As I have done in previous elections, I’m going through my ballot, doing a little research, and making endorsements. My primary goal is to normalize the practice of informed voting, not just on the well-known issues, but on the entire ballot.
People complain about having to vote for the lesser of two evils, but abstention is just the middle of three evils. Trump may very well lead to the collapse of the US, or the collapse of US democracy, or my personal death.
Researching an entire ballot is frankly a slog, and I’m in favor of spending less energy on obvious decisions, even if those are the ones I feel most strongly about. To express the intensity of my preference, I’ve committed to voting against all Republicans in all elections throughout the ballot for the next 10 years, which incidentally frees up more time to research other parts of the ballot. The Republican party has become the fascist party, and their candidates do not even deserve my research. I have also made the maximum donation to the Biden campaign.
Yes on props 15, 16, 17, 18, and 25, no on all the others. For elected offices, Barbara Lee, Nancy Skinner, Buffy Wicks, and Elena Condes. Yes on Alameda county measures.
Prop 14: Bonds continuing stem cell research
No. While not opposed to stem cell research, generally I think it is better if the legislature makes these sorts of budgeting decisions. Also for what it is worth, when this research funding was originally approved, there were federal limits on stem cell research, now no longer in effect. I feel that stem cell research can compete on a level playing field with other medical research.
Prop 15: Increase property taxes on commercial and industrial properties
Strong yes. One of the most important features of the California political landscape is Prop 13 (from 1978), which is basically like rent control, but for homeowner’s property taxes. The major problem with Prop 13, is that it also applies to business-owned properties, and note that businesses can sit on a single property for much longer than private homeowners can, and extract much more value from Prop 13. Prop 15 fixes this by eliminating protections for commercial and industrial properties. This is the most important proposition on the ballot.
Prop 16: Allows diversity as factor in employment, education, and contracting decisions
Yes. Basically, this legalizes affirmative action. I’ve changed my mind on this a few times in my life, but my feeling is that if it is just for college admissions to consider socioeconomic class, then it is also just for them to consider the factor of race, ethnicity, and so on, because these factors are known to have an effect above and beyond that of socioeconomic class.
Prop 17: Restores right to vote after completion of prison term
Yes. I basically think all prisoners deserve the right to vote throughout their prison terms, and any step in that direction is a good one. This is especially important in light of the criminal justice system’s racial disparities–depriving prisoners of voting power is de facto racial vote suppression.
Prop 18: Allow 17-year-olds to vote in primary and special elections if they will turn 18 by the next general election
Yes. I think this will have little material effect on results, as I do not expect 17-year-olds to have great voter turn-out. But there is potential for gain in allowing younger folks to get a head start on political engagement.
Prop 19: Changes certain property tax rules
No. This is another change to prop 13, which expands the conditions when people can transfer residences while maintaining the same property taxes. This bears a resemblance to prop 5 in 2018, which I opposed because it only really benefited homeowners who were moving into more expensive houses–homeowners moving into less expensive housing are already covered. Prop 19 seems to be slightly more of a mixed bag, but I’m still a no.
Prop 20: Restricts paroles for certain nonviolent offenses, and authorizes felony sentences for certain offenses currently treated as misdemeanors
No. In general, my politics are anti-punitive. And if I may point out California’s prison overcrowding and racial disparities in criminal justice?
Prop 21: Expands local governments authority to enact rent control on residential property
Another important feature of California’s political landscape, is Costa-Hawkins, which (among other things) restricted rent control to properties built before 1979. This is a good idea, because it prevents displacement of renters, while incentivizing new housing, but instead of 1979 it should be a rolling window. Prop 21 allows cities to use a rolling window of 15 years. That’s good.
However! Prop 21 also allows cities to enact vacancy control. Vacancy control is distinct from rent control, because it prevents landlords from increasing the rent when new tenants move in. This encourages landlords to basically take their units off the market, or leave them in disrepair. This is really bad, and the authors of the proposition should try again.
Prop 22: Exempts ride-sharing companies from providing employee benefits
Strong no. This is part of a whole thing where Lyft and Uber don’t want to give their drivers full employee benefits, and may just have the political capital to get away with it. This is an abuse of the proposition system to benefit just a few wealthy companies at the expense of their employees. Those drivers are essential workers, and Lyft and Uber can afford to give them the benefits that they deserve.
To my understanding, drivers themselves are divided on this issue, with opposition from drivers who treat it as a side gig to some other job that already gives them benefits. Well, guess what, I think the drivers who rely on ridesharing as their main job are more vulnerable and more important.
Prop 23: Establishes state requirements for kidney dialysis clinics
Strong no. This is similar to proposition 8 in the 2018 ballot. Apparently there’s some worker’s union that repeatedly submits these propositions in order to oblige their opponents to spend money on political campaigns, and use this as leverage in negotiation. I feel this is an abuse of the proposition system, and deserves an automatic rejection. Also the proposition is bad.
Prop 24: Amends Consumer Privacy Laws
No. When I looked this one up, I learned that it’s very complicated, and privacy advocates are divided in their support. I think this is the sort of thing that should be done through the legislature rather than propositions. On the plus side, Prop 24 does allow the legislature to amend it by simple majority.
Prop 25: Replace cash bail with system based on public safety and flight risk.
Yes. Cash bail is a system where people can pay a fee to get out of jail while awaiting trial, and they recover that fee when they go to trial (instead of just disappearing). On the surface, it’s a good idea, but it is unjust toward people with less money. There’s a whole industry that gives people loans for their cash bail, and frankly it feels exploitative.
US Representative, 13th district
Barbara Lee. Her opponent is a Republican.
Nancy Skinner. She gets strong endorsements from the pro-housing groups. Her opponent, Jamie Dluzak does not strike me as offensive, but I got the impression from his website that he isn’t a competitive candidate. Also being Libertarian party does not earn him points.
State Assembly, 15th district
Buffy Wicks! She coauthored SB 50, the More Homes act. I don’t know what’s going on with that because I haven’t followed housing politics lately but have high confidence in her.
Superior Court Judge, Office #2
Elena Condes, I guess? I don’t really like voting on judges, but Condes had a slight margin in the primary so I figure she deserves to win. My husband complains that her opponent Mark Fickes is misrepresenting himself when he calls himself a civil rights attorney.
Alameda County Measures
Measure V: Extend current utilities tax to fund county services
Yes. At the county level, and below, it’s pretty hard to find information on these measures outside of the voter guide, but generally they’re inoffensive. I just vote in favor of them unless I can find a compelling reason otherwise. Not everything needs to be hard!
Measure W: Adopt 0.5% sales tax to provide essential county services
Yes. The essential county services appears to be social safety net stuff, like housing for the homeless. I am in favor of this.
Note that even though my endorsements only go down to the county level, I also vote on city elections.