Copyright © 2003 Henrietta W. Hay
The California Election
August 22, 2003
Where but in California? Where else could we have a gubernatorial
election with 135 candidates, including a famous movie actor, a porn
king, a child actor grown up, a female ex-right wing columnist, a
stripper (female) and a couple of stand up comics?
It is hard to know whether to laugh or cry at what is going on. Is this
democracy in action or a three ring circus? Of course the event in
California can't really compare with the circus in Washington, but it
is a little less urgent -- unless you live there. I'll bet ex-Colorado
Governor Roy Romer wishes he had taken any job except that of
Superintendent of Schools in Los Angeles.
The federal and state systems of checks and balances allow recall of
public officials. That would include the governor of Colorado, but I am
not suggesting it. Well -- wait a minute; let's think about that!
Anyway, it's twice as hard to do in Colorado. California requires
signatures on gubernatorial recall petitions equal to 12% of vote for
governor in last election. Colorado requires 25%.
When the federal constitution was being written, we were a small country
and the idea of a state spending $65 million to get rid of a guy they
just elected would have sent the forefathers home screaming.
In those days voting was done in town meetings. As the country
developed, the town meeting gave way to what were known as "papers."
Political parties issued long "tickets" listing all the candidates in
that party running for office. Voters were urged to "vote a straight
The single ballots Americans would recognize today did not make their
appearance until the 1880s. The paper ballots listing all the
candidates were known as "the Australian ballot." In 1889, New York
became the first American state to use them. Gradually, they came to
replace voting straight party ticket.
Now we have voting machines and pregnant chads. I have been trying to
figure this California election out. There are two questions on the
ballot. The first says, "Should Gray Davis be recalled as Governor?".
The second says "Please select one of the following candidates for
Governor." See, quite simple. If enough people vote "no" on the
first, your vote on the second is immaterial. But you have to do it
anyway, in case enough people voted "yes" on the first. By Jove, I
think I've got it. Oh no. Forgot something. Since only a small
percentage of the voters will have access to electronic voting
machines, the rest of the voters are going back to punch ballots.
With 135 candidates voters will have to plow through several pages of
ballots to find the name to punch That means more hanging or dimpled
chads. Remember Florida?
Tom Bjorklund would really have a ball with this one.
The glamour candidate is the Terminator himself, Arnold
Schwarzenegger. The Austrian born actor, filthy rich, married to a
Kennedy and with as much political experience as Micky Mouse, is running
as a Republican. Wow. Imagine Governor Terminator. The only thing he
has said which even approaches a political comment is, " I promise you
that I will be the people's governor." But for now, what Paul Campos
dubs "politainment" has Arnold leading the pack. Who knows what
tomorrow will bring, or even this afternoon?
His most prominent Democratic opponent, Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante,
says, "I think that my campaign says it all: Vote no on the recall, but
just in case, vote yes for Bustamante."
We don't hear very much from the other 133 candidates -- thank
Time magazine says that "the only prediction that seems safe to make at
this point is that the recall election will get weirder. . . In a field
this jammed with candidates, the next Governor could conceivably be a
candidate who is the choice of 5% or even less." This in a state with
a $38 billion deficit.
Where but in California? Hope it's not catching.