaign workers. Backers of some of these measures also have the ability, under recent law, to pull their measure if they’re able to reach a separate policy agreement with the Legislature.
Giving proponents the ability to withdraw their measures was seen as a way to grant maximum flexibility, but it also means that initiatives can be used for leverage against lawmakers and other groups.
A special interest group can say, “Give me what I want, or we’ll launch a measure and make you pay dearly for a campaign to defeat it.”
Secretary of State Alex Padilla has until the end of June to certify the ballot contents.
For now, eight measures have qualified for November, including a referendum to overturn a ban on plastic grocery bags, an initiative aimed at securing Medi-Cal funding from Washington and a repeal of “English-only” requirements in state law.
Others that have qualified include a minimum wage measure, a proposal to require state approval for all revenue bonds, a prescription drug pricing initiative and a $9 billion school bond.
High-profile measures still awaiting verification include an effort to repeal the death penalty, a proposal to further restrict ammunition sales, legalized recreational use of marijuana and a measure to impose limits on hospital executive pay.
Gov. Jerry Brown is also sponsoring a measure that would allow non-violent convicted felons to seek early parole and would allow prisoners to be assigned good behavior credits that would shorten their stay behind bars. That measure is expected to turn in signatures by the end of the week.
California’s lengthy ballot is due in part to high voter interest in a presidential election but also that fact that it was easier to qualify measures this year. That’s because the number of required voter signatures is tied to voter turnout in the previous election, which was low in 2014.
Once the secretary of state assigns ballot numbers in July, we’ll have a truly accurate picture of what voters will face this fall.
For now, we can anticipate a lengthy list of measures. And campaigns can only hope they aren’t assigned a slot far down on the ballot—when voter fatigue can mean measures are skipped altogether in the polling booth.