OK, the 127-page California Election pamphlet known as the Official Voter Information Guide is out and about. The expensive, black-and-white booklet is part of the necessary environment for the proper conduct of the upcoming voting cycle.
It is also one of the most underutilized aspects of the voting process, mainly because it is chock full of very useful information presented in a bland and boring format. No pizzazz. No color. Only one or two non-interactive charts and graphs. All substantive content. It remains on too many table tops, kitchen appliances, along with disregarded ads and newspaper sections laying close to the garbage can in our houses and apartments.
That is sometimes the fate of the smooth, skilled and overtly capable–the-too-good-to-be useful ilk in our too fast, disposable society. To get its valuable contents, one actually has to take a bit of time and read through the document, analyzing, underlining and studying what it offers. This characteristic is exactly why it is so often ignored and sits unread and unheeded.
The California Black community can ill afford ignoring any political gift horse presented to us, particularly one that is free and non-obligatory. We have only to learn how to efficiently get to the parts that will benefit our collective interests, and know how to use those components, once secured.
So, when we want to know whether any, all or none of the current nine propositions that are on this upcoming ballot are worth our time, where in the document do we go; what questions should be asked; and what do we do with the information?
In two previous Our Weekly columns, we mentioned that the community can use the advice given in the Voter Information Guide as a general reference for all elections. By the way, make sure to read and keep in a safe place The Voter Bill of Rights, currently printed on page 127 of this year’s pamphlet. It’s usually placed on the last page. For many of you, it may be the first time you’ve seen it, but please pay attention to it. Framing and hanging it wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
I. For the propositions, which are usually the bulk of the ballot in California and will be so again this year, go straight to the Quick Reference Guide section, this time on pages 4-8. There you get a useful summary of what each proposition and/or bond measure is all about, what your vote means to each, and brief arguments for and against them. This is always short and sweet.
II. Right behind the Quick Reference Guide is the Legislative Analyst’s Report, this time on pages 12-65. Look especially at “The Proposal” and “The Fiscal Effects,” which are usually on the same page for each proposition. You can ignore everything else, if you want since this information is generally definitive, or you can read the longer arguments and background material.
III. Follow the general principles below (always ask the following questions of propositions presented for our vote)
1. Will this proposition help my primary group? (i.e., ethnic group, gender group, etc.) (If yes, consider voting yes; if no, vote no)
2. Will it harm my primary group? (If yes, clearly vote no; if no, ask more questions)
3. Will it help me as an individual? (If yes, vote yes; if no, consider more questions)
4. Will it harm me as an individual? (If yes, immediately vote no; if no, consider the other questions)
5. Who is accountable for making sure the proposition project is done the way it says? (If that is not explained, vote no)
IV. If a bond measure, always look to see who is responsible for making sure the money is spent on what it promises to spend it on–if no one is responsible, or that issue is vague, vote no. If you have to pay more for the bond measure, and it’s not about school, fire/police, etc., vote no.
V. If all else fails, you can always wait for Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ list of what to vote for, although you should decide on your own. New U.S. Congresswoman Karen Bass will also probably pick up that same tradition. However you get there, be and stay informed.
Now, concerning the nine propositions on the ballot, space will not permit much explanation right now, but using the evaluative method above in terms of whether they will benefit or harm the interests of the Black community: (1) Vote Yes on Prop 19 (it can increase the value of being a Black farmer in California–currently, there are less than 300 Black farmers out of 94,000 in California), (2) Vote No on Prop. 20 (it is not in our interest to add this to the California Constitution, before we see whether it works or not), (3) Vote Yes on 21 (Black folks go to California state parks too), (4) Vote No on Prop. 22 (fails the test questions above), (5) Vote Absolutely No on Prop. 23 (kills the green collar jobs that Black folks need to replace the ones we’ve already lost), (6) Vote No on Prop. 24 (this initiative, if passed, will hurt small businesses in an economic downturn, including many Black businesses), (7) Vote Yes on Prop. 25 (if for no other reason, legislators should not be paid when they can’t pass a budget on time–apply the same standard most of us have on our jobs, if we have one), (8) Vote No on Prop. 26 (fails the test questions above), and (9) Vote No on Prop. 27 (it’s too early–let’s see if the thing works in our favor first, if not, we’ll vote to kill it then).
Vote well. Remember the community gathering to Craft a Black Political Agenda for our Future on Oct. 23, noon to 5 p.m. at the Vision Theater in Leimert Park. Come, if you are politically serious.
Professor David L. Horne, is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or Non Governmental Organization (NGO). It is the step-parent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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