If it's November, then there must be an election around now, yes?
For me, this mostly means doing research on the state "ballot initiatives" (read: popular referenda), and the local and minor state elections (in this case, the Mountain View School Board, Superior Court Judge, Santa Clara County Board of Education, and Mountain View City Council)
A fellow who recently joined my department at work has been extensively helping out with electioneering in California in just the few months he's been here, and he confessed to finding the number of ballot initiatives to be surprising. "Welcome to California," I said. I think we've had more referenda with each major election I've voted in. It's very annoying.
For myself, I'm voting against almost all the referenda, on the following grounds:
There are a few measures I'm in favor of - notably Measure 66, which loosens California's heinous "three strikes" law - but I'm voting against almost all of them, Especially the surreal Indian gambling measures, one of which has been lobbied by both sides from an anti-gambling standpoint. Bizarre.
- We elected our representatives to do some representing, and our legislators to do some legislating. Kicking these things back to the voters is, to my mind, plainly irresponsible. That they have no choice in some cases (e.g., tax measures) doesn't change the fact that it's irresponsible. Change the damn laws so you can get some legislating done!
- I now officially have "bond measure fatigue". It seems like there are more bond measures with every election. Let's pay off some of the existing bonds before we vote some new ones in. Check back with me around 2020, when many of the bonds should be paid off.
Slogging through the lower-level seat races is a real chore. Since I don't have children and am not directly involved in the educational system around here, I don't really follow the city or county school boards, and don't have a strong opinion on many of the issues. Mostly, schools have their financial backs to the wall thanks to the way schools are funded in California, which in turn is due to homeowners' profound fear of increasing property taxes (though they're perfectly happy to have the rising home prices). I mostly try to read some articles to find out if any candidates had a point of view with which I particularly disagree, or a background I'd rather not see on the school board, or seems generally less articulate or less clear than other candidates. It's not much, I would agree.
The city council is especially weird for me. "Affordable housing" is a big issue around here, but it's not really an issue for me. Affordable housing on the SF peninsula seems like something bordering on a lost cause, as it's the most desirable part of an expensive-to-live-in region. Actually, most of the issues are either ones which don't really impact me, or which do but the candidates are all of similar mind about the subject. It's not like these guys are for or against abortion rights and in a position to do anything about it.
My positions on the state and national elections should surprise no one: I'm voting straight Democrat. Bush seems clearly to be the worst President since Nixon (and has a good shot at being the worst since, gee, I dunno, Hoover? Grant?), and stands for everything I hate in government. Kerry is not exactly my first choice (I voted for Edwards in the primary), so getting him in office is sort of a pyrrhic victory. Though, like Clinton, at least he would hold the line against the darkness, I think. (Gore, on the other hand, I think would have been a genuinely good President - and better at the job than at running for it.)
All the talk about this being the most important election in our lifetime I think is a little silly, though. I think the most important election in my lifetime was probably 1972, followed by 1980. Those two probably did more to kill the progressive movement in America than any others, since Nixon turned out to be a Paranoid Loony, and Reagan ushered in the era of trying to bring us morally back to the Stone Age.
Otherwise, I'm pretty happy with my incumbent Democratic legislators and senators, and happy to vote for them once more.
I'm trying to decide whether to watch The Daily Show for election results tomorrow, or just head to the cafe and do some writing. Probably I'll decide last-minute tomorrow. It's not like watching the results will make any difference.
One thing I think we can all agree on: We'll be happy when it's November 3rd.