Wednesday, November 09, 2005

a bad day for democracy

Like most smart people, I think the initiative process in California is mostly a disaster and needs to be cut back significantly.

But I was really disappointed that Prop. 77, which would let a panel of judges draw congressional and legislative district lines instead of politiicans, lost yesterday. It's a rare case of a law that the legislature would almost certainly never be able to pass since it goes against members' own interests, even though it's in the public interest.

Letting politicians draw district lines in order to minimize competition is nothing less than a democratic travesty. When not a single one of the 153 congressional or state legislative seat changed hands in 2004, it's hard to see the difference between California and North Korea.

While it could be most people don't agree with me on this topic, I think it's more likely that 77 got lost amidst the general anti-Arnold vote, since 77 was part of his 74-77 block. But while 74-75 would have struck at public employees and 76 would limit the size of government, there's nothing inherently conservative about 77. When I had to convince my girlfriend that 77 was actually a good idea and not another attempt by Arnold to strike at his enemies, I realized this was not a good time for this proposition.

Given that a similar proposal lost in Ohio, it's clearly a bad year for democratic reform. We need better arguments to convince people of the urgency of shifting the way we vote so it becomes fairer and more democratic. I guess when people perceive such reform as a partisan issue one way or another (Democrats pushed them in Ohio), they don't have a chance. I guess we really need a strong inter-party or nonpartisan movement to get such changes implemented around the country so one day soon we might have a real democracy with accurate and transparent vote counting, fairly drawn districts, instant runoff (or some alternative to winner-take-all), and no more electoral college (for starters -- then someday soon maybe my ultimate goal of making the senate actually representative of the people so California and Alaska don't get equal votes).

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