Law needed to stop AGs from rigging ballot
Every two years, Californians become lawmakers by voting on statewide ballot propositions, which often have enormous consequences for the state. To understand what it is they are voting for or against, many voters rely solely on the description of the proposition written on their ballot. But time and again, this “description” has failed to accurately convey what the proposition would do.
Oddly, the job of writing these all-important ballot descriptions falls not to an elections officer or some other neutral official, but is instead entrusted to the partisan, elected attorney general of California.
Our current Attorney General, Democrat Xavier Becerra, is only the latest in a line of attorneys general who have exercised this power without even a pretense of impartiality, instead skewing ballot language to lead voters towards their preferred political outcome.
Last month, Becerra’s office released the ballot description for a proposed $12.5 billion a year in new taxes on business properties.
The most salient fact about this proposition — that it is a massive tax increase — is mysteriously absent from Becerra’s description.
Instead, the attorney general mentions three times in the 100-word summary that the measure would fund education and schools. Not coincidentally, this major assist from the attorney general came after polls showed the proposal, when accurately described, failing to gain traction with voters.
For many observers, Becerra’s
latest attempt to subvert the electoral process is a bridge too far. Editorial boards and columnists across the state expressed frustration and outrage, calling his ballot description an “abuse of power,” “shameful,” “dishonorable,” “taking political sides.”
This misuse of power is not unique to Becerra or his political party. In 1996, Republican Attorney General Dan Lungren wrote a misleading summary for Proposition 209, an initiative seeking to end affirmative action in California.
The attorney general, or any elected politician, is simply the wrong person to be tasked with writing neutral ballot language. After all, ballot propositions are supposed to be a way for citizens to make laws directly without politicians standing in the way.
That’s why I proposed Assembly Constitutional Amendment 7, which would take the authority away from the AG and put it in the hands of a nonpartisan entity free from political pressures by special interests.
Specifically, ACA 7 would assign ballot descriptions to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, which has proven itself trustworthy and capable of writing impartial analyses of every initiative that qualifies for the ballot.
This change would ensure fairness in our initiative process regardless of who is elected attorney general— something all voters deserve.