I'm a registered voter in the city of San Diego, California. Here is how I've planned my ballot for the November 3, 2020 General Election and why.
Proposition 14: Stem Cell Research Institute Bond Initiative
My vote: YES
What it is: This proposition would issue general obligation bonds of $5.5 billion to the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) for stem cell and other medical research. Of that, $1.5 billion would be allocated to research in Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and dementia. The amount that could be allocated to operation costs would be limited to 7.5%. The initiative also puts a cap on the number of people that can be employed by CIRM, and expands the committee that oversees CIRM. Opponents indicate that gaps in funding can be filled with federal and private money, but supporters don't agree, and fear that progress could be halted and select projects could even be canceled.
My take: Many of us would hesitate to cast any vote that could stall important research about deadly diseases, but the argument that this research could continue without California funding is compelling. I reached out to an expert for advice on this one. My sister's partner is a former CIRM-funded researcher.
His take: CIRM is a great institution that will likely make money for the state in the long run. It employs few administrators, so most of the funding goes directly to science. The argument that a lapse in funding could be covered by federal dollars may not hold up. Federal funding for stem cell research is not a priority under the Trump administration (Trump has already imposed restrictions on stem cell research during his term). But using stem cells is the best way of making human tissue for science and drug discovery, and the only viable alternative to using animals for experiments.
Proposition 15: Tax on Commercial and Industrial Properties for Education and Local Government Funding Initiative
My vote: YES
What it is: Commercial properties would be taxed based on their market value versus purchase price beginning in 2021. Properties with 50% or more small businesses (such as shopping centers) would not transition until 2025. The proposition also makes exception for owners with less than $3 million in holdings in California. Revenue would supplement decreases in personal income taxes and corporate taxes. Remaining revenue would be distributed to local governments, then distributed to school districts.
Supporters: Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren
My take: The provision seems to provide protections so that small businesses are not harmed. It is good for schools, endorsed by school districts and lots of leaders I tend to side with.
Proposition 16: Repeal Proposition 209 Affirmative Action Amendment
My vote: YES
What it is: This proposition would repeal existing Proposition 209, which prohibits preferential treatment or discrimination in public employment, education, and public contracting on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, and national origin. There are already Federal regulations prohibiting discrimination, so the purpose of Proposition 209 was specifically to disallow preferential treatment (or affirmative action). Repealing Prop 209 would allow local governments, educational institutions, and public entities to use affirmative action for the purpose of promoting diversity.
Supporters: Kamala Harris, Gavin Newsom, Tom Steyer, ACLU, NAACP
My take: Prop 209 was approved in 1996 by a small margin. The leader of the campaign is quoted saying that affirmative action is designed to be temporary, and to be dissolved as soon as racial disparities no longer limit opportunities based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, and national origin. We are all experiencing the realities of not having nearly enough women and BIPOC in the rooms where decisions are being made. It's clear that this legislation (Prop 209) preventing deliberate attempts at diversity was enacted way too early.
Proposition 17: Voting Rights Restoration for Persons on Parole Amendment
My vote: YES
What it is: This proposition amends the California constitution to allow people on parole following felony convictions to vote in California - their ability to vote would be restored upon completion of their prison term. 17 other U.S. states and Washington DC currently restore voting rights upon completion of prison terms.
Supporters: Kamala Harris, ACLU of California
My take: I don't believe that the right to vote should be stripped of anyone so long as they are impacted by the result of the vote. But restricting the ability for people to vote when they have been convicted of a crime is particularly problematic when we know crime convictions to be racially biased. I found this excerpt from the book "The New Jim Crow" by Michelle Alexander to be relevant and helpful:
"About half of European countries allow all people behind bars to vote, while others disqualify only a small number from the polls. [...] No other country in the world disenfranchises people who are released from prison in a manner even remotely resembling the United States. In fact, the United Nations Human Rights Committee has charged the U.S. disenfranchisement policies are discriminatory and violate international law."
Proposition 18: Primary Voting for 17-Year-Olds Amendment
My vote: YES
What it is: This proposition would allow 17-year-olds who will be 18 at the time of the General Election to vote in Primary Elections & Special Elections. 18 other U.S. states currently allow this. Supporters argue that voters in these categories will have less informed votes in the General Election if they cannot participate in Primaries. Opponents argue that 17-year-olds are too heavily influenced by parents and teachers to make informed independent votes.
My take: I don't have strong opinions about this proposition, but several other states allow 17-year-olds in this category to vote in Primaries, and arguments that they are too heavily influenced by parents at 17 1/2 but not at 18 seem egregious. I haven't found any reasonable argument in opposition of this proposition, and I'm generally in favor of making voting more accessible.
Proposition 19: Property Tax Transfers, Exemptions, and Revenue for Wildfire Agencies and Counties Amendment
My vote: YES
What it is: This proposition would change property tax transfers to allow people over 55 and people with disabilities to complete up to 3 property tax transfers instead of 1. It would also allow for an upward adjusted tax transfer to a property with a greater market value (current legislation only addresses transfers to properties of equal or lesser value). It would eliminate the tax reassessment exemption for parent-child or grandparent-grandchild transfers. 75% of resulting revenue would be used for wildfire response efforts.
Supporters: Gavin Newsom, California Democratic Party, NAACP
My take: This proposition allows for more flexibility for seniors and disabled people, since there is a reasonable likelihood that they will move more than once, or that they will move to a property with a higher market value. It eliminates tax breaks for inheritances, which seems reasonable because there is no reason to believe someone inheriting a property is in particular need of a property tax break. It also creates revenue for schools and wildfire response.
Proposition 20: Criminal Sentencing, Parole, and DNA Collection Initiative
My vote: NO
What it is: This proposition has a lot of parts. It reclassifies select crimes from misdemeanors to "wobblers" meaning they can be considered either a misdemeanor or felony. Included in these crimes is theft of property valued at $950. It requires people accused of select misdemeanors to submit DNA samples for federal databases. One such misdemeanor is possession of certain classifications of drugs not administered by a physician (including Xanax, Valium, and Ambien). It requires parole review boards to consider additional factors before releasing people convicted of felonies on parole. It classifies certain crimes as "violent crimes" making offenders ineligible for parole programs. Some of these "violent crimes" include robbery and car jacking.
Supporters: Several California police organizations
Opponents: Jerry Brown, ACLU of Northern California
My take: There are select things in this proposition that seem reasonable, but it seems like they tried to jam too many initiatives into 1 piece of legislation, and so much of it unreasonable. Calling a robbery a "violent crime" and proposing that offenders be ineligible for parole is the complete opposite direction in which our criminal justice system should be moving. Trying to collect DNA for a federal register from someone because they were in possession of Xanax without a prescription is just... woah.
Proposition 21: Local Rent Control Initiative
My vote: YES
What it is: This proposition allows local governments to impose rent control on units occupied by a tenant for more than 15 years. It allows for exceptions for single-family homes, condos, townhomes, and for owners with no more than 2 properties.
Supporters: Bernie Sanders, California Democratic Party, ACLU of Southern California
Opponents: Gavin Newsom, NAACP
My take: The proposition seems to adequately protect owners with fewer properties or lower-earning properties from any restrictions on rent. It also ensures that owners receive fair market rates even when rent control is imposed. It is good for the elderly and will help combat housing insecurity.
Proposition 22: App-Based Drivers as Contractors and Labor Policies Initiative
My vote: Undecided but leaning no
What it is: This proposition would define app-based drivers as contractors versus employees, meaning that drivers would not be covered under California labor laws, rather would be subject to a new set of labor laws developed specifically for app-based drivers. These laws include the establishment of a "floor" that a driver can be paid based on the amount of time they are logged in to the app, a requirement that companies subsidize healthcare for drivers who work 15 hours or more per week, and the requirement that drivers log out of the app for at least 6 hours within any 24-hour period. Supporters argue that app-based drivers prefer to be considered independent contractors, and that employee status would require them to work set shifts, challenging the flexibility that is a main appeal for many drivers. Opponents argue that defining drivers as contractors allows billion-dollar tech companies to deny drivers basic workers rights like healthcare, paid leave, unemployment, and the right to organize.
Supporters: Several police organizations, Uber, Lyft, Postmates, Doordash
Opponents: Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, California Teachers Association
My take: At its most basic level, this is legislation that would allow big tech companies to get away with offering fewer benefits to the laborers responsible for their revenues, and would set a precedent for lax labor laws that are worse for workers. I see a few holes in arguments that the majority of drivers prefer contract status and that defining drivers as employees would reduce availability. First, if the majority of drivers are using this as a side-gig, then they don't have a need for the same workers rights as those who are doing this full-time. And the argument that imposing employee benefits would reduce availability feels sort of like a "would you rather be poorly compensated or have no job at all" kind of a threat. But the fact that the majority of drivers are in favor of this legislation is pretty important. I reached out to my expert friend, who works for the HQ of one of the big food delivery companies.
Her take: Legislation that could limit availability has to take into consideration that this is a three-sided marketplace. It's not just about drivers and consumers, but in the case of food delivery, there are small businesses that are impacted too. Opponents argue that these companies are profiting off the backs of under-compensated workers, but in reality, ride share and food delivery models are not currently profitable.
Proposition 23: Dialysis Clinic Requirements Initiative
My vote: NO
What it is: This proposition would require dialysis clinics to have at least 1 physician present while patients are receiving dialysis, report data on dialysis related infections, and provide notice to the state before closing a dialysis clinic, and would prevent clinics from discriminating against patients based on their sources of payment. Supporters argue that these measures would improve patient safety, which they consider a secondary priority of for-profit clinics. Opponents argue that these measures are arbitrary - that leaders of this legislation have not offered evidence that they would improve the safety of patients, and that the death rate in California clinics is already lower than the nationwide rate. Opponents also argue that requiring a physician onsite at all times would increase costs, and would increase the likelihood that clinics would close.
Supporters: California Democratic Party
Opponents: NAACP, Dialysis clinics
My take: I found that the issue of discriminating based on payment method doesn't seem to be worthy of mention for either supporters or opponents. I had a hard time deciding on this proposition. This is a helpful resource:
I'm also lucky to have a lot of medical professionals to rely on for advice. My sister is in nursing school, and my brother-in-law and his girlfriend are both MDs. And conveniently, they all had the same opinion.
Their take: There is no reason to believe that having a physician on staff would improve patient safety. The workers who are specifically trained to use dialysis machines are best equipped to perform these jobs. Adding a physician would most likely serve to pinpoint a liable party when things go wrong, which is an inevitability in a dialysis clinic, where patients are very sick. The response to a patient experiencing a medical crisis would be the same regardless of whether a physician was present: send them to the E.R. Requiring physicians to be on staff would have the effect of increasing clinic costs, and it is possible this could cause some clinics to close.
Proposition 24: Consumer Personal Information Law and Agency Initiative
My vote: NO
What it is: This proposition expands on existing consumer privacy laws - it allows consumers to tell businesses not to share their information and would create a Privacy Protection Agency. Businesses would automatically be penalized for violations instead of being allowed a period to fix violations. Businesses could offer discounts to consumers for allowing them to share their information.
Supporters: Andrew Yang
Opponents: ACLU of California, California Small Business Coalition
My take: It was difficult to find strong arguments in favor or against this proposition. One argument that resonated with me is that allowing businesses to offer discounts to consumers that elect to make their information available could lead to higher prices for consumers that opt out. It also seems like it could take advantage of consumers that are more price sensitive, and the mechanism with which consumers are able to opt out is likely to be one that gets lost in the fine print.
These two articles also had some helpful information:
Proposition 25: Replace Cash Bail with Risk Assessments Referendum
My vote: YES
What it is: This proposition would uphold current legislation that replaces cash bail with a risk assessment. It also exempts people accused of misdemeanors from requiring an assessment before being released on bail.
Supporters: California Democratic Party, Gavin Newsom, Todd Gloria
Opponents: Bail bond businesses
My take: This concept is far from perfect - ACLU points out that there is still ample opportunity for bias in the risk assessment process. However, it's a first step in reforming a criminal justice system that favors wealth, and to eliminate a system where people can be charged interest from bail lenders, or not have access to bail exclusively for financial reasons.
Measure A: General Obligation Bonds for Affordable Housing
My vote: YES
What it is: This measure would issue $900 million in general obligation bonds, funded by property taxes, to provide housing for low-income individuals and families and mental health services. Approximately 7,500 new homes would be constructed. The measure would result in a property tax increase up to $21 per $100,000 of assessed value. At the current median home value of $640,000, this would be an increase of up to roughly $134 per year.
My take: You can't exist in San Diego without being aware of the unavailability of affordable housing. Having more affordable housing in San Diego has some clear benefits to all residents: lower income workers not having to commute farther distances means less traffic, and extremely low income workers having housing security means a smaller homeless population. It makes sense that these funds should come from San Diego property owners.
Measure B: Charter Amendments Establishing Commission on Police Practices
My vote: YES
What it is: This measure would establish an independent Commission on Police Practices to replace the existing Community Review Board. The commission would have subpoena power, and would be responsible for investigating complaints about officers and incidents occurring while in police custody. Members of the commission would be appointed by city council, and would have greater authority than the existing Community Review Board.
My take: I think we're all in favor of more accountability for the police. I haven't found any valid arguments in opposition to this legislation. It's also spearheaded by Councilmember Monica Montgomery, who my parents know personally and seem to trust unreservedly.
Measure E: Removing 30-Foot Height Limit in Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan Area
My vote: YES
What it is: This measure would lift the 30-foot height limit for structures in the midway district. The 30-foot restriction was imposed in 1972 as a way to preserve ocean views. Supporters argue that this height restriction has resulted in a lower rate of development in the midway district, which has led the area to become a maze of dilapidated strip malls and strip clubs. Furthermore, supporters argue that the 30-foot restriction in this area was enacted arbitrarily since this area doesn't actually have ocean views. Opponents argue that the measure won't be effective until it is accompanied by development plans.
My take: I haven't found compelling arguments against this measure. And I think most San Diegans can agree that something has gone wrong with development in the midway district.
California State Senate - District 39
My vote: Toni Atkins
California State Assembly - District 78
My vote: Chris Ward
My take: I have no doubt that Sarah Davis would also be fit for this position. But Chris Ward has made a lot more information available about his positions and plans. He also gave a great talk at the San Diego Zero Waste Symposium in 2019!
San Diego City Mayor
My vote: Todd Gloria
Supporters: Kamala Harris, Gavin Newsom
My take: Todd Gloria is in favor of increased housing supply and has aligned himself with Yes In My Backyard (YIMB). He has also had the experience of serving as interim mayor.
San Diego City Council - District 3
My vote: Undecided between Toni Duran and Stephen Whitburn, but leaning Toni Duran
My take: Both candidates have outlined their positions on key issues pretty well, and both have prioritized homelessness (a critical consideration in the district that includes downtown, Hillcrest, and North Park). I'm drawn to Toni Duran's emphasis on police reform and compassionate approach to homelessness. Both of their websites were helpful resources:
San Diego City Attorney
My vote: Mara Elliot
President of the United States
My vote: Joe Biden
U.S. House of Representatives - California 53rd Congressional District
My vote: Sara Jacobs