by Justice William W. Bedsworth
How long have we been doing elections in this country? Coupla centuries, right?
In that time, we’ve gone from horse and buggy to man on the moon. We’ve gone from bleeding people with leeches to excising cancer with robots. We’ve gone from battles fought weeks after the treaty was signed to emails arriving in China seconds after they’re sent.
And we’ve gone from cumbersome but orderly elections in which we had confidence to a raging dumpster-fire of meritless challenges culminating in an attempt to overthrow the process entirely and millions of people who think the election was hijacked by a dead Venezuelan dictator and his minions.
The conflagration over elections in Georgia has more fires raging than there were during Sherman’s march to the sea. And half the Texas legislature fled the state rather than take part in what they saw as the de-democratization of their state.
Here in Orange County, September’s recall election gave us long lines at the Registrar’s Office because there were people who insisted on handing their ballot to another human being and watching it put into a ballot box rather than mailing it in or dropping it off in the boxes outside the Registrar’s Office. Candidates—and an ex-president—insisted the election results were a fraud before they knew what they were.1
We have clearly come off the tracks a little when it comes to elections. Which drives me pretty close to crazy.2
Thirty years ago I wrote a column railing against a populace so apathetic they couldn’t be bothered to go to the polls. We had turnouts so low your book club was a credible power base. If the El Monte chapter of Left-Handed Lesbian Mothers of Twins had a meeting, they could count on candidates for statewide office coming to speak to them.
People in Central America and the Middle East were waiting hours and risking their lives to vote, and citizens of the world’s Great Democracy couldn’t give up that week’s episode of The Simpsons to do it. The country that owed its very existence to “no taxation without representation” still ranted against taxation but seemed to have lost interest in choosing its representation.
So what did we do? We made it easier to vote. You say you can’t bestir yourself to choose the leaders of the free world? You’re too busy with fantasy football and TikTok to go to the polls? Fine, we’ll make it easier.
We’ll let you mail it in. Literally. You won’t even have to straighten your vestigial little legs. We’ll mail you a ballot; you can fill it in at your leisure and send it back.
We’re so desperate to get the American people to vote that we’ll make your mailbox a polling place. We’ll send you all kinds of literature explaining the issues and all you have to do is check some boxes and stick the ballot in the mailbox.
So here we are, ten months after an attack on Congress to try to stop the certification of a presidential election—an event so disturbing to the rest of the world that members of our military were calling other countries to convince their military that the nuclear codes were safe—and we’ve reached the point where the participants in an election deride it as “rigged” before the polls close.
We’ve clearly gone backward since choosing Jefferson.
As you might have noticed, this ticks me off. I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore. Herewith the provisions of the Bedsworth Election Reform Initiative, to be known as Proposition Whatever-Number-We’re-Up-To-Now, and captioned—to insure passage—The Clean Air, Crime Victims, Better Sex, Mom, Baseball, Apple Pie, Shohei Ohtani, This IS Chock Full of Stuff Insurance Companies, Politicians, and Lawyers Hate Initiative.
Please get five registered voters3 to sign this column. We’ll submit all your copies to the Secretary of State for inclusion on the June 2022 ballot and have this all straightened out before next November.
PREAMBLE. Sections 2-30044 of the California Elections Code are hereby repealed.4 In their place, the People of the State of California hereby enact the following rules for elections.
Section 2. For the sake of convenience, the feminine pronoun is used throughout this Code to refer to all genders.5
Section 3. Since our citizenry believes everything it sees on the internet, all elections will henceforth be conducted on the internet.
Section 4. All general elections will conclude on the Saturday prior to Super Bowl Sunday. The broadcast of the Super Bowl game itself will be scrambled and no one who has not voted will be given access to the broadcast.
Section 5. Primary elections will be held in the two weeks before the season finales of all network and cable television series and all streaming services, such as Netflix, Disney, Apple+, HBO, Showtime, and any other service with more than thirty-seven viewers. Those season finale broadcasts will be scrambled and no one who has not voted will be given access to the broadcast.
Section 6. No television outlet, radio station, wire service, newspaper, social media site, or neighborhood pennysaver will be allowed to announce the winner of any election until Steve Kornacki has certified it.
Section 7. To assure voter interest, no one will be allowed to run for office unless she:
a) Has had her own network television show or been nominated for a Golden Globe since the last election cycle;
b) Has had at least three records go platinum since the last election cycle and is not part of a Korean boy band;
c) Has sued either MSNBC or Fox News at least twice;
d) Has a lifetime batting average or tested IQ higher than the July 1 temperature in the city in which she lists as her residence; and
e) Has a demonstrated ability to outrage a significant portion of the electorate every time she opens her big flapping mouth.
Section 8. To assure a full understanding of the issues, no candidate will be allowed to include in her campaign literature any word not found on a road sign or in a Harry Potter novel.
Section 9. Reserved.6
Section 10. No candidate will be allowed to accept a contribution greater than five times the salary of the office she is running for unless she has previously selected “slimeball” as her ballot designation.
Section 11. No candidate will be allowed to send out more campaign mailers than she and her immediate family can deliver hopping on one foot during the lunch hour of the three Wednesdays before the election.
Section 12. Future bond issues and initiatives cannot be longer than a haiku.
Section 13. Ballot statements will not be allowed. Candidates wishing voters to hear of their qualifications may station volunteers no less than 500 yards from any polling place to sing, dance, or act out the character traits of their preferred candidate.
Section 14. Any candidate for statewide office receiving a lower percentage of the vote in their home county than they do statewide shall be disqualified. And beaten with a stick.
Section 15. Row 7. Seat 9. This is my ticket stub from Hamilton. For those prices, I should get more than one use out of it.
Section 16. To eliminate the advantage of incumbency, all incumbents will be required to run for re-election under a different name than that under which they were elected. They will, however, as a reward for choosing a career in public service, be allowed to choose any name other than that of their opponent.7
Section 17: All matters not covered by these rules shall be decided by a coin flip held in the office of the Sheriff of Tehama County.8
Section 18: The constitutional proscriptions of ex post facto legislation and bill of attainder are hereby abrogated with regard to Justice William Bedsworth, who—judging by this column—is such a demonstrably misanthropic old reprobate that he shall never again be allowed within 100 feet of a registered voter—much less a courtroom full of them.
William W. Bedsworth is an Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeal. He writes this column to get it out of his system. A Criminal Waste of Space won Best Column in California in 2018 from the California Newspaper Publishers Association (CNPA). And look for his latest book, Lawyers, Gubs, and Monkeys, through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Vandeplas Publishing. He can be contacted at email@example.com.