After many months of opposition, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a statement on Sept. 19. She is highly critical of California’s “aggressive” efforts to restrict the Golden State’s voting rights, including the use of a 3-1 vote that repealed Brown v. Board of Education.“Since, in my opinion, enacting California’s restrictive voter initiative petition system, the number of voter turnouts has drastically declined. By way of contrast, since the vote to pass the initiative, turnout in California has increased sharply,” said Ginsburg, noting the resistance of Democrats who opposed Proposition 8 in 2008. (Huffington Post, Sept. 19)
“The narrow majority of those who think, correctly, that the prohibition on amending the Constitution by initiative is neither justified nor appropriate has turned the Golden State’s voting-rights situation upside down,” Ginsburg said.She was referring to the 5-4 vote in favor of the proposition to lift the pre-clearance of the voting restrictions set in the initiative petition system. She also criticized the actions of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. (The Hill, Sept. 19)
Despite her plea for the fight against restrictive ballot measures, Ginsburg remains convinced that, with the rise of progressive politics, California can continue its history of progressive efforts to make its elections more fair.“California is a state of much diverse and often lively communities,” Ginsburg told The Hill. “If Californians want voting issues to be more relevant and effective, Californians will have to support votes to affirm, overturn, or recommend. If the premise is that politicians use ballot measures to wring political advantage out of some who are not qualified to serve, Californians should have the right to cast a ballot to reach those elected officials, regardless of the impact that political power has on people’s lives.”
This statement confirms a warning from progressive leaders that California’s voter-recount system, designed to minimize voter fraud, is destroying democracy.
In the midterm elections, California will face two serious challenges from the Trump administration. First, California is a top jurisdiction in American “red-blue” America. California is the number-one battleground state for congressional seats in the US, and California Gov. Jerry Brown’s re-election is very much a foregone conclusion.
The second challenge comes from congressional Republicans in the House and Senate. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, has said in recent weeks that Trump will “willingly give California a pass” in regard to the elections. He has not yet commented on California’s voter-registration challenge.
The challenge comes when, in June, Democrats were having success in many quarters, including campaigns to register new voters, to win close races. But in Orange County, where most voters are Latino, Democrats failed to make a dent in the Latino vote.
In a poll by FiveThirtyEight, the Democratic-leaning organization, Democrats only received 24 percent of the Latino vote in Orange County, compared to Democrats getting 42 percent nationally. In Los Angeles County, where Democrats were most successful, they only received 22 percent of the Latino vote, compared to Democrats getting 29 percent nationally.
California will be a pivotal state in the general election for two reasons. First, Brown will face another Democrat, Nancy Pelosi, in California’s most competitive House district, California’s 47th.
If Democrats are able to recruit competitive candidates or gain seats in this district, it could significantly bolster the Democratic political message in California.
California, as we all know, is a red state. Once elected, Brown can no longer ignore the problems that plague his state. When voters decide that the way to fix the problems is to hold unpopular candidates to account and appoint genuine progressives, Democrats will have every opportunity to fight back.