With a possible recount in some counties of Proposition 29, the tobacco tax on the June 5 ballot, the 2012 primary election may not be quite over.
But the Nov. 6 ballot already is shaping up with a long list of initiatives that would, among other things, raise state and local taxes, repeal the death penalty, rescind a tax break for out-of-state businesses, ease the three-strikes law and overhaul the budget process.
At the bottom of the list — and last on the state ballot — is Proposition 40, an orphan from last year's redistricting fight that could bring unnecessary chaos to the state Capitol.
That is, if it fails.
If you haven't already guessed, Proposition 40 is one of those convoluted, through-the-looking-glass products of California's referendum system.
Sponsored by the state Republican Party, Proposition 40 was part of an effort to block new legislative and congressional district boundaries drawn by the Citizens Redistricting Commission. The panel was created and empowered by two prior initiatives, both of them supported by the GOP.
However, the commission's new maps appeared to threaten some Republican officeholders, resulting in legal challenges as well as a referendum specifically targeting the state Senate boundaries.
The state Supreme Court upheld the new boundaries, the referendum qualified for the November ballot, and the court refused to block the state from using the new Senate districts for the 2012 election. Last week, amid suggestions that overturning the maps might actually cost the GOP a state Senate seat in 2014, the party abruptly abandoned Proposition 40.
However, it's too late to take it off the ballot.
Wait, as they say on those late-night TV ads, there's more.
Because Proposition 40 is a referendum, a yes vote would uphold the laws it targets — the new state Senate boundaries. A no vote would overturn the law, requiring the state Supreme Court to draw new boundaries to replace the ones the justices already affirmed.
How will voters react?
Historically, initiatives are more likely to fail than succeed. Without a campaign, and with public confidence in state government at historic lows, it wouldn't be particularly surprising if voters are inclined to say no to yet another confusing political question.
And that would be regrettable.
California voters took a big step toward improving government by taking reapportionment away from the Legislature and handing it to an independent commission that won't make protecting incumbents its top priority. The results include more competitive legislative and congressional districts.
The state GOP deserves credit for supporting redistricting reform, which was opposed by the Democrats, but the effort to challenge the results was short-sighted. And abandoning the referendum doesn't help, either.
To protect the integrity of California's new redistricting process, The Press Democrat recommends a yes vote on Proposition 40.