My "CC" sent me this article from The Nation touting Scotland's referendum on independence before the voting took place. In view of the results - a resounding defeat of the independence referendum, one might reconsider whether we should copy Scotland since this is no the first time such a referendum has been defeated. And given the 85% turnout which allowed 16 year old to vote, the defeat crossed all demographic lines indicating Scots preferred the devil they know to the one they didn't know.
Enabling state referendums is dicey stuff in many ways as we in Oregon have learned over the years, as other states have learned too. Measure 5 the property tax limitation measure which passed in '91, a copy of California's Prop 13 which passed in there in '78, is an example of be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. Ever since Oregon has not been able to fund K-12, higher ed and its social safety net to meet the needs of students and the poor.
But that's just the tip of the referendum nightmare. Many ballot measures are crafted by self-interested groups who have an ax to grind which they can't get passed through the legislature so they go to the people. Often times, big money is the name of the game as is the case in three initiatives we'll vote on in November the anti-GMO, the pro recreational pot and the Top 2 measures. After the ad wars are over the public will no doubt be more confused than educated.
If one were to enable such measure to go national - the mischief that could be created would be mind boggling. It would unlose a feeding frenzy of measures such as anti-abortion, pro school prayer, and pro-balanced budget national ballot measures - all favored by the right wing, especially the Tea Party. Such measures would empower Right Wing funders like the Kock brothers and Karl Rove. The Left would love to put up anti-war measures to end unpopular wars.
The real poisen pen here is that such national ballot measures would be an expedited means to amend the US Constitution. That's really a dangerous proposition given the volatility of the public.
If such measures were simply "advisory votes" with no legislative impact, in effect, a point in time sense of the electorate, one might consider them useful tools to measure popular sentiment at a point in time. But given the public's normal lack of attention to civic affairs and ignorance of the basics of American government - who their governor, US Senators, Congressmen or other local leaders are - one questions the value of such votes given the paucity of an informed citizenry.
But we have a tool for such via public opinion polling which is done routinely and accurately despite the public's suspicion of such polling. Besides, isn't this what elections are supposed to be about? Now where the Scots out did us is the number of people voting. Presidential elections normally elicit around 50-60% of registered voters or about 30% of eligible voters, state and local elections have smaller turnout. So if we want to increase voter participation that's a goal worth going for.
As I've posted previously, let's move to open not closed primaries. Let's move to vote-by-mail across the USA. Let's allow same day registration. Let's do motor voter registration. Or couple getting a Social Security Card with a national voter registration card. And let's end voter suppression laws which discriminate against minority and low income citizens. Each of these reforms will enlarge voter turnout and will encourage younger, women, minority and working poor Americans to vote.
The Scottish vote didn't turn out as the editors of The Nation imagined. The lesser of two evils, the status quo won. What will change elections in the USA is the changing demographic - a majority of the electorate being female. the growing youth vote of 18-35 year olds and the increased Latino vote. While the GOP should do well in 2014 with the "older demographic" by 2016 and beyond the "new demographic" will favor more progressive candidates.
As the line in the movie "Goodbye Columbus" went "the future is in plastics." Well the future in US politics will be in larger numbers of women, young, minority, gay and Latino voters joining with their more liberal counterparts among progressive white, African-American and Labor union voters.