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by inoljt

The Hillary Clinton Gender Gap

4:44 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

Hillary Clinton in 2008

Hillary Clinton's Polling data shows a major gender gap in many states.

By: inoljt,

Four years before the 2016 presidential election, and before we even know who is running, some enterprising pollsters have released polls matching Hillary Clinton against an assorted group of potential Republican candidates. Clinton does well; she leads in a number of red states.

In these polls, one interesting constant is the massive gender gap that Hillary Clinton opens up.

Here are as many 2016 polls that I could find. They show the gender gap in hypothetical match-ups between Clinton and various Republicans.

Date State Hillary Clinton (Overall) Hillary Clinton (♀) Hillary Clinton (♂) Republican Gender Gap
25-Apr NH 52 61 42 41 19
25-Apr NH 52 60 43 38 17
23-Apr CO 48 53 41 45 12
23-Apr CO 48 53 42 44 11
19-Apr NC 49 54 43 42 11
19-Apr NC 52 57 46 40 11
19-Apr NY 59 64 53 32 11
11-Apr KY 45 50 40 45 10
11-Apr KY 46 51 41 40 10
3-Apr US 46 51 41 42 10
3-Apr US 49 54 45 43 9
3-Apr US 49 53 46 42 7
3-Apr US 50 53 46 43 7
3-Apr US 46 47 45 43 2
3-Apr US 54 56 52 38 4
3-Apr US 52 57 46 40 11
3-Apr US 52 59 44 41 15
21-Mar FL 53 58 47 40 11
21-Mar FL 56 61 50 40 11
21-Mar FL 54 60 49 41 11
21-Mar FL 51 56 45 40 11
21-Mar FL 52 55 48 41 7
14-Mar PA 47 55 39 42 16
14-Mar PA 54 62 45 36 17
14-Mar PA 55 63 45 38 18
13-Mar PA 52 55 49 37 6
13-Mar PA 52 56 49 40 7
13-Mar PA 55 58 52 38 6
8-Mar MI 51 57 44 37 13
8-Mar MI 52 59 44 41 15
7-Mar US 45 51 38 37 13
7-Mar US 50 56 43 34 13
7-Mar US 49 49 36 42 13
28-Feb WI 52 56 47 38 9
28-Feb WI 51 56 45 43 11
28-Feb WI 54 59 48 41 11
27-Feb KS 42 49 34 47 15
27-Feb KS 42 52 34 50 18
21-Feb MT 42 47 37 50 10
21-Feb MT 44 47 41 51 6
20-Feb NJ 49 60 35 45 25
20-Feb GA 49 54 42 46 12
20-Feb GA 50 55 44 45 11
14-Feb LA 48 56 40 45 16
14-Feb LA 46 54 39 43 15
14-Feb LA 46 52 40 46 12
8-Feb AK 42 47 35 43 12
8-Feb AK 53 60 46 37 14
8-Feb AK 44 49 37 43 12
7-Feb US 49 54 44 43 10
7-Feb US 46 53 38 41 15
7-Feb US 49 54 44 41 10
7-Feb US 50 55 45 44 10
31-Jan TX 45 48 41 43 7
31-Jan TX 50 54 45 42 9
31-Jan TX 46 51 40 45 11
24-Jan MN 44 51 38 38 13
24-Jan MN 50 57 43 37 14
17-Jan FL 49 54 43 44 11
17-Jan FL 50 56 43 46 13
10-Jan US 51 54 47 38 7
10-Jan US 44 52 37 42 15
10-Jan US 51 55 47 37 8
10-Jan US 53 58 48 39 10

Comparatively, in 2012 women gave Barack Obama 55% of the vote, compared to the 45% that he won amongst men. The gender gap in that year was 10 points. In 2008 it was 7 points (Obama won 49% of males and 56% of females). The largest ever gender gap in recorded exit polling occurred in the 2000 presidential election, when Al Gore won only 42% of men but 54% of women.

It appears that Clinton would open a huge gender gap. The largest gender gap in this table (25 points) comes when she goes head-to-head against Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. Christie’s brash style is very popular amongst men but much less so with women.

One point of caution is that the vast majority of these polls come from just one polling firm: Public Policy Polling (PPP). It’s possible that this gender gap is simply due to a mistake in the way PPP is polling. Interestingly, the two results with the lowest gender gaps (of two and four points) came from a national poll by McClatchy-Marist. So take caution in interpreting these results.

Nevertheless, as potentially America’s first female president, Clinton appears to be able to count strongly on the support of women.

P.S. Since the full table was too wide, I took out a couple of sections. The full table is below.

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by inoljt

What Exactly Was the Popular Vote in 2012?

8:19 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

I was recently writing a post on how news organizations still haven’t updated their election results. As part of that post, of course, I tried to track down the “real” popular vote. That is, how many votes did President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney actually win, in reality?

Election 2012
I ran into a problem. Apparently nobody knows.Different organizations are reporting different numbers. To find reliable election results, most analysts go to Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. However, Dave’s numbers differ from those of Wikipedia. Unfortunately, Dave doesn’t provide a source of how he got his numbers. Wikipedia does; it derived its numbers from the Federal Election Commission Report. Ironically, however, Wikipedia’s numbers are actually different from the report’s numbers. Then there is Dave Wasserman, who with great labor added uncounted ballots to the numbers as they were counted. His numbers are slightly different as well. Here’s a table:

Votes Won According to… Barack Obama Mitt Romney
Dave Leip 65,909,451 60,932,176
Dave Wasserman 65,909,191 60,932,015
Huffington Post 65,899,660 60,932,152
Federal Election Commission Report 65,899,660 60,932,152
Wikipedia 65,907,123 60,931,767

The vote counts by private individuals such as Dave Leip are probably the most accurate. Unfortunately, these people don’t say how they got their numbers.

In addition, there is the fact that uncounted ballots are still being discovered and added to the official count. For instance, a stack of ballots was found in New York City in March, after the completion of the Federal Election Commission Report. So the report is probably wrong. Dave Wasserman also has stated that the official certified results in some states are wrong; apparently the states incorrectly added up all the official county numbers.

The best way to find the popular vote is probably to add up individually all the official certifications of the vote by each state, which I may or may not do. Of course, we also have to be aware of the fact that some of these official certifications may be wrong.

We may never actually know how many votes Barack Obama and Mitt Romney won in the 2012 presidential election.


Photo from League of Women Voters of California licensed under Creative Commons

by inoljt

The Socially Conservative State of … California?

11:34 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

California Flag

Does California live up to its socially liberal reputation? Statistics suggest otherwise.

California is generally thought of as a very liberal place. The Democratic Party is certainly doing well; Republicans are at an all-time low almost everywhere in the state.

This applies to social positions as well. The stereotype is that Californians are very socially liberal. California is, after all, home to San Francisco and Berkeley – the natural environment of the godless hippie and homosexual. Hollywood is also located in California, and Hollywood’s not exactly a bastion of social conservatism.

It may surprise some, then, to note that in the past four years Californians have voted against gay marriage, marijuana, and the abolition of the death penalty. These positions were debated in three successive propositions. Each time the socially conservative side won. Here are the numbers:

Proposition What It Proposed Socially Conservative Side Socially Liberal Side
8 No to Gay Marriage 52.2% 47.8%
19 Legalizing Marijuana 53.5% 46.5%
34 Abolishing the Death Penalty 52.0% 48.0%

Each of the propositions had different things going on. Gay marriage was widely expected to win, and it shocked liberals when the people said no. Legal marijuana at first appeared to have majority support. But as the details of the proposition for legal marijuana came out (it was said to be badly written), its numbers plummeted. On the other hand, few paid attention to Proposition 34. The abolishment of the death penalty was never expected to pass, and it surprised few when it didn’t. Yet the end results are remarkably similar for the different contours that the propositions took.

From the numbers, it looks like there’s a socially conservative majority of 52% to 53% of Californians.

Ironically, the social conservatism displayed here might be a side-effect of the same forces behind the Democratic Party’s rise. The growing Hispanic and Asian vote leans strongly Democratic; it’s why the Republicans are collapsing in California. At the same time, Hispanics and Asians (especially immigrants) are – as Republicans never tire of saying – are often socially conservative. South-Central Los Angeles might give the Democratic candidate 80-90% of the vote. That doesn’t mean that it will support gay marriage, legalized marijuana, or the abolishment of the death penalty.

It’s too bad that Republicans can’t channel this social conservatism amongst immigrants into support for the Republican Party.


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by inoljt

How Argentina Fell Behind the Rest of the World

2:46 am in Uncategorized by inoljt


Argentina is a country famous for football, for its invention of tango, and for its great beef.

Amongst economists, however, Argentina is also famous for its economic slide backwards over the past century. Before World War I, Argentina had one of the ten biggest economies in the world. Argentinean living standards were amongst the highest in the world. It looked like Argentina would become a modern-day Australia or Canada.

That didn’t happen. Today Argentina is widely considered a Third World country. Its income, relative to the rest of the world, has plummeted. In 2001 Argentina suffered the greatest economic crisis in its history.

What happened?

There are a myriad of reasons. Wikipedia provides a pretty good overview of the gritty details, which this post won’t get into. But underneath the rush of events and crises there are several underlying factors. These factors were the catalysts for the events and the century-long decline of Argentina’s economy.

The Endless Coups

Military coups are the primary and most important factor behind Argentina’s economic decline.

Argentina’s people are very left-wing, and when left to their own devices they will generally elect a left-wing president. However, like many Latin American countries, Argentina also has a very strong right-wing minority. This conservative minority constitutes the business elite of the country, and they generally loathe the left-wing presidents that the people will select (sometimes for good reasons, sometimes for not-so-good reasons).

The current president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, is a great example of this dynamic. The Buenos Aires elite hate Cristina and think that she is an awful, awful, and stupid president.


And yet Cristina won 54% of the vote in her last presidential election. The second-best candidate got just 17%. Obviously lots of Argentinians support her.

So in a free and fair election the Argentinian elite will get a left-wing president whom they loathe.

That’s where the military comes in.

For decades, every time that Argentina elected a person too far to the left for the generals, the military would charge in and kick him or her out with the support of the business elite (and often the United States).

This did enormous damage to the country. In fact, it’s hard to overstate just how bad the coups were for Argentina. In 1930, for instance, Argentina was a democracy with a popularly-elected president from what at the time would be considered the left. At the time, it was one of the most progressive countries in the world. Then General José Félix Uriburu assaulted the Casa Rosada, disposing President Hipólito Yrigoyen, and ushered in an “Infamous Decade” of military rule and stolen elections. This was a turning point in Argentinian history. It would be more than half a century before democracy recovered, and meanwhile the political chaos crushed the economy. If democracy had survived in 1930, Argentina might be as wealthy as Italy today.

One coup in particularly deserved to mentioned: the last and worst one. This occurred in 1976. Once again there was a left-wing president, the incompetent Isabel Perón, and in the usual pattern the military disposed of her:

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by inoljt

How 2012 Helps Prospects for Reforming the Electoral College

4:07 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

By: inoljt,

The electoral college is one of the lingering undemocratic parts of American politics. Unlike almost every other country in the world, America elects its presidents not via the popular vote but rather via a strange system of “electoral votes” distributed by states. The good news is that this system generally reflects the popular will. The bad news is that it occasionally fails, as last happened in 2000.

Since then there has been a push to reform the electoral college so that all states cast their electoral votes for the winners of the popular vote. Currently half the states needed to implement the reform have signed on.

The reform is mostly pushed by Democrats. This is because in 2000 the popular vote winner but electoral college loser was the Democratic candidate. As long electoral college reform was only pushed by Democrats, it was likely to fail. It is almost impossible to get enough states to sign on with complete Republican opposition.

In 2012, however, something quite interesting happened. The electoral college helped Obama quite a bit. For the final months of the campaign Obama was often behind in the national polls but still leading in the state Ohio. It was seen as a very conceivable possibility that Obama would lose the popular vote but win the electoral college and remain president because of Ohio. Even after the first presidential debate, Romney led in the popular vote but never in the electoral college.

It should be noted that these polls were wrong; they underestimated Obama nationally and put Ohio as more Democratic than a lot of states (Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Virginia) which ended up more favorable to Obama. But the perception, based on these flawed polls, was what mattered.

So a lot of hard-core Republicans got to see the electoral college really hurting them during the most important campaign of all.

Moreover, the electoral college actually has leaned Democratic for three elections in a row. In 2004 John Kerry was 118,601 votes away in Ohio from becoming president while losing the popular vote. In 2008 John McCain would have had to win the popular vote by 1.7% to win Colorado and become president. In 2012 the votes are still being counted, but it’s very certain that Obama could have lost the popular vote and still remained president.

This is good news for electoral college reform. Hopefully Republicans will not forget how polls showed them leading the popular vote but still behind in the electoral college during October 2012. Republicans now are aware that the electoral college hurts them. It would be in their self-interest to shift to a popular vote.

There are several blue or purple states in which the state Republican Party is fairly strong and has prevented electoral college reform. The hope is that in a few of these states some Republicans will now support a popular vote. It is also possible that Republicans by themselves will enact popular vote bills on their own initiative. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, for instance, has publicly made supportive statements on a popular vote. Of course this is pure self-interest, since she (like many Republicans) recognizes that the electoral college now hurts Republicans.

But a popularly elected president looks closer than ever. As long as it was only a Democratic initiative, it didn’t look like the popular vote would be enacted. Now, hopefully, some Republicans will also see that the popular vote is both something that helps a Republican presidential candidate and (more importantly for American but probably not Republicans) the right thing to do.

by inoljt

The Advantages of Absentee Ballots

4:42 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

This is part of a two-part series evaluating absentee ballots, which are being used more and more often. The first part will focus on their advantages. The second part will focus on their disadvantages.

Absentee Ballot

Absentee ballots are increasingly being used throughout the United States. They are especially popular in the West Coast; elections are entirely absentee-ballot in Oregon and Washington, for instance.

The general reasoning behind absentee ballots are that they increase voter turn-out. The theory goes that voters too busy on election day can vote before the election. Absentee ballots make voting simpler, people say. If it is true that absentee ballots increase voter turn-out, then this would be a substantial advantage. At least one study, on the other hand, casts doubt on whether this is really true.

There is another great advantage to absentee ballots, however.

In the state of California, at least, voter ballots go on for pages and pages. Voters are asked to vote on a huge array of things which they almost certainly haven’t heard of. Everyone has heard of the presidential race. But very few people know about candidates for the local school board or local bond measures. What if one of the candidates is a convicted felon? What if that local ballot proposal is actually the pet project of a big corporation? Often a voter in the booth will only see four names he or she’s never seen before, or a paragraph-long description of a proposed measure. There’s no way for him or her to know how to vote.

Voters who receive absentee ballots don’t face this problem. They can research the candidates or the proposed local measure. They can look online to see whether the candidate for the local school board has an extremely controversial background. They can look at what the newspapers have to say about that local bond measure.

Absentee ballots enable voters to make informed decisions, especially about local elections and measures which nobody has heard of.

They certainly helped me when I voted. I remember voting for the board members on the local fire protection district. Unsurprisingly, I had no idea who any of the candidates were. The voter information pamphlet seemed to be helpful, and I settled on three candidates who seemed to have the best-written candidate statements.

Then I researched who these people actually were. It was fairly simple: I merely typed the candidates’ names and the word “controversy” in Google.

It turned out that all three candidates I’d picked were close relatives of firefighters! Since the fire protection board must bargain with firefighters about their pay, this was obviously a huge conflict of interest. I immediately changed who I was going to vote for. I’d never have known about this if I hadn’t had the time to research the candidates before filling out my absentee ballot.

This is why absentee ballots are great. But they also have some big disadvantages (actually one big disadvantage). That’s the subject of part two.


Photo by micala under Creative Commons license.

by inoljt

Vote Yes on California Proposition 40: State Senate Redistricting Referendum

1:05 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

This is the last part of a series of posts analyzing California’s propositions:

The Basics of the Proposition

This proposition is a referendum on the State Senate districts drawn by California’s citizens redistricting commission. A “Yes” vote on Proposition 40 would indicate approval of the districts as drawn. A “No” vote on Proposition 40 would reject the districts drawn by the commission. The new districts would then be drawn by officials supervised by the California Supreme Court.

It sounds pretty simple, and on the surface there is. But there’s a long, long story behind this proposition. It’s an ugly story, and after reading the story it’ll be very obvious why to vote yes on this proposition.

The Deeper Story

Back in the days (or more specifically, back before 2008) the state legislature drew California’s legislative and congressional districts. Since these legislators drew the same districts that they would run in, there was obviously a conflict of interest. Legislators would gerrymander the lines of the districts so that they would always get re-elected.

Here’s a typical example of a politician-drawn district:


Here rich Bay Area suburbs are combined with Central Valley farmland to create a convoluted shape that looks somewhat like a strange animal.

Now, in 2008 California voters approved Proposition 11. Instead of having politicians draw the districts that would elect them, they decided to have a California Citizens Redistricting Commission composed of fourteen citizens with no prior political involvement.

Even before the commission was put into place, there was political manipulation involving it. In 2010 two propositions attempted to change the commission. Proposition 20, which voters approved, extended the commission’s power to congressional districts. Proposition 27, which voters rejected, attempted to get rid of the commission.

Eventually, the commission got in place and drew the districts. They can be viewed at this website. It did a generally good job. California, of course, is a complex state. There are cities in it bigger than many states, and it’s the most ethnically complex state in the nation. This means that the Voting Rights Act plays a heavy role in the drawing of districts (a lot of the messiest-looking districts in the website are a consequence of the VRA). So it’s not easy to draw districts in California; you can’t do what Iowa does and just split the state in four squares. But the commission generally did a good job of things – certainly better than the politicians.

Unfortunately (or fortunately) and predictably, some of the politicians weren’t happy with the maps they received. Specifically, they didn’t like the State Senate map. So they pushed for Proposition 40, a referendum on the commission’s efforts. Note that none of the other maps (the California State Assembly map, the California congressional delegation map, the State Board of Equalization map) are being considered in this proposition, because the opponents of the commission liked those maps better. They just didn’t like the State Senate map.

A Bit More Complexity

Now, the story is a tiny bit more complex than this. What the opponents of the commission really wanted had nothing to do with voters accepting or rejecting the State Senate map. The result of Proposition 40 didn’t really matter to them. What they wanted was for the California Supreme Court to make the state use a different set of State Senate maps for this election.

(California’s Supreme Court)

You see, only the odd or even-numbered State Senate districts go up for election each year. What happened is that the commission renumbered the State Senate districts in a way that hurt the opponents of the State Senate map. They then pushed this referendum to ask the California Supreme Court to use a different set of maps for this election. They argued to the court that since Californians were voting on whether or not to approve the State Senate map, it couldn’t be used for this year. Rather, they wanted the California Supreme Court to draw a temporary and different State Senate map for just this year.

So the real purpose of Proposition 40 actually had nothing to do with whether voters approve or reject the State Senate map. Rather, it was a ploy to use a different State Senate map this year, since there was a referendum being held on the map drawn by the commission. If the Supreme Court accepted their request, then the opponents of the commission wouldn’t get screwed by the numbering of the State Senate districts for this year.

The Supreme Court refused their request. The State Senate map drawn by the commission is being used for this election.

The opponents of the commission promptly dropped their push for a rejection of the commission’s map. Since they’d failed in their ploy to get a different State Senate map to be used for this election, there was no point in opposing Proposition 40. They now recommend a yes vote.

The Conclusion: Vote Yes

As the story above shows, those opposing Proposition 40 engaged in disgusting behavior. Fortunately, their ploy failed. Vote yes (in approval of the citizens commission) to send them a message that Californians disapprove of such shenanigans.


by inoljt

Vote No on California Proposition 39: Multistate Business Taxes

3:31 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

This is the tenth part of a series of posts analyzing California’s propositions:

More Ballot-Box BudgetingProposition 39 is a typical example of ballot-box budgeting. Tax X, spend on Y. In this case, X equals multistate businesses and Y equals clean energy.

The proposition raises taxes on multistate businesses in California through a subtle method. Right now those businesses can choose between two ways of calculating their taxes. They can be taxed based on the number of sales, property, or employees the business has in California (the “three-factor method”). Or they can be taxed based only on the number of sales (the “single sales factor method.”)

Proposition 39 changes it so that multistate businesses can only be taxed through the latter method. This would raise their taxes.

Of the money raised, $550 million is given to green energy for five years. In the post on Proposition 34, this blog argued:

This is the type of terrible policy which the proposition system is famous for. One hundred million in spending by Proposition 34, ten billion in spending by a proposition here, five billion in tax cuts by a proposition there – it’s no wonder California has trouble balancing its budget. Ballot-box budgeting like this is disgraceful.

The same logic holds here. This blog would be more inclined to support the proposition if the revenue raised was left for the legislature to direct as it willed. As it is, the proposition’s micromanagement of its funding is just another reason to vote against the proposition.

An Easy No

Fundamentally, California voters don’t have enough information to know whether or not this proposition is a good idea. Is it a good idea to make it so that multistate businesses pay taxes based on the “single sales factor method” rather than being able to choose between the “single sales factor method” and the “three-factor method”? Beats me.

The logic against Proposition 39 is similar to that against Proposition 31, and it’s worth repeating that logic here. If this policy change were proposed in the legislature lawmakers and their staff would probably have access to studies, surveys, and analyses on whether or not it would be better for the general welfare if multistate businesses paid taxes only based on the “single sales factor method” or if they paid taxes based on a choice between the “single sales factor method” and the “three-factor method”. Those studies and analyses would probably run up into the dozens of pages.

But voters just have two pages of all-caps arguments for or against this change (the legislative analysis makes no judgement on which policy is wiser). For such a major change, it’s not enough.

The legislature should be setting tax policy, not the proposition system.


by inoljt

Vote No on California Proposition 36: Three Strikes Law

11:31 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

This is the seventh part of a series of posts analyzing California’s propositions:

A Tough Proposition

Proposition 36 is a tough proposition. There’s a strong case for voting yes on this proposition. Out of all the proposition recommendations made in this blog, this one is made with the most hesitancy.

Proposition 36 substantially weakens the Three Strikes Law. This is a famous tough-on-crime California law derived from another proposition (on a side note: there are way too many propositions out there). A serious or violent felon, if convicted of a new felony, gets twice the sentence. A two-time serious or violent felon, if convicted of a new felony, gets life. The Three Strikes Law is one of the toughest (if not the toughest) in the nation.

Under normal circumstances, this blog would unstintingly argue against voting yes on Proposition 36. Voters should never approve propositions that make big changes in subtle, complex things such as the length of prison sentences. Even if a change would be for the better, that is a job best left to the normal process. There is a reason why a legislature exists, after all: to draft laws. Legislators spend their entire lives on these issues. Voters spend a couple of hours or seconds reading a crazily complicated proposition that makes huge changes in the state. Generally, propositions on complex issues should only be approved if they fix a crisis.

Unfortunately, the normal way doesn’t work in this case. The legislature does not have the power to change the Three Strikes Law. This is because the proposition which approved the law explicitly prohibited this. So California voters are left in the unattractive position of deciding felony prison sentence lengths themselves.

There is also something quite wrong with California’s prison system, for which the description “crisis” would not be ill-fitted. They are famously overcrowded and a recent Supreme Court decision ordered California to reduce the population. The Three Strikes Law has certainly contributed to this negative situation. Finally, the proposition would save California several tens of millions of dollars per year – not something to laugh about during a budget crisis.

Nevertheless, there is also something good to say about the Three Strikes Law. California’s crime level over the past decade and a half has substantially decreased over the past two decades after the enactment of the law. Other states in the country have also followed California’s Three Strikes Law, and overall crime in the nation has been steadily declining for the past two decades. Of course, a number of other factors were behind this as well. But the Three Strikes Law’s aim was to reduce crime – and crime has indeed decreased.

More fundamentally, this proposition still would change the very complicated issue of felony prison sentences. That’s an issue that the vast majority of people are not qualified to deal with. The last clause definitely includes this blogger as well. That’s why this blog recommends a qualified “No” on Proposition 36.


by inoljt

Vote No on California Proposition 32: Union-busting

9:01 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

This is the third part of a series of posts analyzing California’s propositions:

What Does Proposition 32 Do?

It kills unions.


It’s pretty simple. Proposition 32 is mainly aimed at weakening unions. It’s billed as a campaign-finance reform proposition, but it’s pretty clear that the main target is labor unions.

One facet of Proposition 32 aims to permit “voluntary employee contributions to employer-sponsored committee or union if authorized yearly, in writing.” California unions mainly depend on automatic union dues. By making those automatic union dues voluntary, this clause would greatly weaken unions. That is, of course, the point of the proposition.

Another part of the proposition prohibits funds deducted from payrolls to be used for political purposes. As it turns out, about the only organizations that use payroll-deducted funds in politics are unions. The legislative analysis states that, “Other than unions, relatively few organizations currently use payroll deductions to finance political spending in California.” Corporations don’t use them. So while Proposition 32 supporters state that both union and corporate political spending will be limited by the proposition, in reality only unions are affected.

There are reasonable-sounding parts of Proposition 32. It limits, for instance, political donations by government contractors, which seems to make sense. Although the legislative analyst notes that those government contractors could be “public sector labor unions with collective bargaining contracts.” So perhaps that clause is just another way to gut unions.

Even If You Don’t Like Unions, You Should Still Vote No on Proposition 32

Most people reading this post, I suspect, are highly in favor of unions. Still, even a person who isn’t a big fan of unions ought to vote no on this proposition.

It is true that there’s a lot to complain about with respect to unions. Unions are very powerful in California, and it’s understandable when conservatives dislike that fact. State pensions seem to have some hard-to-defend practices, for instance (which this proposition doesn’t address). In researching for this proposition, I was shocked to discover that some workers (such as teachers) have to pay union dues even if they hate their union.

But there’s a time and place to address these grievances, and that’s not the proposition system. Propositions are meant for egregious wrongs and things which can’t be fixed by the normal system. This purpose unfortunately has been subverted in recent years by the explosion of senseless propositions. Unions may be bad, or they may be good. But even if they do more harm than good, the proposition system isn’t the place to kill unions.

So even if you’re not the biggest fan of unions, like me, you should still vote against Proposition 32.