If you live in the US, please vote! It’s okay if you feel a bit under-informed–that’s true of most voters. You can spend just a little time to look up each issue in the local newspapers. If you can’t figure an issue out, or if you just get tired of doing all that research, it’s still better to vote in part of the election than to avoid it entirely.
If nothing else, you should at least vote on members of congress (US Senate and US Representative). Trump makes it fairly easy, because even if you don’t follow politics that closely, you probably already have a stance on the Trump administration. Members of congress tend to vote along party lines these days, so it’s generally a good strategy to base your votes entirely on party affiliation. In principle I’m open to voting across party lines for lower offices, although I still tend not to.
I’m voting in the California election, and here I’m sharing how I plan to vote, and why. I don’t provide citations, I expect readers to independently verify my claims.
Summary: Yes on 1, 2, 4, 7, 12. No on 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11.
Prop 1: Bonds for housing assistance programs.
Yes. In California, there’s a big housing shortage. Voters and policymakers have been slow to address it because of (legitimate) concerns about gentrification, and uprooting existing residents. But one way or another, we need to spend money on housing, housing for people in all income ranges. This proposition helps housing programs for low-income families. It’s also supported by the legislature.
Prop 2: Bonds for housing program for people with mental illness.
Yes. As previously explained, I’m pro-housing across the board. The fact that this proposition is directed towards helping mentally ill people (who are at high risk of homelessness) only furthers my support for it. It’s also supported by the legislature.
Prop 3: Water bonds
No. Water infrastructure is important, but I would rather budgeting be done by legislative initiative, rather than voter initiative, when possible. In fact, the legislature put a $4 billion water bond on the ballot this June, and it was approved. Newspapers have criticized the “pay to play” nature of this proposition, shifting some burden from the proponents to taxpayers.
Prop 4: Bonds for children’s hospitals
Yes? This seems unobjectionable, except on the usual grounds. It costs money. It’s a voter initiative instead of legislative initiative. The hospitals are private entities that could get private funding instead.
Prop 5: Changes to property taxes
No. Some background: in California we have Prop 13, which is kind of like rent control, but for property taxes instead of rent. This sometimes disincentivizes people from moving, lest they lose their artificially low tax rates. Apparently, there’s a exception for people over 55 (and other groups) who relocate to a cheaper house. Prop 5 expands the exception so that it includes people who relocate to a more expensive house. Nope, not gonna help rich people get richer.
Prop 6: Removes road funding, repeals fuel tax
No. This proposal is a constitutional amendment that not only repeals fuel taxes, but makes it harder to enact fuel taxes in the future. We should not be amending the state constitution just to address a particular funding issue. Also, I don’t agree on the funding issue, I think fuel taxes and road funding are good things.
Prop 7: Allows legislature to change daylight savings time
Yes. Currently the legislature can’t change daylight savings time, due to a proposition from 1949. I’d like to have year-round daylight savings time, personally.
Prop 8: Regulates prices for kidney dialysis
No. This requires that dialysis clinics spend 87% of their revenues on “direct patient care and healthcare improvements”. This ignores other legitimate spending, such as clinic coordinators (whatever that means). This seems like the worst kind of market regulation, too inflexible to account for the real expenditures of clinics, which could change over time and from place to place. I have been told that this proposition is being pushed by a labor union as a form of leverage against a company they’re negotiating with.
Prop 10: Expands local government’s ability to enact rent control.
Strong No. Prop 10 is a repeal of California’s Costa-Hawkins law. Among other things, Costa-Hawkins bars rent control on properties built after 1995, and bars vacancy control. It’s important to bar rent control on new properties, in order to incentivize new housing development, which alleviates rent in the long run. And vacancy control–rent control that persists even when tenants leave–is a bad policy because it encourages landlords to convert property away from rental units, further restricting housing supply, and sometimes leading to evictions.
While Costa-Hawkins could be updated and improved (I would like the cutoff to be later than 1995), it is an important measure that incorporates economic wisdom, preventing tenants from being priced out of their homes, but without restricting housing supply. Repealing Costa-Hawkins could be a disaster. Some local governments will be swayed by the selfish short-term interests of landlords, developers, or tenants, and end up enacting policy that strangles housing and hurts everyone in the long run. Additionally, neighboring cities are often caught in a prisoner’s dilemma, where each city would like neighboring cities to develop more housing so they don’t have to. Finally, just the threat of new rent control policy will by itself discourage housing development. While different communities might have slightly different needs with regard to rent control, it is much better to have a state level policy.
Prop 11: Emergency ambulance employees must be on call during work breaks. Eliminates certain employer liability.
No. This proposition comes from a big employer of ambulance workers, who is currently engaged in a lawsuit for underpaying its workers. This proposition will undercut the lawsuit by making their illegal practices retroactively legal. With regard to regulation of ambulance employee work breaks, the legislature is already working on a bill–AB263. I am not sure about the merits of AB263, but it’s far preferable to abusing the proposition system to win lawsuits.
Prop 12: Larger requirements on space for farm animals.
Yes. Greater space for animals means less cruelty to animals, greater food safety, and more environmental sustainability. And this probably shouldn’t persuade anyone, but PETA apparently opposes it because it’s not extreme enough.
Senator: Dianne Feinstein
Both Feinstein, and her opponent Kevin De Leon are Democrats, so I have to judge by some other measure. De Leon publicly criticized Feinstein for withholding the letter from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford about being sexually assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh. Of course she withheld it, Dr. Ford asked her to keep it confidential! Why is he repeating Republican talking points? If De Leon were in charge, then he simply wouldn’t have received the letter in the first place. I’m sure there are other important differences between the candidates, but I feel done with this guy.
Governor: Gavin Newsom
Gavin Newsom’s opponent is John Cox, a Republican. I learned from Cox’s own website that Cox opposes fuel taxes, opposes healthcare reform, wants less immigration, and opposes spending money cleaning streets. And yes, he’s endorsed Trump too. Nope!
Lieutenant Governor: Eleni Kounalakis
Again, both candidates are Democrats here. Hernandez is the more experienced candidate, but by all accounts this office comes with very few duties, so what does it matter? Kounalakis has spoken up about the housing crisis, and that’s a voice that should be heard more.
Secretary of State: Alex Padilla
Padilla’s Republican opponent, Mark Meuser, looks like a single-issue candidate overly concerned with voter fraud. It’s not that voter fraud doesn’t exist, it’s that it’s a bogeyman that politicians use to enact barriers for legitimate voters. Alex Padilla looks like a reasonable candidate.
Controller: Betty Yee
The controller serves as a bookkeeper for state funds, and conducts audits of state operations. Yee’s opponent, Konstantinos Roditis… honestly, he seems fine, except that he’s Republican. Yee is also fine, and not supporting the party of Trump, so I’m going with her.
Treasurer: Fiona Ma
When Fiona Ma was elected to the California Board of Equalization, she became frustrated with how the board was handling tax accounts, and called for an audit. The audit exposed missing funds and nepotism. Now that’s fighting corruption! 10 out of 10, would vote for again.
Attorney General: Xavier Becerra
The opposing candidate, Steven Bailey, seems mostly inoffensive except that he’s supported by the NRA, and he is “pleased” with the Trump administration. Becerra is a more inspiring candidate, who has successfully fought the Trump administration on issues of healthcare, immigration, air quality, and abortion.
Insurance Commissioner: Ricardo Lara
The opposing candidate, Steve Poizner, used to be Republican, but changed to independent before the election, which is a nice gesture. However, Lara authored a bill on single-payer healthcare, while Poizner has flatly opposed it. While the single-payer healthcare bill may not be feasible yet, I would like to see a candidate who is interested in trying to improve it.
Board of Equalization, District 2: Malia Cohen
The Board of Equalization was recently stripped of most of its power (see Fiona Ma above), and all we’re really voting for is who gets to put this on their resume before the board gets dissolved entirely. Malia’s opponent Mark Burns supports Prop 5, so yeah, no.
Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tony Thurmond
This is a non-partisan office, and the candidates are fairly similar. I looked around and I got the impression that Thurmond had a more concrete set of plans, I don’t know.
Alameda County ballot
These are issues that are specific to my county/region, so it’s not relevant to most readers. I have omitted the city-specific issues, although these are important to vote on too.
US Representative, 13th congressional district: Barbara Lee
Democrat Barbara Lee is running against Green candidate Laura Wells. There’s so little coverage of Wells, so I’m guessing she’s a distant second. Wells sure has a progressive platform, including a few points that bother me (debt-free education, public banking). Then I remembered the Green party opposes the Russia investigation, an issue that will likely be relevant in the coming years, so that settles it.
Member of the state assembly, 15th assembly district: Buffy Wicks
Wicks’ opponent, Jovanka Beckles, says she supports building houses, but she also supports prop 10, boo! Wicks wants to reform Costa-Hawkins to make the cutoff for rent control a rolling date, which is exactly the reform I want.
County assessor: Phong La
The assessor calculates property values for purposes of taxation. Both candidates look good, but newspapers seem to favor Phong La for having more relevant experience, and he also has a more impressive list of endorsements from state officials.
Judicial: Yes on all
Judges should be free to make judgments without being recalled by popular vote–as long as they’re not involved in any big scandals. I am not aware of any such scandals in my county.