I came up with a shorter version of this article. It was what I called the "newbie voter's version". This article I wrote to explain to those who need more information to make their decisions.
To start with a disclosure:
The first step in my selecting of candidates and/or a position on a ballot proposition is seeing who supports it and the associations, groups, coalitions they represent. The mention of these people and their associations gives a clue as to who will benefit the most from the proposed law.
The proposed propositions aren't drawn out of nowhere and are not always drawn out for universal fairness, equality, and everyone's welfare. These proposed measures are typically crafted by people with interests to achieve specific goals.
In all of the propositions, I attempted to determine the core functions these laws would be performing, but what resources it potentially takes, and exactly who is trying to get it through can make a large difference.
With candidates for state assembly and state senator I was a little more open to different candidates because we know little of the candidates’ actual experiences. Unless there was a complete lack of information on them, I generally avoided going to their websites.
With candidates for US House of Representatives and US Senator, or as I categorize them in this article as the “Representatives to Washington DC”, I decided to vote along more Democratic lines mostly because I would like to see Democratic majorities in both the House of Representatives and Senate to help enact reform at the federal level.
I tend to vote Democrat platforms and would identify myself with progressive measures and organizations, but I always remain open to other ideas and the possibility that my analysis might be off.
I am registered with an address in Panorama City in the San Fernando Valley, however I spend more time in the cities of Lakewood and Wilmington. This means that in my particular case, I would be voting for different representatives for US House of Representatives, State Assembly, and State Senate. You can locate what exactly is in your ballot here: Smartvoter.org.
I’ve divided this article into 5 sections of explanations:
- Propositions and measures that are of high importance, but most likely to be overlooked (Measure J, Props 36, 31, 33, 34, 35, 39)
- Propositions and measures I’ve heard of the most of on TV and radio (Props 30, 38, 32, 37)
- “Meh”-Sures: Propositions that I don’t care too much for. (Prop 40, Measure A, Measure B)
- State and Local Government (State Assembly, State Senator)
- Representatives to Washington, DC (US House of Representatives, US Senator, President of the United States)
1. Propositions that are important but likely to be overlooked
LA County Measure J: Yes. This issue is why I am writing the voter’s guide and this article that I did right now.
Having spent a full year predominantly commuting to school via the Metro transit system, I think it could be made better by extending to different areas around LA County. It's still a very incomplete system.
I saw the Bus Rider's Union supporting a "No" vote. The Bus Rider's Union has done great work on behalf of the civil rights of bus riders, but I can't side with them on this issue. They do make points worth considering: bus lines are being cut at the expense of these major rail projects, that Metro can be inefficient, and that some people may be displaced.
The justifications in support of Measure J are quick to point out the short-term benefits of a long-term. Measure J extends Measure R, passed in 2008 which bumped the sales tax by half a cent. Measure R is effective till 2039. Measure J would merely extend the sales tax, 30 more years into 2069. There are no increases in taxes. This extension of Measure R would then "accelerate" transit development, which would in turn accelerate job creation.
How would Measure J accelerate transit development?
CurbedLA explains best:
By extending the tax, Metro will be able to borrow against that guaranteed income and advance several transit projects [author's emphasis]--the Purple Line extension to Westwood, the Eastside Gold Line extension to South El Monte or Whittier, the Metro Connector to LAX, the Green Line South Bay extension to Torrance, the West Santa Ana Branch Corridor project, the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor project, the Gold Line to Montclair--allowing them to open years sooner than currently planned.
They need this to pass to obtain a guaranteed income up till 2069, which they would then borrow money from and make the process move faster. By accelerating the project, they "take advantage of lower interest rates and construction costs" as mentioned by the Daily News.
Proposition 36: Yes. We need to find ways to not spend money on imprisoning people. Prisons are already overcrowded and spending has grown at an exponential rate. The Legislative Analyst suggests with the passing of Prop 36, around $70 million annually from fewer inmates doing life sentences and reduced state parole.
It's good for the welfare of our society that were forced to consider some type of nuance in dealing with individuals.
The LA Times, supporting 36, noted the case of Andrew Hove serving a life term after shoplifting $20 worth of merchandise from Home Depot. In this law, instead of everyone serving life sentences for their 3rd "serious offense", life sentences will be reserved for defendants previously convicted of extremely violent crimes such as rape, murder, or child molestation.
The rhetoric of the opponents of 36 in the Voter Guide is very alarmist, preying upon your fears of "dangerous criminals." In the Voter's Guide, they rely heavily on the label "dangerous criminals" and "criminals so dangerous" without giving any clue as to who or what any criminal had done to receive their third strike. Beyond the "beware of the boogeyman" rhetoric, I didn't find them to have made any substantial argument as to the benefits of saying no to Prop 36.
Proposition 31: No. This is one of the propositions you could easily miss, because it’s text and even the arguments for and against are full of policy-speak.
I myself didn’t really know how to read the arguments in the Voter’s Guide till I saw the appearance of two prominent figures writing the letters for and against proposition.
For the proposition, Stanford Professor James Fishkin.
Against the proposition. Health Access California Advocate, Anthony Wright.
I respect Professor Fishkin’s work and his application of deliberative democracy, of which includes giving accurate information to voters and his philosophy is probably one driving force behind my desire to even write a voter’s guide.
He makes the point that proposition 31 would help teachers by ensuring stability in government funding.
The selling points in favor of proposition 31:
- the prospect of government accountability through periodic performance reviews of local government
- forcing the government to balance the budget
- local government gains better control of funds
- 2-year budget plan instead of 1-year plan which allows legislators to think more about long-term planning.
I actually like the last two selling points.
Against the proposition, I regularly get e-mails from Anthony Wright’s organization, Health Access California. Generally they provide solid information about bills being passed in the California legislature and actions to be taken.
The proposition would also do give the governor power to make budget cuts in a fiscal crisis;
I was taken by this statement against the proposition
It makes government more cumbersome, more expensive, slower, and less effective, a response to the periodic performance reviews
I wasn’t fully convinced by this simple, almost cliched statement, but it made me think twice about voting yes primarily because I’m thinking of how that transparency and the wrongs it will uncover will then be a tool and justification for more cutting and slashing.
The California Budget Project makes two important points about how vulnerable some institutions become if this were to pass.
- "The Governor’s new mid-year budget-cutting authority would be considerable: He or she could reduce or eliminate any state funding not required by the state Constitution or federal law, including funding for environmental protection, preschool and child care, Cal Grant college financial aid, the California State University, and the University of California, as well as some funding for schools and health and human services."
- "[R]esult in the cost of new or expanded programs being paid for with cuts to existing services, rather than tax increases. Spending cuts and tax increases do not operate on a level playing field in California… if lawmakers wanted to establish a new program with an annual cost exceeding $25 million, they would be unlikely to fund it with new revenues, given the great difficulty of meeting the supermajority vote threshold."
Proposition 33: No. The argument in favor of Proposition 33 are heavy on emphasizing the words "reward" and "discount." The Greenlining Institute, an organization whose work I respect, is in favor of the proposition, stating that the proposed law would allow voters to keep their continuous coverage discounts.
In the Voter's Guide, the opponents of Proposition 33 ask a good question "When was the last time an insurance company executive spent $8 million on a ballot initiative to save you money?"
However, ultimately what made me say no was that it just seems like a way to make money on the backs of unsuspecting voters:
- "the California Department of Insurance has said the so-called "continuous coverage discount scheme 'will result in a surcharge" for many California driver
- In states where the surcharge is legal, the result is HIGHER PREMIUMS, leading to more uninsured motorists."
Proposition 34: Yes. A majority saying 'yes' would effectively repeal the death penalty. The DEATH PENALTY, folks!
While your vote might be swayed mostly by your view of morality, there are good reasons to repeal it in a government strapped for funds: it's economically sound in a state that doesn't use the death penalty so much.
The argument for Prop 34 in the Voter's Guide mentions a few realities that I had not been privvy to: "only 13 people have been executed since 1967---no one since 2006." as well as "Most death row inmates die of old age"
The Legislative Analyst notes that we would save $100 million annually from reduced costs related to murder trials and housing convicts.
Proposition 35: No. Initially hearing that this was about “trafficking”, I was leaning towards voting “Yes”.
However, I read the argument against it in the Voter’s Guide. The argument made a point about the rights of sex workers:
[A]nyone receiving financial support from normal, consensual prostitution among adults—including a sex worker’s children, parents, spouse, domestic partner, roommate, landlord, or others—could be prosecuted as a human trafficker, and if convicted, forced to register as a sex offender for life!
They’d also made the point that the law was created “outside of the sex worker community.” I thought both those points were at least worth considering. Essentially they were saying that quite a few sex workers aren’t victims.
I then read the text of the proposed law many times, and the argument in favor of Prop 35. This is the meat of what it does:
- Increases the penalties on sex traffickers
- Requires human traffickers to register as sex offenders and for alll sex offenders to disclose their internet accounts
I read the LA Times' endorsement of a vote against 35, and they pointed out these facts that ultimately swayed my opinion against it:
- California has legislation in place to crack down on sex offenders; keeping them in prison longer isn’t necessarily going to deter them.
- The sex offender registry is a tool used by police and residents to track where sex predators are, but could be inundated with data of non-sex criminals
The LA Times then finishes with this reality check:
“Trafficking cases are often hard to prosecute because victims are too scared to step forward…. The proponents of Proposition 35 ignore that and instead argue that those victims will be more likely to step forward if they believe their captors will be punished harshly. But by that logic, victims would already have an incentive to seek federal help, because federal law imposes harsh penalties, including life terms for the worst offenders. Yet that’s hardly the case.”
Proposition 39: Yes. I like that California would recoup 1 billion in lost revenue by simply charging the multi-state corporations and “close a tax loophole”, that it purports job creation. The Independent Legislative Analysts Office, utilizing a model simulation reported that 40,000 jobs would be created if the measure was enacted.
Additionally four big companies who benefit from the current tax code, Chrysler , International Paper, Kimberly-Clark, and Proctor & Gamble will not aggressively oppose the measure.
2. The propositions I’ve heard of the most:
Proposition 30: Yes. My sense is that it is a well-crafted tool to ensure funding for public education in California. As a student still at a public university, I’d hate to see what even more budget cuts will do.
In this proposition, I like this:
- it stops the planned budget cuts
- it addresses funding for community college students.
- Highest income taxes pay more income tax
The independent legislative analyst’s office that it would generate $6.8 dollars in revenue for education based on increased income taxes from those making $250,000 or more and increased sales taxes.
The main argument against 30 is that there’s no assurance that the money would get to the classroom, claiming that money will go to teacher’s pensions. They also bring up the point that the income taxes make us the state with the highest income tax. Veteran Sacramento writer and LA Times columnist George Skelton has said that it’s not clear as to where the money goes, but supports the proposition anyway.
Proposition 38: No. I actually felt really sad marking ‘No’ on this, like something had died in me.
I usually would support funding for education, spending on pupils, and making sure that there was more guaranteed income for education, but as the independent legislative analyst pointed out in the voter guide, if this passes and has more votes than proposition 30, then prop 38's provisions will be enacted.
If this is the prevailing proposition, it will not stop the planned budget cuts and addresses only K-12 education because it kicks in the next year.
Proposition 32: No. I didn't think too long or hard about this one, mainly because it bans unions from making political contributions, effectively ousting labor unions, and by proxy working-class people out of the political process. Meanwhile contributions will remain open to wealthy corporate special interests or super political action committees.
Research has shown that the more money spent on a ballot proposition campaign, the more likely the message gets out about it, and the likelier it is to prevail, provided it outspends the opponent.
This proposition in particular tries to capitalize heavily on popular progressive rhetoric, such as "banning corporations and union contributions" to politicians, but leaves out the minor detail that very wealthy people will still be able to get together and make contributions.
Proposition 37: Yes. I’d been on the fence for this one, though I’d been leaning on ‘Yes.’
The argument presented in the Voter’s Guide against it had some key arguments that made me re-consider:
- More than 400 scientific studies have shown foods made with GE ingredients are safe. Leading health organizations like the American Medical Association, World Health Organization, National Academy of Sciences, 24 Nobel Prize winning scientists, and US Food and Drug Administration agree.
- 37 exempts milk, cheese and meat from its labeling requirements. It exempts beer, wine, liquor, food sold at restaurants and other foods containing genetically engineered (GE) ingredients.
- Creates shakedown lawsuits
I don’t like that it might create lawsuits nor that it exempts of milk, cheese, and meat. Most newspapers like the LA Times don't support it out of pragmatism.
However, this bit from the New York Times by renowned author Michael Pollan made me think of the national implications of this law.
The fight over labeling G.M. food is not foremost about food safety or environmental harm, legitimate though these questions are. The fight is about the power of Big Food. Monsanto has become the symbol of everything people dislike about industrial agriculture: corporate control of the regulatory process; lack of transparency (for consumers) and lack of choice (for farmers); an intensifying rain of pesticides on ever-expanding monocultures; and the monopolization of seeds, which is to say, of the genetic resources on which all of humanity depends.
Based on what Michael Pollan said, yes. I would like to know what's in my food.
Proposition 40: Yes. No one is actually opposing this measure. It even says so in the voter guide.
But just in case you need reasons: the district lines were determined through a bi-partisan committee. The alternative would have been determined by politicians.
Measure A: No. In the wake of John Noguez' charges of bribery, I was going to vote "Yes" because I thought it was good to have the question posed to the public. However, after reading the LA Times editorial, and the making of this point:
[S]ome adjustment in how we select assessors may be warranted, but Measure A doesn't answer any of the balance-of-power questions raised by the Noguez scandal. Appointing the assessor and removing the voters' oversight merely trades one set of hazards for another.
I will vote “No” too.
Measure B: No. I was going to vote yes, because it does offer protection for these workers.
But the LA Times editorial brought up this point: It is simply too hard to regulate.
4. State and Local Government
LA County District Attorney: Jackie Lacey. I may not know the extent of what a District Attorney does, but I know that I wouldn’t want someone who thinks the key to solving more social problems is by continuing to be “tough” on crime, throwing more people in prisons than the state budget can handle.
She has the backing of many influential, from the incumbent District Attorney Steve Cooley to the Los Angeles Police Protective League to the LA Times.
The criticisms laid upon Lacey by the Daily News, Daily Breeze, and Press-Telegram in favor of her opponent Alan Jackson cite that she would be simply another "bureaucrat" and is the candidate of the "status quo". The irony is that Alan Jackson's key supporters, Richard Riordan and Pete Wilson, are part of yesteryear's status quo.
State Senator (Lakewood and Wilmington only):
- District 33 (Lakewood): Lee H. Chauser. Honestly, I don’t know too much about his opponent Ricardo Lara, but I would have chosen Chauser of the Peace and Freedom Party just to try something different.
- District 35 (Wilmington): Charlotte Svolos. Not sure that I like her Republican affiliation nor the fact that she receives money from Alliance for California’s Tomorrow, but I do like her affiliation with education. Her webpage is a bit more inspiring and targeted than her opponent, the incumbent Roderick Wright, whose most notable accomplishments while being in office are being charged for perjury and voting fraud.
Member of the State Assembly:
- District 46 (Panorama City): Adrin Nazarian. Adrin Nazarian and his opponent Jay L. Stern are both first-time politicians. Based on what little we do know from their records, Nazarian gets the vote simply because he’s had a little more experience than
- District 63 (Lakewood): Anthony Rendon. A Ph.D in office with substantial experience as a student and teaching in public education. Sign me up. Though, I hope he doesn’t end up going Gloria Romero on us.
- District 64 (Wilmington): Isadore Hall: He is running unopposed. There is nothing in his searchable internet record not to vote for him.
5. Represntatives to Washington, DC
US House of Representatives:
- District 29 (Panorama City) Tony Cardenas: At the congressional level, I’m more likely to play along party lines leaning towards Democrats because they need as many votes as they can get a majority to pass federal laws. Tony Cardenas received some vote of confidence in his re-election run for City Council on the basis of his work on gang prevention. My heart hurt a little for David Hernandez, because his dedication to his communities seem genuine, but as an unaffiliated voter in Washington, he seems better cast for a run at City Council.
- District 47 (Lakewood) Alan Lowenthal: Something of a legend in Long Beach, having been a long-time councilman as well as a Psychology professor. I like that as an academic he also remains committed to public work. Reading a debate on the Long Beach Business Journal between him and opponent Gary DeLong, I simply like the positions Alan Lowenthal will take, a lot more.
- District 44 (Wilmington) Janice Hahn. Janice Hahn have cut her teeth in LA City Council for 10 years. I’ve been impressed by her range of environmentalism, employee advocacy, and she simply doesn’t have the baggage that Laura Richardson currently has.
US Senator: Dianne Feinstein. Nonplussed about Emken and frankly we’d see a lot more change with a Democratic majority in Senate.
President of the United States: Barack Obama/Joe Biden. When I was in class in 2004 after John Kerry had lost, I suggested to a classmate that had been saying the Democrats would be weak, that perhaps Barack Obama would one day make a good candidate. He looked at me as if he’d seen a ghost, he didn’t know too much about him. I didn’t know too much about him.
If you would've told me 8 years ago that we would be in the middle of selecting Barack Obama to his 2nd term especially in the middle of the Bush presidency, I would've moonwalked up and down Pacific Coast Highway.
I would've been excited for that fact alone. Prominent in my ear had always been rapper 2Pac's words:
And although it seems heaven sent,
we ain't ready to see a black President
And no, I'm not voting for Barack Obama because he's black.
Being in the reality of a Barack Obama presidency has had its ups and downs. His first-term appeared to be premised on attempts at compromise. The passage of the so-called "Obamacare" was the biggest symbol of this compromise. The fact that no one would be denied health care insurance almost shifted my Republican-voting landlord to vote for him.
A few other progressive people around me will not vote for Obama. I'm thinking in particular of this post from a friend. There's only so much a president can do, and I think that there are social infrastructures in place that he's responding to that we can't immediately understand. I am not interested at all in being a part of Romney's ignored 47%.
I'm not choosing Obama as if he's a permanent solution or as a statement of full belief in his fixing of problems, but I do see the direction Obama's moving, and I prefer that. I think we can move forward on issues of immigration, job creation, improvement of infrastructure, education and just overall, policies that acknowledge and attempt to improve upon diverse realities in America.