Voting is my American civic duty, which I take seriously. Voting is also a huge pain: frustrating research into contradicting statements and esoteric rules. You have to read between the lines, predict the outcomes of complicated legal mechanisms, and judge both the sincerity and expertise of candidates while having very little to base your judgments on. It's no wonder people get overwhelmed. That said, I've done my best to research the issues on my ballot and come up with some simple recommendations. I'm sharing them here so if you're looking for a quick summary to make voting easier, I've got you covered.
The issues listed are for the ballot in my area. I'll break out the issues by state, county, and city/district-level politics, so if you're not in the same areas you can skip over the ones that don't apply to you. The opinions are my own, informed by candidates' websites and news coverage of the elections where I could find it. As a preface, I tend to vote for progressive Democratic candidates, and the issues I care most about are typically the environment and technology, though lately I also care a lot about affordable housing; I also tend to emphasize evidence-based solutions to problems (where available) over pure ideology. Oh, and if you're eligible to vote in California and you're not registered as a permanent vote-by-mail (absentee) voter, you should seriously consider doing so. You don't need an excuse and it makes it much easier to take your time looking things up, fill stuff out at your leisure, even if it's, say, past midnight like it is for me right now. Thanks to recent reforms, you don't even have to pay for postage!
- Governor - Gavin Newsom. Since Gerry Brown is termed out, current Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is the next best choice.
- Lieutenant Governor - Either candidate. Honestly Ed Hernandez and Eleni Kounalakis seemed to have very similar positions and good qualifications. I picked Ed for his slightly higher focus on climate change, but I appreciated Eleni's callout to affordable housing.
- Secretary of State - Alex Padilla.
- Controller - Betty Yee
- Treasurer - Fiona Ma
- Attorney General - Xavier Becerra
- Insurance Commissioner - Ricardo Lara. Details on Ricardo Lara are sparse, but the alternative, Steve Poizner, is a former Republican (maybe he recognized that the current Republican party is deeply corrupted?) with questionable LGBT rights stances.
- State Senator - Kevin de Leon. Do you think the government should spy on Americans? Feinstein has enabled the NSA's unreasonable data collection for a long time, and it's time she stopped. Kevin de Leon, on the other hand, just shepherded landmark climate change regulation through the California legislature. He should get a chance at the national level.
- Judicial - Carol A. Corrigan - No. This is a vote to re-elect current California Supreme Court justices; I was torn on this one because there's very little info out there, but Carol Corrigan's most notable action on the court was voting to delay the legalization of gay marriage; she said she supports it, but thought it should be approved through voters instead of through the courts, which kind of makes sense. All reports are that she's been a sensible judge, but leans fairly conservative, so either vote is reasonable. I think we could probably do better, so I leaned "No"
- Judicial - Leondra R. Kruger - Yes. Another CA Supreme Court re-election; found nothing against Leondra R. Kruger so she gets to keep the seat.
- Superintended of Public Instruction - Tony K. Thurmond. His summary of the issues was much more thorough and he's supportive of the public school system, which benefits everyone and not just those who can afford exclusive charter schools.
- Fund Affordable Housing - Yes. Do we need housing? Yes we do. Is now a good time to issue bonds because interest rates are low? Yes.
- Fund Housing for People with Mental Illness - Yes. People with mental illness need housing even more than everyone else. If they don't have housing, their mental health deteriorates and ends up costing the state more in health care and emergency services later. So this measure is both compassionate and practical.
- Fund Water Projects - No. Good idea, wrong projects. A lot of the money would go to the businesses writing and funding the proposition, plus it takes money away from climate change funds.
- Fund Children's Hospitals - Yes. Annoyingly, the money mostly goes to the specific children's hospitals writing the measure, the same ones that ask for money on a regular basis to upgrade their equipment. Medi-Cal doesn't pay them enough to stay cutting-edge, so they have to ask voters whenever it's time to upgrade their facilities. Fine.
- Change Property Tax Rules - No. This would expand Prop 13 (from 1978) so that people who are already underpaying their share of property taxes could buy a new, nicer house and underpay even more. Hell no.
- Repeal Gas Tax - No. We need to continue repairing our roads and bridges, and taxing gasoline to discourage wasteful carbon emissions is a benefit in its own right. Keep it.
- Daylight Savings Time Rules - Yes. This is a first step to letting California go onto permanent DST. (Yes, please!) But just in case it turns out DST really is still beneficial, we can still have the legislature change it back.
- Limit Dialysis Clinic Profits - tentatively, Yes? - The downside is, this complicated measure might end up causing unintended consequences in the way dialysis clinics are built, organized, and funded. On the other hand, dialysis patients literally have to choose between regular, expensive treatments (which are highly profitable for the companies opposing this measure) or dying. Given how messed up the current for-profit system is, this could be a big step in the right direction. I say it's worth a shot.
- (There is no prop 9. Ha!)
- Allow More Rent Control - tentatively No. This one's complicated. Rent control is well-meaning, but the evidence is that it's ultimately counterproductive to areas as a whole, because landowners just find workarounds and people who aren't lucky enough to be in rent-controlled areas just get screwed. We need to actually build houses, not try to force the prices down.
- Require Ambulance Workers to Be On-Call During Breaks - No. In busy areas, it would not be surprising if EMTs frequently didn't get breaks because for-profit ambulance companies would rather under-schedule than over-schedule their employees. I want my emergency responders to be rested and alert, not worn out and annoyed (even if they get paid overtime). Oh, and the companies funding this measure are trying to escape from lawsuits over this very issue. Screw for-profit health care.
- More Room for Farm Animals - No, I guess?. This one was also a mess, with support and opposition all over the place. I think I'd rather not add another complicated law to the books for farm animals, when we even haven't fully implemented the previous one.
- State Board of Equalization, District 2 - Malia Cohen.
- US Representative, District 18 - Anna G. Eshoo. Aside from voting the party line, one of her unusual actions was to join a bunch of Republicans urging Obama to convene Congress before escalating military force in Syria—I agree. Modern presidents have too much leeway to engage in endless warfare without the people's approval.
- State Assembly, District 28 - Evan Low.
- Judicial - Mary J. Greenwood, Allison Marston Danner, Nathan D. Mihara - Yes on all three. Local judges in the 6th Appellate district up for re-election. Heard nothing bad about them, so they can stay.
- Sheriff (Santa Clara County) - John Hirokawa. Current sheriff Laurie Smith has overseen an inmate killed by guards in County jail, "mistaken" cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and has been accused of tampering with evidence in an (old) investigation against her. She's resisted reforming the office and should go. Hirokawa has a cleaner record and is plenty qualified.
- Board of Supervisors, District 4 - Either candidate. Honestly, Don Rocha and Susan Ellenberg are both highly qualified and both were endorsed by the former seat holder Ken Yeager (who's termed out). I pretty much had to flip a coin to decide this one, but leaned towards Susan Ellenberg hoping that her attempts to "address the root causes of homelessness" would be more likely to involve actually building housing than Rocha's (respectably detailed) plan to set up sanctioned homeless camp locations.
- Campbell Union High School District - Kristiina Arrasmith, Basil Saleh, and Stacey Brown. This is a "pick 3 of 4" candidates election. The candidates I chose cover a good range of ages and perspectives. The one I didn't choose, Robert Varich, is an insurance salesman (bleh) and had comma splices in his personal statement. (Come on, you're running for a school-based office! Use proper grammar!)
- Measure A (Santa Clara County) - Continue Sales Tax - Yes. The county has been putting the tax money from this sales tax to good use. Let's keep it.
- Measure S (San Jose) - Construction Procurement Reform - Yes. The current "cheapest bid only" system forces the city to pick subpar contractors. This lets the city pick a better balance of cost and quality.
- Measure T (San Jose) - Fund Disaster Preparedness - Yes? We need to be ready for more disasters, because climate change is definitely going to send more our way. I found precious little on whether this measure does it the right way, so... it's probably fine?
- Measure U (San Jose) - Mayor/City Council Salary Setting - Yes. Ironically, the problem isn't the mayor and city council increasing their salaries, but everyone being afraid of the backlash if they did, so salaries are stagnating and discouraging qualified people from holding office. Letting a separate commission set their salaries and adjust for inflation is a fairer system.
- Measure V (San Jose) - Affordable Housing - Yes. Did I mention we need housing? We need housing.
- Measure W (San Jose) - West Valley Community College District Funding - Yes. This measure contains a laundry list of repairs and improvements that need to get done and forces the money to be spent on those things. The only complaint against is that it requires union labor. That's fine. Make it happen.
In retrospect, I could have probably summarized most of the races as "Vote Democrat and spend all the money." And the California Proposition system continues to be slightly problematic but also important; I'm open to suggestions for how to reform it. At some point all this spending may become a problem. Right now the state economy has been pretty strong and interest rates are still pretty low so I think it's OK to issue bonds now. If you want to do your own research, especially for the races I haven't covered, Ballotpedia tends to be a good way to find out what's out there, find official websites, and see who's funding or endorsing each item, though it's often light on details for the local elections. Good luck!