Primer for the California Primaries: June 8


Results Update: Money power prevailed on Tuesday as the candidates deep pockets won. But Prop 16, which had an early lead, ended up being defeated. Scroll down for results.

It is a measure of our relative levels of peace and prosperity that we are so apathetic about voting, especially in primaries. That, and California’s horrendous habit of putting everything up to public referenda, abdicating the legislature’s responsibility to the voters. No wonder voters typically close their eyes (and minds) and blindly vote no on everything. Or stay home.

The trouble is, if you, as an informed voter, choose to stay out of the election process, then you hand over an enormous amount of power to the crazies on the fringe (one reason why the Tea Party is such a potent threat is that THEY VOTE!!!)

So go vote on Tuesday and here’s a quick primer to help you make up your mind on the various propositions and candidates up on the ballot.



Proposition 13 – Vote YES. Result: YES
Proposition 14 – Vote YES  Result: YES
Proposition 15 – Vote YES  Result: NO
Proposition 16 – Vote NO    Result: NO
Proposition 17 – Vote NO   Result: NO

Proposition 13- Voting Yes makes it easier for builders, developers, and property owners to make earthquake retrofits to their property without worrying that the retrofits will raise the value of the property and therefore, property tax.

Voting No preserves the status quo.


See, that was an easy one. You do want buildings in California to be safer, right?
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Proposition 14 – Voting Yes changes the primary process for a bunch of state positions, including Governor, and national positions, including Senators and Congress representatives. Basically, all voters would have all candidates on the ballot, and instead of the Democratic Party winner duking it out with the Republican Party winner in November, it would be the top two vote getters. In theory, you could have 2 Democratic candidates or 2 Republican candidates squaring off the in the general elections.

In theory this sounds rather nice, because we have seen how primaries can make even reasonable candidates tack hard left or hard right as they try to appeal to their base in the primaries. This way, you’d probably have candidates try to stay centrist in their positions in order to attract as many voters of either party.

In practice, the party affiliations would still show up on the ballot, so registered members of each party are probably going to vote along party lines anyway. And the successful candidates are usually the ones with the most money.

Still, I like the prospect of having candidates trying to appeal to a wider audience than the extreme elements of their base, even if it means that in today’s gerrymandered districts one party could get completely shut out of the general election. (Yes, you could have Carly Fiorina and Chuck DeVore vying for Senator and then you can stay home!). Third party candidates have been complaining that they will be shut out of the ballot process in November, but when did they have a chance anyway.

I am inclined to VOTE YES.
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Proposition 15 – Voting Yes on this proposition lifts the ban on public funding for political campaigns. It also establishes a public funding system for the Secretary of State position. You might call this a trial balloon for future public funding for other legislative races. Here’s how it will hopefully play out:

Once this proposition goes through, a system of public funding will be established for the Secretary of State position. Funds for this system will not come from taxpayers; rather, a higher fee on lobbyists and voluntary contributions will create the capital fund. Candidates eligible for public funding will have to prove they are serious contenders by collecting a certain number of signatures. They also prohibited from spending any more money than they are allotted.

If this works out, other legislative races have the option of going for public funding, since the ban has been lifted by this proposition.

This measure also expires in 2019, so we will have time to see how it works in 2014 and 2018.

Absolutely VOTE YES. Any step that moves us towards public campaign finance is a welcome step.
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Proposition 16- Have you seen any ad urging you to “Vote No” for this proposition? No? Didn’t think so. This proposition has been bankrolled and shamelessly promoted by PG&E, whose massive ad budget has simply drowned out the opposition.

Voting Yes on this proposition means that local governments would need approval from two-thirds of the voters before they can use alternative means of providing electricity services to their constituents. Since PG&E pretty much has a monopoly on electricity services at this time, and getting a two-thirds vote on anything is pretty much impossible, this is nothing but a blatant attempt to preserve the monopoly.

PG&E has been putting up really misleading ads that this is about our “Right to Vote,” but requiring an absolute majority is a subversion of the democratic process, and leads to minority rule, as can be seen from the gridlock in the U.S. Senate over the last year with filibuster threats by the Republicans for every little initiative.
Also, many townships with independent electricity contracts, like Palo Alto, currently have much lower electricity rates and this measure would make it much more expensive for them to expand service to new homeowners.

This is a bad proposition put up by a greedy power company. Opponents have not had any money to put up a spirited campaign so it up to us to educate ourselves and defeat it.

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Proposition 17 – Voting Yes changes insurance law to allow companies to penalize or reward drivers based on whether they have had continuous insurance coverage or now, regardless of which company they had coverage with. Supposedly, a surcharge to switch coverage is eliminated, and discounts can be offered by insurance companies if the driver maintains continuous coverage.

However, currently drivers in California do not pay a surcharge to switch companies. So this proposition’s claim to remove the surcharge is redundant. However, this proposition does add penalties for coverage lapse. If there was any period of time of 91 days or more in the last five years where you did not pay an insurance premium, you could be hit with heavy penalties, even if your driving record is blemish free or even if you never had a car.
Prop 17 is almost completely funded by Mercury insurance. Enough said.




Republican: Steve Poizner. Supports gay rights, abortion rights. Fiscal conservative. Hard-working insurance commissioner. Result: Meg Whitman blew Poizner out of the water.
Democratic: Jerry Brown. Result: Jerry Brown comfortably.

US Senator

Republican: Tom Campbell. Supports gay rights, gun control and abortion rights. Fiscal conservative. Result: Carly Fiorina won by a big margin.
Democrat: Barbara Boxer. Result: Boxer.

Attorney General

Democrat: Kamala Harris. Smart, competent, female. What’s not to like? Result: Harris
Republican: Steve Cooley, Harris’ counterpart in Southern California. Result: Cooley

Mercifully, Orly Taitz, who, unbelievably, was contesting for Secretary of State, lost. For full results see here.

Picture courtesy Theresa Thomson via Creative Commons.

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