One-party rule corrupts California’s election process

California Democrats control the governor’s mansion, every statewide elected office, both U.S. Senate seats, 42 of 53 congressional districts and hold a supermajority in both houses of the state Legislature. You’d think such electoral dominance would remove any need to further stack the process in their favor – but you thought wrong.

Perhaps the political class is paranoid because most California voters are not as far to the left as they are. Politicians know this and it’s borne out in most election cycles. In November, attempts to gut Proposition 13, reimpose affirmative action, allow 17-year-olds to vote, allow rent control and abolish cash bail went down in flames.

Now what we’re seeing is a pattern of trying to keep democracy out of the hands of the voters.

The most stunning example is Gov. Gavin Newsom’s apparently unconstitutional appointment of a U.S. Senator, when the U.S. Constitution’s Seventeenth Amendment states that vacancies “shall” be filled by an election unless the legislature empowers the governor “to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.”

Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, R-Granite Bay, immediately questioned the constitutionality of Newsom’s appointment of then-Secretary of State Alex Padilla to fill the vacancy created when Sen. Kamala Harris resigned to become vice president. Evidence that he was right comes with the introduction of Assembly Bill 1495, which finally creates the required special election, but not until November 2022.

“We’ll be electing someone to serve for a month,” Kiley observed. “Here’s the truly crazy part: Padilla will at the same time be running for reelection. So, on your November 2022 ballot you’ll see what looks like a printing error: a race for the same Senate seat will appear twice.”

Another attempt by politicians to keep the voters out of the way of those in power is Senate Constitutional Amendment 1, introduced by Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys. Hertzberg was the author of the 2018 bill that ended cash bail in California, a highly unpopular law that voters overturned in a referendum on the November ballot.

In a referendum, a “yes” vote approves the law and a “no” vote rejects it. SCA 1 would reverse this, so that a “yes” vote would reject the law and a “no” vote would mean “yes” to the law. This is such an obvious attempt to confuse voters that it can only be seen as an attempt to undercut the people’s power of referendum.

The California Constitution also gives the people the power to recall elected officials, and obviously the politicians don’t like that, either. To undercut the power of recall, Senate Constitutional Amendment 3 by state Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, would allow the officeholder being recalled to also appear on the recall ballot as one of the replacements. This would allow a governor to be recalled and reelected on the same ballot.

Another attempt to manipulate the recall election in the politicians’ favor was a 2017 law that added months of budget and legislative review to the recall calendar in an attempt to save Sen. Josh Newman from an ongoing recall effort. Now some Democrats fear the delay required by that law is hurting Governor Newsom’s chances of survival. According to Politico, state budget officials have “asked California counties to fast-track their recall cost estimates by June 1, a move that could help put the state in position to have a recall election sooner than the fall.”

State Sen. Steve Glazer outlined the partisan strategy in a recent tweet. “Best opportunity to beat this reckless recall of @GavinNewsom is to have an early election. He has rebounded well with vaccines and budget,” Glazer wrote. “His biggest threats are the unknowns: virus variant, fires, school reopening. No reason to delay and give opposition any more running room.”

Two more attempts to manipulate recall elections come to us from Sen. Josh Newman, who was elected again after being recalled for supporting the hated $5 billion gas tax hike of 2017.

Senate Bill 663 would give politicians who are the target of a recall access to the names and addresses of everyone who signed the petition. That access would be followed by a 45-day period (up from 30 days) during which signers could withdraw their names from the petition. Thankfully, the obvious potential for voter intimidation was too much even for the Legislature and Newman quietly shelved the bill. But then Newman has SB 660, an attempt to ban paid signature gathering. He claims, without evidence, that the bill’s purpose is to prevent fraud. In fact, all this bill would do is drive up the cost of getting measures on the ballot. That favors wealthy and entrenched interests.

It’s all intended to limit the power of California voters and empower a permanent political class. The ghosts of Tammany Hall can only watch in jealous admiration.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.