While the Secretary of State’s unofficial vote tally Tuesday showed a passage rate of 61.5 percent statewide for Proposition 42, the open government constitutional amendment, a closer look at the county by county numbers shows that metropolitan and suburban counties closer to the coast were largely responsible for the measure’s passage, while rural counties in the state’s interior mostly rejected it. County support for passage ranged from San Francisco’s 71.3 percent to Modoc’s 37.4.
The statewide acceptance rate of 61.5 percent lagged the 65.4 percent support for the only other ballot measure, Proposition 41, the authorization of $600 million in general obligation bonds to fund affordable multifamily housing for low-income and homeless veterans. The relatively higher support for Prop 41 was probably due in large part to a patriotic and compassionate concern for veterans and their families prompted by recent revelations of significant service delays and failures of the Veterans Administration. In contrast Prop 42 could be (and was) interpreted by many as a political shedding of state responsibility prejudicial to the most trusted level of government—the locals, and in any event a relatively abstract issue.
But Proposition 42 also clearly drew less enthusiasm than Proposition 59, which first made open government a state constitutional right 10 years ago when passed by more than 83 percent of voters. In that election, the Yes counties ranged from Santa Cruz (88.2 percent) to Kings (75.6 percent), and 49 of the 58 counties gave the measure 80 percent support or more. One conclusion is that the size of the turnout can make a big difference. In 2004, the ballot included not only state legislative and Congressional seats, but a U.S. Senator, the President, and 16 ballot measures, and resulted in a turnout of 12.6 million voters. In comparison, yesterday’s ballot was widely viewed as a yawn that would possibly set a new low for voter participation.