Politics

Voter Guide 2020

Voter Resources | Palo Alto City Library

It’s election season folks! And despite the fact that the majority of media coverage is dedicated to the two geriatric, fracking-loving candidates running for the Big Office, the truth is that this election decides so much more than the presidency. 

In California, one thing we can always count on is a long, complicated ballot full of local and state propositions for voters to decide on (that’s direct democracy in action, baby!) You’ve probably seen ads for and against certain propositions on TV or social media, and it can be hard to make a decision with so much biased information out there. 

The idea behind this voter guide is to give you a succinct recap of each proposition, arguments for and against it, as well as my own personal opinion. You should, of course, make your own decisions based on your own personal preferences. You can find more in-depth guides for each proposition here and here

But before we get into the nitty-gritty, first you should make sure you are registered to vote! The deadline to register is October 19th, 2020, so you still have time! Click here to register to vote. 

The following are recaps of statewide ballot measures, but please don’t forget to research your local candidates for congress, state senate, city councils, county commission, school board, and more. These people make very important decisions that impact your local area. You can use this awesome tool to research what’s on your ballot depending on where you live. Now let’s get to it…

Prop 14: Stem Cell Research

What It Is: A Yes vote authorizes the state to sell up to $5.5 billion in bonds which will fund the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine in order to continue work on stem cell research, particularly focused on finding stem cell treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and cancers.

Yes on 14: The institute’s research creates jobs and moves us closer to developing cures for common diseases. The grants go mainly towards hospitals and the University of California, and some past recipients have already made developments that are paying royalties back to the state.

No on 14: We’ve already voted on funding for this, and the rate of return on investment is not what we expected. There hasn’t been enough progress. Additionally, there’s no longer a ban on using federal dollars towards stem cell research, meaning we could potentially get the money elsewhere. 

How I’m Voting: No. While I do think it’s great for the state to fund scientific research, we now have the option for federal funding for these projects. I think there’s more important things for the state to be spending money on during these times. 

Prop 15: Raise Property Taxes on Big Businesses to Fund Schools and Local Services

What It Is: Prop 15 will raise property taxes on big businesses (over $3 million) by making them pay property tax based on their property’s current market value. This would provide anywhere from $6 billion to $11 billion which would go towards city and county services, schools, and community colleges. 

Yes on 15: Prop 15 will close a massive tax loophole and force big businesses to pay their fair share, without raising taxes on homeowners or small businesses. We desperately need money for our schools and local services, and Prop 15 will generate the funds. 

No on 15: We shouldn’t be raising taxes during a massive recession. Landlords may pass the high costs on to their tenants (businesses, not homeowners) by making them pay higher rents. 

How I’m Voting: YES! This redirects profits made from mega-corporations like Disney, Facebook, and Twitter into our education system and social services. For too long, big corporations haven’t paid their fair share, and people have suffered because of it. We need to redirect these funds into vital programs for our children and community members. 

Prop 16: Restoring Affirmative Action

What It Is: Prop 16 restores affirmative action in the California university systems. This means that universities can consider someone’s race, ethnicity, or gender when making admission decisions. Racial quotas are illegal and would not be permitted under this proposition. 

Yes on 16: “Color-blind” admissions policies lead to more majority-white campuses. Currently, 60 percent of California high school students are Black or Latino, but only 28 percent of the UC system’s whole freshman class in 2019 was. California is a diverse state, and allowing affirmative action allows universities to create more diverse and equitable campuses. The University of California system supports Yes on 16. 

No on 16: Factoring in a student’s race, ethnicity, or gender is actually prejudiced. We should treat everyone equally based on their accomplishments, not their identity. We should give preference to students from low-income families who need financial assistance. The California Republican Party supports No on 16.

How I’m Voting: Yes. The people opposed to this bill have publicly stated that they don’t believe institutional racism is real. Need I say more?

Prop 17: Restore Voting Rights to People on Parole

What It Is: Prop 17 allows parolees the right to vote. They can also run for office, as long as they haven’t been convicted of perjury or bribery.

Yes on 17: Just because someone has committed a crime doesn’t mean they should lose their right to vote. Allowing parolees to vote encourages civic engagement and helps parolees remove the stigma of their past, and move forward to become productive members of our society. This would restore voting rights to over 40,000 Californians, and 16 other states already allow this. 

No on 17: Parolees should only be allowed to vote once they have completed parole, not while they are on it. It is a right for people who have demonstrated they have been rehabilitated. 

How I’m Voting: Yes. The prison-industrial complex strips people of their humanity and civil liberties every day, and this is one small way that we can gain some of that back. If someone has been deemed safe enough to be released from prison, they have every right to participate in our political system. (Prisoners should have the right to vote too, but that’s a topic for another post…) 

Prop 18: Allow 17-Year-Olds to Vote in Primary Elections if They Will be 18 by the General Election

What It Is: This proposition would allow 17-year-olds to vote in the primary elections, only if they will be 18 by the time of the general election.

Yes on 18: If 17-year-olds will be eligible to vote in an upcoming general election, they should have a say in who the candidate will be. This could increase voter turnout among youth, which is typically low. 19 other states also allow this. 

No on 18: 17-year-olds aren’t mature enough to be making political decisions. They could be influenced by their parents, teachers, or other authority figures. 

How I’m Voting: Yes. Is there really a difference between a 17-and-a-half-year-old and an 18-year-old? Not really. This could definitely increase youth turnout in general elections if they have a say in picking the candidate. I’m always for increasing voter turnout!

Prop 19: Property Tax Break For Seniors 

What It Is: Prop 19 would give Californians over the age of 55 a property tax break when buying a new home. It would also increase taxes on inherited properties. 

Yes on 19: Prop 19 will encourage seniors to move out of their family-sized homes into downsized properties, which will free up more housing for families. Plus, by closing the tax break for inherited properties, there will be more local funding. Realtors are currently backing this measure. 

No on 19: This prop is being pushed by realtors so that they can boost their sales. And people who inherit homes shouldn’t be punished with higher taxes. 

How I’m Voting: Yes. The tax break applies to seniors, disabled people, and people whose homes have been affected by natural disasters. This will make it easier for them to move if they choose to. 

Prop 20: Tougher Crime Policies

What It Is: There are four main components of Proposition 20, all of which seek to “crackdown on crime:” 1) Create harsher sentences for thefts, which could be punished as felonies; 2) Increase penalties for parole violations; 3) Increase the number of felonies that disqualify prisoners for applying for early release; 4) Require law enforcement officers to collect DNA samples for misdemeanors, such as shoplifting and drug possession. 

Yes on 20: California has seen an increase in property crimes since rolling back penalties, so we should bring back harsher penalties to discourage crimes. California should also expand the list of violent felonies, to keep child abusers and people who commit hate crimes in prison. 

No on 20: “Tough on Crime” policies don’t work. They don’t lead to decreases in crime, they only cost taxpayers more money by expanding the prison budget, and cause harm to low-income communities by separating families. With so much focus on racial inequalities in the criminal justice system, now is not the time to revert to the failed policies of the ’90s. 

How I’m Voting: NO! Under no circumstances should you vote yes on this bill. The “yes” campaign is being paid for by police unions. Studies show that creating harsher sentences doesn’t deter people from committing crimes. At this moment where millions are facing eviction and unemployment and struggling to survive, the last thing we should be doing is turning small shoplifting crimes into felonies. We need to invest in our communities, not in inhumane systems of punishment. 

Prop 21: Allow Cities and Counties to Pass Rent Control 

What It Is: This proposition would allow cities and counties to pass rent control on properties 15 years and older if they choose to. Right now, there is a law preventing cities and counties from enacting their own rent control measures. 

Yes on 21: California is experiencing a housing crisis, and the cost of living is so high that many Californians are being driven from their homes. It should be up to individual cities and counties to decide what rent control policies fit their needs and help long-time residents. This proposition will decrease homelessness and gentrification. 

No on 21: Passing rent control makes building new housing less profitable, which is bad for business, especially during a pandemic. It may lessen the incentive for building more affordable housing. It would also decrease revenue for city and state governments. 

How I’m Voting: Yes. It’s ridiculous that we have a law banning rent control. Passing this prop doesn’t mean rent control will be enacted everywhere, but it at least gives cities the power to decide for themselves. California is becoming a dystopian hellscape because of developers steamrolling through low-income neighborhoods, building luxury apartments, and forcing out long-time residents. Rent control slows down gentrification. 

Prop 22: Exempt Rideshare Companies from Classifying Their Workers as Employees

What It Is: California recently passed a law, AB5, which requires most companies to classify their workers as employees, not independent contractors. This makes workers eligible for benefits such as unemployment, paid sick leave, overtime pay, and workers’ compensation. However, Uber and Lyft don’t want to follow this law, and they want to continue classifying their workers as independent contractors.

Yes on 22: Classifying workers as independent contractors allows them to keep their flexible schedules and work whenever they want. If Prop 22 doesn’t pass, Uber and Lyft will likely have to raise their prices, cut their number of drivers, or they may have to leave California altogether. Uber and Lyft have spent over $186 million on ads for their “Yes on 22” campaign. 

No on 22: Companies like Uber and Lyft have made a fortune exploiting people’s labor. 71% of app-based drivers work full-time hours for these companies, which should entitle them to benefits just like any other employee. The state wrote AB5 to protect workers, and Uber and Lyft shouldn’t be above the law just because they have money. 

How I’m Voting: No. This one’s a doozy. It’s complicated because AB5 isn’t really the best solution for app-based drivers, but neither is Prop 22. I’m voting no because I don’t believe we should allow tech companies to write their own legislation and regulate themselves—regulating businesses is the state’s job, and that’s what they are trying to do by passing AB5. Uber and Lyft shouldn’t get a free pass to exploit their workers and they certainly shouldn’t be dictating state law. Voting yes might seem good in the short term because it preserves the status quo, but it will hurt drivers in the long run—plus, there’s a clause in the proposition that would require a ⅞ majority to overturn the prop, which is absolutely ridiculous and would make it nearly impossible to overturn. Vote no. 

Prop 23: New Regulations for Kidney Dialysis Clinics 

What It Is: This prop would enact new regulations for kidney dialysis clinics, such as requiring a doctor to be on-site at all times, new requirements about infection reporting, and fines for clinics that don’t comply with regulations.

Yes on 23: Big healthcare companies are only focused on making a profit, they’re not focused on keeping patients healthy and safe. Having a doctor on-site at all times would provide extra care for patients and help during emergency situations. 

No on 23: Clinics already have enough staff on site to keep patients safe and respond to emergencies, and they already report infection data to the state. Requiring doctors to be on-site at all times would increase costs for clinics, leading them to possibly reduce their hours or close. 

How I’m Voting: Yes. SEIU and the California Labor Federation support this prop, and the big health care companies are against it. For-profit companies typically don’t like regulations, and they skimp on services to patients in order to maximize their profits. The “No on 23” campaign also believes this is an attempt to unionize clinic workers, and I’m all in favor of organized labor. 

Prop 24: Amend California’s Current Data Privacy Law

What It Is: This proposition would strengthen California’s current data privacy law, by capping how long companies can hold on to your data, levying heavier fines on companies who violate children’s privacy rights, and creating a state agency to uphold the privacy law, among others. 

Yes on 24: The current privacy law in California isn’t strong enough, and this would add some much needed protections. This law would protect children’s privacy and give people more control over how companies use their data. It also requires companies to alert costumers about data breaches, so it creates more transparency.

No on 24: Prop 24 could actually set back progress on data privacy, and creating an entirely new agency to uphold violations is an unnecessary cost. Most concerning is the fact that this bill is the project of a wealthy real estate developer, and it is not supported by a broad coalition of consumer protection organizations. The bill has too many loopholes that big tech companies may exploit.

How I’m Voting: No. While Prop 24 sounds good on paper, further research suggests it’s full off easily-exploitable loopholes that tech companies will definitely take advantage of. It’s opposed by ACLU, Public Citizen, and the Consumer Federation of California, which is a huge red flag. California’s current data privacy law is fairly new, and we need more time to evaluate its effectiveness before adding more amendments. 

Prop 25: Replace Cash Bail With an Algorithm

What It Is: This bill would abolish cash bail. Rather than paying to be released from jail while awaiting trial, and algorithm would be used to determine the person’s flight risk. Higher risk people would be less likely to be released. 

Yes on 25: The cash bail system is highly unfair. Wealthy people can pay their way out of jail, while poor people remain locked up because their families cannot afford exorbitant bail fees. Assessing cases based on flight risk is a mich fairer system based on the crime and the individual, not their net worth.

No on 25: The bail system is flawed, but replacing it with an algorithm is a bad idea. Using an algorithm to assess risk, rather than a personal evaluation, is likely to be just as discriminatory towards people of color as the cash bail system is.

How I’m Voting: No. This is another tricky one. Abolishing cash bail is a great idea, but using an algorithm to make a release decision for a human being isn’t a good replacement, especially given the proliferation of racism within a variety of technologies, for example, facial recognition. Prop 25 is essentially replacing cash bail with a system of automated racial profiling, and we need a better solution that will be fair towards low-income people of color. And while we’re at it, we should just get rid of jails and prisons and entirely (Sorry folks, I can’t help it). 

I hope that this voter guide has been helpful! Please feel free to share it with your friends and family, and of course, always do your own research and make your own decisions. And because the presidential election is basically rigged anyway, ballot measures and local elections are super important because they are the closest thing we have to direct democracy in our nation. 

Happy election season!

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