In April 2014, candidates for the 2016 presidential campaign began to stir, including Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who were making the rounds at GOP dinners and rallies. Since then, the general public has been bombarded by ceaseless pontificating from both sides of the political spectrum. The rhetoric coming from the candidates and the spin coming from pundits is overwhelming and just plain exhausting. But this is definitely not the time to give up on the democratic process. Now is the time to be ever aware of what’s coming to the election booth (or in the mail) this year. And while we can’t avoid the presidential candidates, it’s important not to lose focus of what’s hitting the ground locally, in particular, local measures that shape our quality of life.
This week, we reported on the signature gathering process for the renewal of Save Open-Space and Agricultural Resources as well as, SUSTAIN VC, the alternative land use initiative. While Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett, District 1, author of SOAR, said that the signature gathering process has practically the same momentum as it did in when it first came before voters in the 1990s, making the initial contact with potential voters has proven to be more difficult. It may be a result of overall election fatigue, but he said that the initiative process has changed significantly over the last two decades with the advent of paid signature gatherers.
The repercussions of the pay-per-signature initiative process has resulted in voters distancing themselves from signature gatherers in general as certain paid gatherers have resorted to underhanded methods to attract voters. In Oakland, the East Bay Express reported in 2014 that paid signature gatherers for Six Californias, an initiative to split California into six states, said that they were collecting signatures for One California, which opposed Six Californias. In another instance, pertaining to a referendum measure, signature gatherers for proposal by a waste management company said that Oakland residents would see a 50 percent tax increase for waste removal if they didn’t get the measure on the ballot and pass it. There was no such tax increase being proposed.
It really is no wonder that voters just don’t want to hear it any more. The lack of sincerity in politics is enough for any fervent voter to switch gears and shut off the noise. But it’s not all noise. With what seems to be fewer knowledgeable and pragmatic people running for office, particularly for president, it’s important that voters at least have their views be represented in the initiative and referendum process. President Teddy Roosevelt said it best:
“I believe in the Initiative and Referendum, which should be used not to destroy representative government, but to correct it whenever it becomes misrepresentative.”
This election season, give signature gatherers a chance. While some may have ulterior motives, there are surely measures that should, at least, make it to the ballot. At that point, voters have the opportunity to learn and vote for what’s best for them rather than just hoping politicians will stick to their word.