The Voting Class

Steven Hill writes in The San Francisco Chronicle about growing voter disenfranchisement and apathy in California and what can be done about it. In doing so, he says efforts to win full public financing should be abandoned - pointing to the loss of Proposition 89, the Clean Elections ballot initiative, in 2006. But if most eligible adults aren't voting, can you point to an electoral loss as evidence against pursuing full public financing?

 

As Hill's article ably demonstrates, California's voting class doesn't come close to representing the diversity of the state and, one would surmise, the election results don't represent that diversity either. As Hill writes, you get "a small group of frequent voters, who are richer, whiter and older than their nonvoting neighbors, form the majority that decides which candidates win and which ballot measures pass."

 

So, when he goes on to say that Prop 89's defeat signals that reformers should be more "pragmatic" in pursuing campaign finance reform he ought to note that the whole voice of California was not heard on this issue, just the voice of a minority: those who vote. Perhaps with full public financing of elections, candidates from more diverse and under represented backgrounds would have a chance to seek office and speak for the disenfranchised who, tired of seeing elected officials and policy unresponsive to their needs, simply stopped voting.

 

To compromise on the strength of the reform - i.e. partial public financing which does not go as far to address the influence of wealth on elections - is to compromise on the importance of seeing more Americans involved in voting, and in the political process.