Californians Could Vote to Give Themselves the Measles

A proposed ballot initiative takes Golden State wackiness to the next level.

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This fall, Californians may have the opportunity to vote on a catch-all ballot initiative that would ban genetically modified organisms and get rid of school vaccination requirements. But that’s not all. The so-called California Clean Environment Initiative would also prohibit the use of 300 substances, including certain vaccine ingredients and chemicals used in water treatment—chlorine and fluoride. And it would create a new agency to “regulate environmental activities, modify or stop projects having pollution and radiation impacts, and test and approve substances before they are introduced into the environment.”

This long-shot initiative was introduced by Cheriel Jensen, a retired urban planner who told the Times of San Diego she was “prompted to write the initiative because she believes cancer, autism and other diseases are linked to exposure to toxic chemicals, genetically modified organisms or radiation.”

Jensen is a resident of the affluent Santa Clara County town of Saratoga and has a history of environmental activism. In 2015, she sued Santa Clara County to stop it from spraying pesticides to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne West Nile Virus. (A judge dismissed the suit.) In 2017, she sued the county again, this time to prevent it from passing a half-cent sales tax to generate $6 billion for public transit and road repairs. She argued that building an extension of the Bay Area’s BART light-rail system wasn’t feasible because it would disturb an aquifer. After a judge dismissed the lawsuit, Jensen appealed. The suit is now with the 6th District Court of Appeal.

Aspects of Jensen’s latest effort run counter to the scientific consensus. Public health authorities worldwide agree on the importance of vaccination to curb deadly outbreaks and protect the most vulnerable people. There’s overwhelming evidence that vaccines do not cause autism and that they are safe for the vast majority of children and adults. Numerous scientific societies, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Medical Association, have issued statements affirming that genetically modified foods are safe to consume. 

To get her measure onto the ballot, Jensen will need to come up with 365,880 signatures—5 percent of the state’s voters. Does she stand a chance? Well, stranger things have made it onto the California ballot.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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