Capitol Alert

Democrats have history of fiddling with election rules for party benefit

Anthony Rendon, center, stands with Gov. Jerry Brown, left, and Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon after he was sworn in as the new Assembly speaker on March 7, 2016, in Sacramento.
Anthony Rendon, center, stands with Gov. Jerry Brown, left, and Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon after he was sworn in as the new Assembly speaker on March 7, 2016, in Sacramento.

Legislation California Democrats introduced Monday to help state Sen. Josh Newman survive a recall election isn’t the first time in recent years they and Gov. Jerry Brown have teamed up to change voting rules to gain advantage before an upcoming ballot.

In 2011, lawmakers required all voter-qualified initiatives to appear on November ballots. Until then, such measures could appear on ballots throughout the year.

This provision was pushed by Democrats who said it made sense to have ballot measures go before voters in November because that’s when the most people vote. Critics, however, contended that the bill was really an attempt to undermine a pending ballot measure that would have made it harder for public employee unions to get campaign money from members’ paychecks.

Had the change not been made, the initiative would have been on the June 2012 primary election ballot, when Republicans generally make up a higher proportion of the electorate than they do at general elections in November. That fall, Proposition 32 failed with 43.4 percent of the vote.

And in June 2012, lawmakers passed a budget-related bill that shifted the order of how measures appear on the ballot. The result? A tax increase sponsored by Brown jumped atop the November 2012 ballot, far above its original place below other tax proposals. Proposition 30 passed with 55.4 percent of the vote.

The new legislation Senate Democrats put forth this week as part of the budget package has taken flack from proponents of the recall effort such as former San Diego councilman Carl DeMaio. It would add so many months to the current time line of certifying a recall election for the ballot that the vote would likely happen at the regularly scheduled June 5, 2018 election, when competitive primaries for governor, treasurer and other offices will help drive Democratic turnout.

Newman can only stand to benefit from a later recall election, and more so, from being on a regularly scheduled ballot. Elected by just 2,498 votes last fall, he can’t expect the turnout for a special election to be in his favor, the way he can the turnout for a regular election.

The vote can come up as soon as Thursday.​ If passed and signed, it would take effect immediately.

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LUNCH AND A SHOW: If you’re feeling like a long lunch, stop by Westminster Presbyterian Church to hear pianist I-Hui Chen play such hits as Debussy’s “Isle of Joy,” Bach’s “Italian Concerto” and Tchaikovskiy’s “Adagio” from The Sleeping Beauty. The concert, part of a Wednesday series at the N Street church, begins at noon.

RACE TO THE (GOVERNOR’S) HOUSE: Though Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon’s been giving us a run for our money, we know exactly the position Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is gunning for come the end of his term – the man wants to be governor. He’s made it clear with recent fundraising efforts, much like the one tonight at San Francisco’s Hilton Financial District. Join Newsom and supporters like Mayor Ed Lee at 6 p.m.

Rennie Svirnovskiy: @RennieYS