Historic importance of California Proposition 77
Americans are proud of our democratic government. American soldiers are dying to establish and support new democratic governments overseas. It is our long-standing national policy to promote democratic freedoms for all people.
Yet, most Americans surveyed believe that our legislators are less appealing than credit jewelers.
We have a long way to go before our attitudes towards our legislators match our belief in the wonders of democracy. Prop. 77, put on the ballot by over a million Californians, is a step in that direction.
In the past, California has been a leader in improving the way democracy works. California was the first state to introduce civil service exams for State employees to eliminate the terrible practice of patronage. California invented the initiative and referendum to create a form of direct democracy. California created non-partisan elections by allowing members of any political party to vote in the primary of their choice.
The non-partisan election worked for forty years in California and during that forty years California was noted for its clean government and for the highest quality public schools in America.
Political parties took away the non-partisan election process in 1959. Since that time California has tried to rein in the highly partisan legislature, first with a taxation limit (Prop. 13 in 1978) and then with term limits on legislators (Prop. 140 in 1990). In 1998 Californians voted by a large majority to reinstate the non-partisan State ballots. The courts and the legislature canceled that vote.
Californians keep trying to improve our state democracy.
Prop. 77 is another step toward better democracy and California will influence the nation. Prop. 77 will replace the corrupt mechanism that the legislature uses to design its own legislative districts. Currently legislators design their own districts so that they are automatically re-elected. Every Assembly person and Senator, running for their own seat, was re-elected in the last election. That was corrupt and undemocratic.
Prop. 77 will eliminate legislative self-dealing and replace it with a panel of three retired judges to design legislative districts. The change will take place in our next election. The language of the proposition specifically eliminates partisan consideration from the design of districts and from the choice of judges who are on the panel.
It may be a long time before we can be proud of our legislature but we can stop the corrupt practice of letting legislators design their own districts.
We need to get moving on the road which leads away from negative attitudes about our legislatures and head in the positive direction of our national pride in democracy.