Pete Rates the Propositions
Sensible opinions on the California ballot propositions      since 1980      by Pete Stahl

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March 2004

March Primaries are For the Birds

Pete StahlDear voters,

There's an election coming up March 5th. That's practically on top of us now. It contains one statewide ballot proposition, which I have rated as usual.

The election will also have primary contests for US President, US Senate (six-year term and remainder of 2024), US House of Representatives, State Senate (odd-numbered districts), State Assembly, and probably a bunch of local offices such as county supervisor, school board, and city council.

This would all be fine in our usual primary month of June (or, even better, August or September, as 18 states do!). California voters are accustomed to start paying attention to politics in late spring, the same time of year local peaches and nectarines ripen. As summer approaches, we know instinctively to study the issues and look at candidates. There's a reason it's called Election Season. Moving it to the winter month of March feels unnatural. It's out of season, like a hard, flavorless, unripe peach. Bleh.

As a practical matter, a March primary leaves voters unprepared and uninterested. Incumbents benefit unfarily as challengers can't find anyone willing to listen. November, eight long months away, might as well be 2030. Who knows what the political landscape will be then?

The reason we're in this fix, of course, is that the major state parties want California to have as much influence as possible in the presidential contest. In most presidential years, the nominations are usually sewn up by the time our June primary rolls around. Shifting it to Super Tuesday, three months earlier, will make our votes matter, and the candidates care more about us, or so the thinking goes.

I'm not buying it. We will share Super Tuesday with 15 other states, including heavyweights Texas, North Carolina and Colorado. Any dreams the parties had of presidential candidates sharing tacos with California voters in local diners are complete fantasy. What's more, this year it seems likely that both major nominations will be sewn up before we vote. A dozen states and territories will have voted before us, and by early March the presumptive nominees may just be going through the motions.

I'm hoping the state Legislature can work with the national parties to resolve this mess. Maybe in four years they'll restore some sanity, and we can keep Election Season short, sweet, and in its natural, proper place on the calendar.

Happy voting,
Pete Stahl

p.s.: I am no longer using Facebook to promote this site. I cannot reconcile my commitment to level-headed, factual analysis with Facebook’s corrosive behavior in politics.

You can read about this behavior elsewhere; in brief, Facebook traps users in polarized bubbles, pushes discourse to the extremes, distributes misinformation and propaganda, and is the primary platform for foreign interference in U.S. elections. I cannot, in good conscience, participate in a medium that behaves so destructively and irresponsibly.

I wish you the best this year. See you soon!

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