Democracy dies in darkness

Elected officials sit on democracy when they fail to vote on legislation


Kassidy Corbin

Politicians make promises to their constituencies while avoiding getting pinned down on consequential votes.

The motto of The Washington Post holds true today: when the American people lack insight and information into the political system they lack any true ability to vote in their best interests.

How can citizens make informed decisions at the ballot box when there is no information to draw from?

This question must be posed anytime a legislative body refuses to vote on legislation – tabling it instead. It must be posed now in the aftermath of California State Assemblymember Ash Kalra’s decision to table the universal healthcare bill dubbed CalCare.

Kalra is the author of AB 1400, CalCare, and his decision to table the bill is understandable but ultimately misguided. The calculation was made that more harm would come to the bill if it was voted down, giving the impression that it was unpassable.

With CalCare tabled, the voters now have close to no information on which representatives supported and opposed the piece of legislation. When Californians go to the polls this June, they will not be able to oust officials who voted in a way they disagreed with.

Supporters of universal healthcare, which there are many in the Golden State, will not have the ability to target the bill’s opponents because they do not have that information. On the flip side, voters who oppose universal healthcare are deprived of that information as well.

San Mateo County is lucky that we have some data that reveals how our representatives think on the issue. Josh Becker, the state senator for District 13, was a co-author of AB 1400. Kevin Mullin, speaker pro tempore of the Assembly and state representative for District 22, voted in favor of moving the bill through the appropriations committee.

While we are lucky to have any information at all, neither actions are equivalent to the ironclad position of voting for or against CalCare in the assembly. Regardless of their true intentions, our representatives will have the luxury of saying they support CalCare without having to actually take the vote.

In addition to being unable to judge the actions of our representatives, it becomes harder to evaluate Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stance on universal healthcare. The governor has previously expressed his support for a universal healthcare system but has shied away from it of late. A high-profile vote in the California legislature could have been an opportunity for Newsom to show voters his commitment to the policy he supported while running for office.

Now voters are left wondering where he stands and how much effort he would have put into getting the policy passed. If the bill truly was doomed to fail, Newsom should have taken responsibility for it not passing. He should have to take responsibility for not fulfilling a campaign promise.

The ability for any legislative body to punt off important issues undermines the reasons we elect officials in the first place. While representatives have many jobs, voting on legislation is supposed to be their main duty.

We cannot allow our representatives to hide from tough votes. It is our duty to pressure the politicians to do more than just take a stance. They must be pressured to act. They must be pressured to vote.

After all, democracy dies in darkness.