- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 13, 2005

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Is there such a thing as too much democracy?

California voters are in the midst of what might seem like a never-ending election cycle and some of them are becoming weary.

The cavalcade of candidates and ballot propositions — dating to the October 2003 election that put Arnold Schwarzenegger in office — has left many exhausted from the baggage that goes along with the elections: the high cost, the finger-pointing and the barrage of television commercials.

“I’m not looking forward to another special election,” said retiree Mike Wells, 61. “I’m not too happy.”

Mr. Schwarzenegger’s determination to tighten his grip on the state budget and retool a Legislature known for its political extremes has led to the November special election. Eight initiatives have qualified for the November ballot, and the number could grow even larger by Election Day.

After years of runaway spending and increasing public debt, the governor has argued his “Year of Reform” initiatives are critical to changing the way state government operates. His supporters are equally eager to push for the ballot measures this year, rather than waiting until the state’s June primary.

“I have no patience for folks who say, ‘I have voter fatigue,’” Fresno Mayor Alan Autry, a fellow Republican, said after Mr. Schwarzenegger called the special election last month. “The governor’s trying to solve problems. I fully support him.”

The governor’s proposals would give him a stronger hand in state spending, redraw congressional and legislative districts and raise the bar for teachers to obtain tenure.

Other measures would require minors seeking abortions to receive parental approval, re-regulate the state’s energy market and lower prescription drug prices.

That could be just the start. The ballot could become more crowded and confusing if Mr. Schwarzenegger and legislators reach compromises that could place other measures before voters in November.

If that happens, the governor would have to persuade voters to reject his initial offerings in favor of the compromises.

“Confusion about issues on the ballot is a considerable barrier for voters in the state,” said Kim Alexander of the California Voter Foundation, an advocacy group. “My fear is people who are burned out may choose to sit home.”

If polls are any indication, Mr. Schwarzenegger faces an uphill battle. A May survey by the Public Policy Institute of California showed that voters view the governor’s special election as an unnecessary imposition.

“People scratch their heads and say, ‘Why are we doing this?’” Democratic consultant Kam Kuwata said.

Beyond voter fatigue, the state’s perpetual election cycle has led to resentment about the expense. The November special election is projected to cost taxpayers more than $50 million.

Los Angeles bus driver Stephen Beverly wondered whether schools and hospitals could use the money that will be put toward the special election. “I find it contradictory that the governor talks about saving taxpayer money,” he said.

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