2020 California election positions

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it is worth, when this research funding was originally approved, there were federal limits on stem cell research, now no longer in effect.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.

State Senator

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.


  1. PaulBC says

    I plan to vote yes on Prop 23 on the simple view that “dialysis patients deserve better”, not that this is the right solution but to add my forceful support that a problem exists.

    In one of the few good healthcare decisions ever made in the US, dialysis has been fully funded by Medicare for nearly 50 years. If that decision had been deferred 10 years later it would probably have never happened. I can only speculate how bad things would be. Maybe a lot of people would be “choosing” hospice care.

    Prop 23 is probably the wrong solution, but at least it recognizes there is a problem. Da Vita and Fresenius (primarily) use dialysis as a cash cow (with literal milking stations!). All they care about is the bottom line. If they say that a doctor on call 24 hours is prohibitively expensive, do I take their word for it? What else do I expect them to say? In fact, according to the gospel of capitalism, they are obligated to cut every cost possible to optimize shareholder value, not patient outcome. Therefore, they will be against any such changes. Things are going just fine for them. As the old patients die, plenty of new ones show up, and the money keeps coming.

    Patients on dialysis may die very fast (often in just a few years). Some of this is a matter of comorbidities, and others may live for decades. Quality of care received definitely matters. Patient compliance matters too, but that requires getting the right kind of support. Read some comments from adult dialysis patients on the kind of treatment they get. They deserve better.

    So look, Prop 23 will almost certainly lose. But why the f*** should I vote along with big money and corporate interests (who have funded opposition by more than 10 to 1 https://calmatters.org/election-2020-guide/proposition-23-kidney-dialysis-clinics/ ). Yes, it’s a mostly just a proxy for some kind of union fight, but if I’m going to take sides, it is not going to be with big dialysis.

    I feel this is an abuse of the proposition system, and deserves an automatic rejection.

    Hahaha. As far as I’m concerned, the whole proposition system is big bait and switch. I would personally rather elect competent legislators to deliberate on new laws. By the above criteria, I would vote “no” on everything, but while that might look like a principled position, it is still taking a side.

  2. PaulBC says

    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.

    Sorry (I won’t spam with additional comments), I just want to add:

    Frankly, uh, so what? I mean in politics nothing ever happens without a sufficiently motivated advocacy group. Dialysis patients mostly lack this (National Kidney Foundation may once have been, but now it’s basically just another arm of the industry–not that it’s a bad organization, but it’s not a patient advocacy group). If the only way to get the attention of the f***ers who profit directly from human misery is to wrap it up as an employee-employer dispute, then I’ll take it. It’s not my job to press the snooze button on justice.

    Plenty of voters can be expected to do this already, but just hypothetically suppose it did win? Do I really think dialysis clinics are going to close or that the big companies running them will become insolvent? I doubt it very much. I am sure they will figure out something.

  3. says

    Still a strong no on 23. You do not seem to be arguing on the merits of the proposition, only on the signal it represents. This isn’t compelling. For me, the signal that this is an abuse of the proposition system is the signal that wins out. I suspect that the reason that the proposition is lacking in merits is precisely because it is part of some labor dispute. So, argue on the merits.

  4. PaulBC says

    Siggy@5 Well, I doubt I will persuade you, nor was that my aim. I think it is a question of voting strategy. It is possible that I would reach a different conclusion if I thought there was a reasonable chance of the proposition passing. As it is, I have the simple view that that there’s a side to take here and I’m taking it.

    Part of the issue is that if there was a case to be made on merits, the opposition is simply better resourced to make that case, and I will never learn the merits of the side in favor. I’m not omniscient, so I don’t trust my own judgment, particularly when someone with the means is trying to shape it. I have to apply a heuristic.

    I have often felt that rightwing politics benefits from having a base that follows simply loyalty heuristics while counting on an opposition to overthink it and split their vote among various judiciously thought out positions. So I am applying the loyalty heuristic here.

    I do care about dialysis a lot. My daughter has ESRD and has had amazing care thanks to adequate health insurance and the fact that pediatric care tends to be more humane overall. But the fate of adult dialysis patients is one of the most depressing subjects I can think of. (I also had a brother in law who was on dialysis for a year or so before succumbing to other conditions). So that’s also not a merit argument. Please vote the way you intend. I am simply expressing my thoughts here. (This proposition was off my radar until a friend asked me last week, and this is how I come down on it.)

  5. says

    TBH, I didn’t pay much attention to the merits of 23, because the merits of prop 8 (from 2018) were so bad that I lost confidence that they were even trying. But, you inspired me to look up the content of 23, so I will comment.

    Synthesizing info from Yes on 23 and LA Times (I often look at oppositional sites for this purpose), 23 does four things: 1. Require a doctor to be present, 2. Require reporting of infections to state, 3. Require approval from state to close clinics, and 4. Prohibit discrimination by health insurance. IMHO, 1 and 3 sound like terrible ideas, weird market regulation that benefits employees not patients. 2 is neutral to positive (keeping in mind that this info is already reported to the CDC). 4 is good.

    I will grant that this is a step up from prop 8.

  6. PaulBC says

    @7 If I were trying to argue on merits from that standpoint, I’d say that we’ll never get a “clean” form of this proposition, and something like 1 might be so onerous that dialysis providers would find a way to fight it if they had too, but it’s easier just to quash all attempts to change the status quo. This may be the only means to change anything.

    So my position (repeating but in summary) is: I’m voting as a signal and I’m not very worried that it will pass. In the unlikely event that it does pass, I can live with that. I see it as the beginning of a process, not the end result. I think it would be interesting to see the next steps taken by dialysis providers. It’s highly unlikely that they’ll either acquiesce or just leave the state. I wonder if 3 is even constitutional.

    (I don’t remember how I voted on prop 8. Pretty sure National Kidney Foundation was opposed and Democratic party was in favor.)

  7. PaulBC says

    I think I would sum up my point as: If you’re fighting a giant, don’t worry that you might kill him by accident when you only wanted to get him to back down. That’s his problem, not yours.

  8. DrVanNostrand says

    On Prop 14:
    I lived in CA for a little over 10 years, and I hate those kinds of propositions. Those bonds create unfunded mandates in a state that has a near-constant budget crisis. They’ve also tied their hands with a 2/3 legislative requirement to raise taxes, and the property tax caps in prop 13, meaning that repayment of these bonds crowds out room in the budget for all other spending priorities, not just other medical research. I think stem cell research is great, but it’s funding should be weighed against all other spending priorities (health care programs, schools, green infrastructure, other medical research, etc…) through the normal legislative process.

  9. says

    I agree, at least as this applies to prop 14.

    One thing I’d like to note is that there’s a difference between the budgeting propositions on the state level, and those on the county and city level. The city & county propositions are usually put there by the legislature, and need voter approval to go through. I’m much friendlier to these propositions. Prop 25 is another one where a “yes” vote aligns with the decision of the legislature.

  10. DrVanNostrand says

    I agree with all of that. Much of the problem is caused by the proposition system itself, which often makes it impossible for the state legislature and county and local governments to accomplish anything, even when they have solid majority support. I can’t say I’m a fan. While the quality of debate within state and local governments is pretty low, I feel like the quality of debate in the campaigns for these ballot propositions is usually even worse.

  11. says

    Yeah, I heard. The passage of prop 24 is just baffling to me, considering just how little research it took to turn up problems with it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *