Dumb And Dumber

Why voters should dump both Prop 104 and 105.

By Emil Franzi

WHAT WE HAVE once again is a bad idea--the Legislature's Prop 104--being proposed as a substitute for a worse one--the citizens' Prop 105. The entire premise of both proposals is based on the logic that representative government has failed because we, the same folks whose judgement is completely flawless when it comes to voting for ballot proposals, are simultaneously incapable of electing anything but dolts and poltroons to represent them.

That the voters are sometimes incapable of making a sound decision and are even conned by special-interest campaigns should be obvious. That they can buy some really bad ideas is nowhere better illustrated than by the dumbest vote Arizonans cast in modern history, for something called "50-plus-one."

Currents In the wake of Gov. Ev Mecham's impeachment, many people decided that Old Ev never would've won if he hadn't had a three-way race against Democrat Carolyn Warner and Independent Bill Schulz. That itself was false--network exit poll data concluded he would've beaten either head-on. But to remedy this non-problem, they changed the rules via initiative to mandate that a candidate must have "50-plus-one" percent of the vote to win; otherwise, the two top vote-getters would have a run-off election. Shallow, ignorant editorial writers and anti-Mecham types led the charge, ignoring the pitfalls. Why the hell would you want to pay for another election in February to resolve a campaign because some minor-party candidate got a tiny percentage of the vote in a race for some second-string office like Treasurer?

Caught up in their mad-dog funk over Mecham, the proponents also ignored how well the country has gotten along with minority presidents from Lincoln to Wilson to Kennedy and Nixon to (now) Clinton.

The proposition passed in 1988. And in 1990, an independent running for governor with a few thousand votes kept Fife Symington from collecting 50 percent, although he led Democrat Terry Goddard. So, without a new governor, we had to come back in February and do it again while Governor Mofford served extra innings. Everybody wondered what happened. What happened was simple. The people voted for a really dumb idea!

The Legislature quickly dumped it and went back to rational elections. Both Prop 104 and Prop 105 are based in the fundamental--and pandering--assumption that the voters don't make no mistakes except in who they elect.

Those who think they have wonderful ideas and can raise enough money to buy enough signatures to put them on the ballot have two simple remedies. The first is to make their big change a constitutional amendment, which can't be altered without another public vote. Both of these proposals convert initiative law into a new category, above other laws but below constitutional amendments. The latter requires more signatures. So what? Go for it and quit whining.

The second alternative is rather old-fashioned. If you have such great ideas and so much support for them and so much money to promote them, then why the hell don't you just recruit candidates and change the Legislature that opposes you instead of further weakening representative government by changing the process? TW

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