71: When Ballot Measures Take Effect
Unless otherwise stated, if a ballot proposition gets over 50 percent of the vote on election night, it becomes law the following day. This raises some complications with the rise of voting by mail. In the 2016 general election, nearly 58 percent of ballots were cast by mail. Mailed in ballots can take up to three days after election day to arrive and days more to count.
What it would do:
Delay the enactment of new voter-approved laws until at least five days after the Secretary of State has certified the result. This is done over a month after election day.
What it would cost the government: Nothing.
Why it’s on the ballot:
For years, Ralph Shaffer, a professor emeritus at Cal Poly Pomona, has been trying to get someone to pay attention to a possible flaw in the California election system. Shaffer argues that the current practice of enacting a proposition the day after the election is out of date given the prevalence of voting by mail. What if the electoral outcome on a proposition is called incorrectly only to be changed after all the mail-in ballots are tallied a few days later? Last year, Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, a South San Francisco Democrat, took up Shaffer’s cause and introduced legislation to put this solution on the ballot.
Arguments in Favor:
This is a bipartisan, low-cost, easy tweak to our electoral system that will avoid unnecessary confusion in the event of a very close race. There is no real downside to making this change.
It isn’t clear why this change is necessary. In the past, propositions have not been enacted into law until the vote is certified. Current law just means that the successful proposition will go into effect retroactively the day after election day. In fact, it may be valuable to allow ballot propositions to go into effect as soon as possible. This is a solution in search a problem.