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Debate about whether or not one’s vote really counts or even makes a difference is a reflection of the common concerns that the American political system inevitably provokes each election season. While these sentiments may seem particularly applicable to Californians when they vote for their choice of president, especially since our solidly blue state’s 55 electoral votes will undoubtedly go to the Democratic candidate, Californians should not believe that their votes are of little importance when it comes to the 12 propositions on this year’s state ballot.
Consequently, young voters in particular should recognize the importance of voting this election. It has often been remarked that 2008 will be the year of the youth vote, and while enthusiasm for Barack Obama’s candidacy likely serves as part of the basis for this claim, statistics show that increased voter turnout among young Americans is no fluke and that this year’s general election could produce an unprecedented turnout. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), more than 6.5 million young people under the age of 30 voted in the 2008 primaries. In fact, CIRCLE reports that national youth turnout rose 17 percent.
Thus, in the general election it is imperative that any momentum extends not only to an informed vote for the presidential candidates on the ballot, but also to the 12 propositions that will affect Californians for years to come. Young voters and college students – including UC Irvine students – would do well to inform themselves about the propositions and vote on Nov. 4. It is notable that, according to CIRCLE, only 19 percent of young Californians turned out to vote in the primaries, so young voters should feel a responsibility to increase turnout greatly this November.
The following three propositions are just a few of the noteworthy initiatives that the youth vote can greatly influence this election. The New University Editorial Board endorses the following positions and urges students to vote accordingly.
Proposition 4: Vote No. California’s Constitution should not be changed to prohibit abortions for minors if a parent or guardian has not been notified 48 hours in advance. Similar propositions were defeated in California in previous election cycles. While any reasonable voter would agree that aiming for fewer abortions is ideal, this proposition fails to protect teens like it claims to do and is a poor way to reduce abortions or unwanted pregnancies. Instead, it could put young pregnant teens at risk for unsafe or self-induced abortions or they could feel pressure to hide their pregnancies. It is not the role of the state to mandate family communication, even if it is for a serious issue like teenage pregnancy.
Moreover, if this proposition passes in California and in other states that have similar initiatives, Roe v. Wade could face some setbacks in the future. Thus, Californians should vote against this proposition, just as they did on past state ballots.
Proposition 5: Vote Yes. Despite its flaws, Californians should pass this proposition in order to reform parole practices and drug laws and relieve the state’s overcrowded prisons. More importantly, this proposition would help more drug offenders, including young people, who haven’t committed a violent crime receive treatment and rehabilitation instead of a prison sentence. It is likely that the money needed to create these rehab programs would be offset in the future due to fewer prison and parole costs.
While it is true that this proposition will reduce parole for a host of nonviolent crimes, its focus on the expansion of drug treatment over incarceration and the requirement that prisons would have to establish rehab programs are constructive measures in the long run. Furthermore, according to statistics from the Department of Justice, African-Americans are three times more likely than Hispanics and five times more likely than whites to be in jail, and Proposition 5 could allay the conspicuous and unjust racial disparity in prisons by giving offenders chances to seek treatment or face shorter paroles. A Mother Jones investigative article by James Sterngold recently reported that “between 50 and 75 percent of California’s inmates have substance abuse problems, but only 11 percent receive alcohol or drug treatment, less than half the national average.” The article concluded “California’s [prison] ills are exceptional, but they provide a warning about the enormous costs of a system singularly focused on punishment over rehabilitation.”
Proposition 8: Vote No. Marriage between same-sex couples should continue to be recognized by the state of California, and if this proposition passes it would wrongfully take away that right. Amending California’s constitution so that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid goes against the equal protection clause of the state’s constitution, as the California Supreme Court ruled in May of 2008.
Social conservatives and religious groups should recognize that the tides are against them on this issue and that gay marriage has not brought about the downfall of the American family or society at large. Instead, the right to marry merely affirms and cements the love and bond between two people on a legal and societal basis and the state should have little say about who can or cannot marry.
Critics of the California Supreme Court ruling argue that activist and radical judges incorrectly redefined marriage, but it is arguably far more radical to institute the process of taking away a fundamental right through a constitutional amendment. Also, the argument that domestic partnerships are sufficient for gay couples denies that there are still crucial differences, and in the end they are not comparable to marriage. Therefore, Californians should vote no on Proposition 8 to ensure that same-sex couples can continue to enjoy the same rights and privileges as straight couples.

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