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Gov. Brown Says We Will Only Vote on Initiatives & Referendum in November Elections

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A voting center in San Francisco
A voting center in San Francisco

Why are labor unions rejoicing Governor Jerry Brown's approval of a bill pushing all votes on initiatives and referendum to the fall? They and those sympathetic to their cause typically turn out in much larger numbers for November elections, as compared to June elections. A pending ballot measure, which likely would have appeared on the June 2012 ballot, restricts the ability of labor unions to raise campaign funds from members. Such a measure, if successful, will significantly limit the political power of labor unions in California. The unions can now breathe a sigh of relief, knowing their battle will not be waged in June, when a greater percentage of those turning out to vote are conservatives.

So labor unions are happy, what about the rest of us? Republican legislators have said the bill reeks of partisanship. But the rest of Republicans may not feel the same way as their representatives. By a 15-point margin, Republicans support the change, according to one Field Poll. In addition, a majority of all voters support the new law.

A larger question, does this law represent good public policy? On the one hand, this law will ensure that a larger percentage of the electorate will weigh in on initiatives and referendum. While the processes of direct democracy are deeply flawed, they appear to be here to stay. Therefore at the very least the largest percentage of voters possible should decide on measures whose implications will be felt in the Golden State for decades to come.

On the other hand, this new law will not mean there are fewer ballot measures. Instead we will vote on those measures more often. The November ballot will become much longer, and potentially more confusing.

Opponents are already considering a bid to overturn Brown's decision. And how would they go about doing this? By circulating a referendum of course.

Ballot box battles are here to stay. The question is how often we'll be asked to vote on them.

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

The photo used on this post is by Flickr user Steve Rhodes. It was used under a Creative Commons License.

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