Kal ZoneBlog

California Proposition 16 and the state of our democracy

June 7, 2010

California Proposition 16, financed primarily by PG&E, is advertised as the "Taxpayers Right to Vote Act." It would require a referendum whenever a local government (such as Marin County) moved to form its own public power agency. But Prop 16 would require a two-thirds supermajority to pass such a referendum.

In other words, it would take twice as many "yes" votes (two thirds) as "no" votes (one third) to approve a local public power agency. Merits of the underlying issue aside, how democratic is it to tilt the playing field to make each "no" vote worth twice as much as a "yes" vote?

A more accurate name for Prop 16 might be "The Right to Vote No on Any Threat to PG&E's Monopoly Act." As for the right to vote "yes", forget about it.

Imagine if the rules of baseball were changed so that the visiting team had to score twice as many runs as the home team to win. Bottom of the ninth and the home team is behind 6 to 3. The home team scores one. Game over. Joy in Mudville.

PG&E has spent $46 million (of ratepayer dollars) on a flood of ads promoting Proposition 16, which has pretty much drowned out any opposing voices. I submitted a Letter to the Editor of the SF Chronicle questioning Prop 16's supermajority requirement. They didn't print it, but did print another letter making the same point. But can isolated letters to the editor offset the barrage of TV and print ads pushing Prop 16? Will voters see through the deceptive framing? We'll find out tomorrow.

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