Happy (Almost) Election Day, California

Money may have an outsized influence over our political system and campaign spending may (consciously or not) sway legislative votes so it increasingly seems we have little power over that phenomenon. But we do have the power over our own votes.

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We, the voters, just like they, the lawmakers, are inundated with campaign spending each election cycle. We hear radio spots, we see television commercials, we acknowledge online advertisements, we get slate mailers, and we may also get emails. But it is up to all of us to determine how much weight to give each of these.

Campaign spending undoubtedly skews the debate and the information that is readily available. Heavy campaign spending often means we, the voters, must spend more of our most precious resources -- time and energy -- to get useful information about candidates and ballot measures. The burden to educate ourselves in the face of substantial campaign spending is real. But the alternative is far worse than that burden.

Recent registration numbers show that almost three fourths of eligible voters in California have registered to vote in Tuesday's election. That may sound fairly decent, but let's put that another way. More than one in four eligible members of the electorate have not registered to vote. Still, since February 2008, during the last presidential primary election, 1.4 million more people are registered to vote.

Who are these registered voters? Slightly more than 21% of this group has declined to state a party preference. A bit more than 43% of this group are registered Democrats, and just over 30% are registered Republications. The fastest growing group, by far, are Decline to State voters.

Regardless of your party affiliation, or lack of affiliation, I encourage each of you to go to the mailbox or the ballot box and exercise a right too many of us take for granted. Money may be treated as speech, but votes can send a pretty loud message as well.

Jessica Levinson writes about the intersection of law and government every Monday. She is a Visiting Professor at Loyola Law School. Read more of her posts here.

About the Author

Jessica Levinson is an Associate Clinical Professor at Loyola Law School. She focuses on the intersection of law and government.
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