Every election cycle, Californians get to vote for their favorite stories.
True, these stories have all the reading appeal of stale cereal. They’re printed in two columns on the gray newsprint of the Official Voter Information Guide. But they are stories, these ballot propositions—stories of a future we imagine and then construct together.
This year, there are seventeen of them.
According to Ballotpedia, California was the tenth state to adopt the initiative process, in October 1911, following a wave of progressive changes. While we may feel overwhelmed by having seventeen propositions up for a vote this election, apparently the 2000s have seen only an average number on the ballot at each election.
For most of the propositions I was able to decide how I’ll vote based on reading the Official Title and Summary in the Voter Information Guide. For example: PROPOSITION 62: “Death Penalty. Initiative Statute. Repeals death penalty as maximum punishment for persons found guilty of murder and replaces it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole.” That pretty much tells me what I need to know.
I got hung up, however, on PROPOSITION 64: “Marijuana legalization. Initiative statute.” The official title and summary is nearly a half a page long. The text of the bill runs more than thirty pages.
I thought I knew how I’d vote until I started listening to some of the analysis. (KQED, my local NPR station, produced a number of excellent programs on this.)
As I learned more, I began asking questions. Will this initiative provide relief to an overburdened prison system by keeping thousands of non-violent drug offenders out of the system? Or will it corrupt our youth by normalizing pot use? Will it reduce water and pesticide use by giving the government the ability to regulate illegal growing operations? Or will it open the door to Big Cannabis becoming a force like Big Tobacco, replete with lobbyists and entrenched interests?
As with so many stories about our future, we won’t know how this one will turn out until we live it for a while. So we have no choice but to vote our ideology and our conscience—even if we can’t know all the implications of our votes.
We cast our ballots for what we believe in. We vote for a future we hope the propositions we endorse will engender. It remains to be seen whether the laws we adopt as a result will bring that future to life.
*I think I am showing my age by the fact that this is one of the few slang terms that comes to mind for me for pot. The list is fairly exhaustive.
Pudding and other tidbits
I’ve been honored that four of my flash fiction pieces have made the Mash Stories Competition short list over the last year or so. Sadly, Mash Stories will be discontinued after the current competition, where my story Pudding was shortlisted, but there’s still time to read and vote (like) before the November 15 announcement of a winner.
And stay tuned in the next month or so for news about my forthcoming novel!
Stay scary, and
DON’T FORGET TO VOTE.
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I shook my head when I opened my mailbox and saw the 200 plus page proposition booklet. I read, I anguish over the choices. I check what recommendations are offered from sources I respect. Then I decide. But I always wonder how many people devote the necessary hours to reading and trying to figure this out. How many watch the bombardment of ads on TV and say…”Well, that sounds good…I’ll vote no.”
My novel-in-progress is all about this! The way our public “storytelling” has become so condensed that there is no way for the average person to know what is behind a sound bite. And the fact that fewer and fewer of us are willing (or able?) to take the deep dive into the original text to figure things out for ourselves.
The next 36 hours will be interesting, for sure.
I know what you mean…
And then there’s 61. Who’s for and against it seems to make it clear, but when I read the analysis it appeared there is considerable uncertainty regarding what would actually happened if it passed.
Right–will it fight high drug prices and combat corporate greed…or result in elimination of existing drug discounts and increase prescription costs by tens of millions? What’s a poor voter to do? Maybe I’d like to revisit some of these a year from now, if they pass, and see what the outcome has been.