I am waiting for the results from today’s election. It being the first Tuesday in June, it is California’s primary day. “Wait a minute,” you may think, “Didn’t California have a primary way back in February?” Yes. We did. And yet, here we are again.
You see, California state law requires that the statewide direct primary elections be held on the first Tuesday in June (which, back in the day, is when we voted in presidential primaries – long after they had been wrapped up and decided by other less populous states). However, this year the powers-that-be, with the blessing of the Democratic Party, decided to move the presidential primary up to Super Tuesday (Feb 5, 2008). On that ballot, we voted for the presidential candidate of our choice, and of course a large number of ballot measures (referenda and/or initiatives), as is our custom.
However, the presidential primary cannot displace the statewide direct primary election, at least not without a legal change first, and so, we have another election. On this ballot I got to vote in the primary for assembly member, member of congress, numerous judges, and, of course, a couple more ballot measures on eminent domain (after all, it has already been a few months since the last round of the primary, clearly enough time to need more ballot measures!).
I find this situation very frustrating. As anyone who cares about participation in the electoral process knows, the best way to get people to vote for the smaller offices (state and local), is to tie it in to a big election that people care enough about to go to the polls. Having the primary on Super Tuesday is just such an opportunity. Not to use it is worse than squandering the opportunity – it is actually counterproductive for participation in the local election – who is going to bother to care about voting in a second primary when they already voted for president months ago? Me, and my family, and a few (millions) of our closest friends. Not enough people. Not nearly enough.