Voting in California

This will be my first election since moving to California and hence my first encounter with their famously long ballots because of the many propositions that appear on it. I have to say I am impressed with how they run the elections. It started with the delivery by mail of a 112-page voter information guide from the secretary of state that seemed daunting but on closer examination was clear and well organized and easy to get through. In addition to 23 pages of general information about the election and how, when, and where to vote, there are 89 pages devoted to the 12 propositions on the ballot: six pages providing a quick reference guide with the proposition issues clearly laid out, with a summary of what each ballot issue is about, what a ‘yes’ vote and a ‘no’ vote means, brief summaries of the arguments for and against, and where to go for more information; 62 pages that go more fully into each of those same propositions; and 21 pages devoted exclusively to the full text of the bond issue that underlies proposition #14 concerning stem cell research.

It was not hard for me to decide how to vote on most of the propositions because they dealt with issues that I have been following and care about. So I arrived at ‘yes’ on #15 (increasing funding for public schools), ‘yes’ on #16 (increasing diversity in public services hiring practices), ‘yes’ on #17 (restoring voting rights to people who have served their prison terms – actually I would like even the imprisoned to have the right to vote), ‘yes’ on #18 (slightly relaxing the voting age rules), ‘yes’ on #19 (that closes some property tax loopholes that benefit the wealthy), ‘no’ on #20 (that makes parole more restrictive), ‘yes’ on #21 (that allows more rent control by local authorities), ‘no’ on #22 (that seeks to allow companies like Uber to not treat everyone as employees who require benefits), ‘no’ on #23 (that imposes restrictions on dialysis centers), ‘yes’ on #24 (that seeks to expand privacy laws), and ‘yes’ on #25 (that seeks to get rid of the money bail system).

The one proposition that I am still undecided on is #14 about issuing bonds to fund stem cell research. I am in favor of such research but think it would be best done by places like the NIH that have the expertise to do it well. Of course, given the anti-zealots in the federal government who see stem cell research as something evil, getting that research done by federal agencies like the NIH will be hard. But it seems like having states do it is not the best way.

Because of the pandemic, this year they mailed out ballots to every registered voter without having to be requested and I got mine earlier this week from my county, a full month before the election. The ballot was accompanied by another booklet with a sample ballot and candidate statements for all local offices being voted on in my area.

Often seeing the ballot is the first time that you realize that there are other tickets running for the president/vice president positions other than Democrats and Republicans. For example, for the presidential race, in addition to the Joe Biden/Kamal Harris and Donald Trump/Mike Pence tickets, there is a Libertarian party ticket of Jo Jorgensen/Jeremy Cohen, a Green party ticket of Howie Hawkins/Angela Walker, a Peace and Freedom party ticket of Gloria La Riva/Sunil Freeman, and an American Independent party ticket of Roque De La Fuente Guerra/Kanye West.

The last one surprised me. I knew that Kanye West was running for president on the Birthday party ticket (no, really!) and was being heavily supported by the Republican party in the hope that he would siphon away African American votes that might otherwise go to Joe Biden but on this ballot he is listed as the vice presidential candidate. This article ‘explains’ what might be going on. Basically, I don’t care to go into it in any more detail. There is enough craziness going on in this election without West’s antics.

I am planning on filling in my ballot and dropping it off later this week in one of the official drop sites that is less than a mile from my home, well before the November 3 election day. You can also track the status of your ballot online to make sure it was received and registered. It is not only really simple and convenient, the system seems well designed to circumvent fraud and Trump’s scaremongering is just ridiculous. Fraud would have to occur on an individual basis and there is simply little benefit in anyone risking serious prison term to fraudulently change one vote here and one vote there.


  1. says

    This article ‘explains’ what might be going on. Basically, I don’t care to go into it in any more detail.

    Well, there’s not a lot there…so I guess I will go into detail. It sounds like some car dealership owner in CA got enough signatures to put himself on the CA ballots and he named Kanye as his VP pick because, apparently, the VP pick doesn’t need to consent to this.
    Which might beg the question, “So who would be VP then, if this person were to win, and their VP pick declines?” if there were a chance in hell of them actually winning.

    There is enough craziness going on in this election without West’s antics.

    But the article suggests this likely has nothing to do with West’s antics, but rather the antics of this car dealership owner. For the record.

  2. seachange says

    I haven’t looked at my ballot materials yet, but I have recieved mine from the Los Angeles County and the State already too.

    On number 14 the reason that California does this is in opposition to incrementalist and ignorant anti-abortionists who claim that Stem Cells Must Be Babies, just because they say so. Other states may be too small to have this hubris against the federals that you don’t like, but California is not one of those. There were other states that enacted laws like this when it was ‘the hot button issue’. Maybe we should both do a little preliminary research to see how those projects went?

    Our original stem cell research bond so far has been both a little worryingly, and possibly also very pro-science, open-ended. I ended up signing on that one when signatures were being gathered. I didn’t see this one this time around. ….It’s generating research at least?

    On number 23 you might not be aware that dialysis centers are largely un-regulated in such a way that they kill people. They are a large monopoly at the federal government’s teat. They very much like the special earmark money money money that the federal government gives unquestionably and without much oversight, to kidney-related stuff and hate to reduce their profits. A large part of the way this monopoly got that way was by skimping on staff and having untrained staff. That said, when signatures were being gathered I read the thing and this proposition looked like it was sponsored by them, in order to make sure that they remain inadequately regulated.

    In order to get on the ballot in California you have to be one of the six official parties, and it takes longer than Kanye West had in order to create your own party. The American Independents are very much Tea Party adjacents, batshit crazies, and John Bircher types. They steal state matching funds money because voters who do not want to register for a party don’t realize that AI *is* a political party and that the choice they wanted on their voter registration card was “no party preference” or “non-partisan” (depending on county and how old the form was). Here in California a party’s candidate is for whatever office they choose only has to match federal rules if it is a federal office which are pretty non-existent, the rules of the state which are very lax, and that party’s rules. Whoever has the money and gumption to act for the AI currently wants to throw Mr. West’s name on for no reason or for money reason or because they actually know the dude; this is possible here.
    Alas my party has nominated one of the anti-semites, so this time I will be voting for Biden while sitting in front of the toilet to catch all my vomit.

  3. tbrandt says

    I agree with you on most of these. I default to “yes” on a legislative initiative, and “no” on a voter initiative since these could be written and funded by anyone. If dialysis clinics need regulation, for example, let the legislature enact it. When all of the medical societies are opposed to an initiative like this I get suspicious.

    I’ll be a “no” vote on rent control. There is a housing shortage, certainly, but I think that price controls are an especially ineffective response to a shortage. I suspect they will make things worse in the long run by discouraging new building. They’ll help people who currently rent, but they will make it very hard for them to move, and they will remove the incentive for the landlord to keep up the place. And as I am sure you are well aware, they also give the landlord a reason to try and force out tenants. I’m strongly leaning toward “no” on stem cell research because I don’t think voter initiatives are the way to fund science. I’d feel differently if this were a push to create a state version of the NSF/NIH--that I would support. I’ll be a “yes” vote to end money bail but I’m not thrilled about algorithmic determinations in its place. I worry that these will seem fair but end up hiding and entrenching the same old racism and biases that have always existed. And I am a very enthusiastic “yes” to Prop 15, the first baby step towards a repeal of the property tax restrictions of the old Prop 13.

  4. DrVanNostrand says

    I lived in CA for a long time, and I got to the point where I basically voted against every ballot measure that was: “Sell bonds to fund x”. All that does is create an un-funded mandate for a state that is in a near-constant state of budget crisis. Add to that the 2/3 requirement for raising taxes, and the proposition that capped property taxes, and you have a system where voters are constantly adding spending obligations without any mechanism to pay for them. If you want to fund stem cell research, do it through the normal legislative process where you can weigh it against all of the state’s other spending priorities. Or state in the ballot measure exactly where the money will come from.

  5. jrkrideau says


    Canadian elections are so different. IIRC, for the last Federal election I got a one-pager telling me where to vote and when the advance polls were.

    I am not even sure where they got my name and address—perhaps OHIP?

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