California Voting


There were a lot of misconceptions and misinformation surrounding this year’s election. The best way to address these issues and help encourage people to think for themselves is a healthy discussion based on the merits of what is on the ballot and not the emotional rhetoric it comes wrapped in. This is my take.

Here are the Propositions with my unabridged commentary. If you care to read all 62 pages of the actual text of the propositions, you can find them here (PDF).

Prop 1A – “High Speed Train” – flawed legislation, wouldn’t guarantee a damn thing, more wasteful spending – I voted no, it passed (52% yes, 48% no)

Prop 2 – “Treatment of Farm Animals” – more flawed legislation, creates misdemeanor where only real punishment for non-compliance would be a MAXIMUM $1k fine and MAXIMUM 180 days in jail – since no minimums are set, in reality fine could be $1 and 1 day in jail, loopholes galore, no guarantee a SINGLE animal would see any better treatment – more likely farmers would just move to another state or to Mexico, where regulations are far more lax – I voted no, it passed (63% yes, 37% no)

25992. EXCEPTIONS. This chapter shall not apply:
(a) During scientific or agricultural research.
(b) During examination, testing, individual treatment or operation for veterinary purposes.
(c) During transportation.
(d) During rodeo exhibitions, state or county fair exhibitions, 4-H programs, and similar exhibitions.
(e) During the slaughter of a covered animal in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 6 (commencing with Section 19501) of Part 3 of Division 9 of the Food and Agricultural Code, relating to humane methods of slaughter, and other applicable law and regulations.
(f) To a pig during the seven-day period prior to the pig’s expected date of giving birth.
25993. ENFORCEMENT. Any person who violates any of the provisions of this chapter is guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000) or by imprisonment in the county jail for a period not to exceed 180 days or by both such fine and imprisonment.

Prop 3 – “Children Hospital Bond” – more flawed legislation, doesn’t specify how funds would be used including $10m for “administrative costs” – I voted no, it passed (55% yes, 45% no)

Prop 4 – “Abortion Waiting Period and Parental Notification” – not a bad notion at all, unfortunately it’s sold as some kind of force that will drive girls to get back alley abortions, etc. The truth is that the age of consent in California is 18, STD rates are at an all-time high and since we are such a liberal state overall, protection is READILY available even to young teenagers. The majority of girls who are getting pregnant under 18 are not the result of incest, abuse, etc., but rather their own stupidity. This proposition suggests that in cases where abuse can be proven, alternate adult family members or EVEN SOMEONE WHO IS NOT RELATED be notified instead. It also considers sending out a postcard to the last known address of the parent and waiting 48 hours to be “notification.” Based on that, Potpourri, most spam mail and supermarket advertisements share similar rigid civil rights violations. I’m personally tired of seeing the “MySpace whores” flaunting their sexuality at such a young age and something like this might have actually made a difference. I voted yes, it did not pass. (48% yes, 52% no)

(c) The written notice shall be delivered by the physician or the physician’s agent to the parent, either personally or by certified mail addressed to the parent at the parent’s last known address with return receipt requested and restricted delivery to the addressee. If notice is provided by certified mail, a copy of the written notice shall also be sent at the same time by first class mail to the parent. Notice by mail may be presumed to have been delivered under the provisions of this subdivision at noon of the second day after the written notice sent by certified mail was postmarked, not counting any days on which regular mail delivery does not take place. A form for the notice shall be prescribed by the State Department of Health Services. The notice form shall be bilingual, in English and Spanish, and also available in English and each of the other languages in which California Official Voter Information Guides are published.

(2) If the judge finds, by clear and convincing evidence, that notice to a parent is not in the best interests of the unemancipated minor, the judge shall authorize a waiver of notice. If the finding that notice to a parent is not in the best interests of the minor is based on evidence of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, the court shall ensure that such evidence is brought to the attention of the appropriate law enforcement or public child protective agency.

(h) (1) If the judge finds, by clear and convincing evidence, that the unemancipated minor is both sufficiently mature and well-informed to decide whether to have an abortion, the judge shall authorize a waiver of notice of a parent.

Prop 5 – “Sentencing Guidelines” – the driving force of this proposition was to reduce punishment for non-violent drug offenders, including provisions to maybe make it so first time offenders would be able to only go to rehab rather than serve time or pay huge fines. Not necessarily a bad thing considering how overcrowded our prisons are and considering that gangs are a far greater problem in California than non-violent drug offenders. I voted yes, it did not pass. (40% yes, 60% no)

Prop 6 – “Law Enforcement Fund” – primarily meant to target gang activity, this proposition would have made a number of changes which would help in dealing with this issue:

  • Prohibiting bail to illegal immigrants who are charged with violent or gang crimes.
  • Imposing a 10-year penalty increase on gang offenders who commit violent felonies.
  • Creating more effective and accountable intervention programs to stop young kids from joining gangs and ruining their lives.
  • Requiring convicted gang offenders to register with local law enforcement each year for five years following conviction or their release from custody.
  • Providing GPS tracking equipment for monitoring gang offenders, sex offenders, and violent offenders.
  • Increasing penalties for manufacture and sale of methamphetamine to the same level as those for cocaine.
  • Adding a 10-year sentence to dangerous felons who carry loaded or concealed firearms in public.
  • Increasing penalties for multiple acts of graffiti.

I voted yes, it did not pass. (31% yes, 69% no)

Prop 7 – “Renewable Energy Generation” – another flawed piece of legislation hiding beneath the banner of environmental concern… opposed by ALL 4 of the major parties in California (Republican, Democrat, Green, Libertarian) because they recognize it as a special interest ballot measure. Thankfully they got through to people. I voted no, it did not pass. (35% yes, 65% no)

Prop 8 – “Same Sex Marriage Ban” – the entire text of the proposition is FOURTEEN WORDS. It takes a lot less time to read those 14 words than it does to watch a campaign ad, but unfortunately BOTH sides have spent a ton of time and energy talking about things unrelated to what’s actually in the legislation:

This initiative measure is submitted to the people in accordance with the provisions of Article II, Section 8, of the California Constitution. This initiative measure expressly amends the California Constitution by adding a section thereto; therefore, new provisions proposed to be added are printed in italic type to indicate that they are new.
SECTION 1. Title
This measure shall be known and may be cited as the “California Marriage Protection Act.”
SECTION 2. Section 7.5 is added to Article I of the California Constitution, to read:
SEC. 7.5. Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

Those 14 italicized words are what matters. What does this mean? It means that the California constitution either ADDS or DOES NOT ADD those words. Does this affect school curriculum? No, it does not. Curriculum is set by the staff/board of the educational institution, so if you don’t want your kid learning about gay marriage in school THEN GO TO THE SCHOOL BOARD MEETINGS, PARENT/TEACHER NIGHTS, DO YOUR RESEARCH AND DO YOUR JOB AS A PARENT. Whether or not prop 8 passed, the curriculum of the school is still entirely INDEPENDENT of the text of this proposition. Do gay people deserve equal rights? Certainly. Does the sanctity of marriage deserve to be upheld? Of course. Do those 14 words truly address either of those issues? Not in the way people have been blowing hot air about for months on end. More likely than not, prop 8 will be challenged for its constitutionality and repealed, especially given how close the vote was. I voted no, it passed. (52% yes, 48% no)

Prop 9 – “Victims’ Rights” – requires additional input and quicker notification for victims of violent crimes with regards to bail, pleas, sentencing and parole. Hard to see what anyone would have a problem with here, since it’s a terrifying idea to have someone get arrested for assaulting you or a family member only to run into them on the street soon after arrest because they made bail or were released on ROI. I voted yes, it passed. (53% yes, 47% no)

Prop 10 – “Alternative Fuel Vehicles” – this ballot prop was bought and paid for by T. Boone Pickens, whose company and vested interests stand to gain handsomely from its passage. Special interest legislation at its worst. I voted no, it did not pass. (40% yes, 60% no)

Prop 11 – “Redistricting” – would establish new guidelines for how district lines are drawn.

  • Changes authority for establishing Assembly, Senate, and Board of Equalization district boundaries from elected representatives to 14 member commission.
  • Requires government auditors to select 60 registered voters from applicant pool. Permits legislative leaders to reduce pool, then the auditors pick eight commission members by lottery, and those commissioners pick six additional members for 14 total.
  • Requires commission of five Democrats, five Republicans and four of neither party. Commission shall hire lawyers and consultants as needed.
  • For approval, district boundaries need votes from three Democratic commissioners, three Republican commissioners and three commissioners from neither party.

Seeing as how lawmakers will redraw district lines every so often to increase their profits and avoid dealing with the problems of their districts, it SHOULD be that there is a non-partisan solution that protects the people’s interests. It’s also no surprise that most of the push to shut this prop down was from elected officials (including Barbara Boxer, famed CA Democrat) as well as the companies and associations who stand to benefit from political redistricting policies and not voters’ rights interest groups. I voted yes, it passed. (51% yes, 49% no)

Prop 12 – “Veterans Farm and Home Aid” – authorized a continuation of an existing program to approve bonds which would fund Cal-Vet loans, which are then paid back by the Veterans. Unlike the mortgage crisis happening in this country, this program actually works and makes sense. The opposing argument was written by a single guy who insists that only veterans who served in active combat should be able to get these loans, rather than say, a member of the military who was hanging out in Germany during the Iraq war. I’m sorry, when you sign up, you don’t get to choose where you go, so that’s pretty under-handed calling people out on where and how they served. I voted yes, it passed. (63% yes, 37% no)

Here are the local Measures. If you care to read the full text of these Measures, you may find them here.

Measure A – “Santa Clara VMC Seismic Safety Bond” – bond to fund earthquake retrofitting for Santa Clara Valley Medical Center with independent oversight committee, annual audits and no money for administrators’ salaries – I voted yes, it passed (78% yes, 22% no)

Measure B – “BART Sales Tax” – proposal to add a 1/8 cent sales tax to give money directly to Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), a government organization, to “operate/maintain/improve” the BART extension WHICH HASN’T EVEN BEEN BUILT. VTA has been decreasing service destinations and regularity steadily over the past 8 years while raking in tons of taxpayer money. Until they make good on their promises from the past 8 years of elections, there’s no point in giving them MORE of our tax dollars. – I voted no, it passed (66% yes, 34% no)

Measure C – “Santa Clara Valley Transportation Plan 2035” – vote determine whether VTA should continue with their plan VTP 2035 to be adopted by December 2008. If you look at the transit plan on their site, they want funding for BART extensions that haven’t been built, service upgrades for services that still haven’t seen the upgrades promised in past elections, etc. – I voted no, it passed (70% yes, 30% no)

Measure D – “VTA Transit Plan Every Six Years” – VTA wants to change the ordinance that requires them to seek a public advisory vote to eliminate the advisory vote and instead go directly to a Citizen’s Watchdog Committee simply for review and comment (not a vote), bypassing public access to the business plan BEFORE it is enacted. This would make it possible for the VTA to sneak things past the public with no accountability. Many of the people opposed to this Measure are past members of these very Citizen’s Watchdog Committees. – I voted no, it passed (64% yes, 36% no)

Measure J – “Reduce San Jose 911 Fee” – eliminates current $1.75 911 fee on phone lines and instead replaces it with a reduced tax at $1.57 that continues to make exceptions for low-income seniors and low-income or disabled households – I voted yes, it passed (77% yes, 23% no)

Measure K – “Reduce San Jose Telecommunications Tax” – this reduces the telecommunication users tax from 5% to 4.5% BUT it also changes the definition of telecommunications so now the city can tax cell phone use, DSL use, VOIP and so forth, if they so choose, which means that we will all be paying HIGHER taxes overall as a result of it passing. – I voted no, it passed (79% yes, 21% no)

Measure L – “Willow Glen Fire Station Construction” – the city is asking permission to build a new fire station on the corner of Lincoln and Curtner in San Jose, right near the center of the Willow Glen area. Unfortunately, what they don’t mention is that San Jose can close fire stations at will, without voter input, so it’s quite likely that they will shut down the existing station on Minnesota and Cherry once this new one is built. Why do this? It’s about the district the station is in and how that can affect the budget. This is a thinly-veiled attempt to play around with the political landscape of San Jose, not to bring “better fire service” as they’ve presented it. A memo from the mayor was published on September 9 prompting the “no on Measure L” group to all but give up, however the memo is worded to say RECOMMENDATIONS will be made and that the City Council will have a chance to review fire station closures, however it makes no attempt to discuss whether voters will be notified prior to the closing. It’s unlikely the memo would change anything at all. – I voted no, it passed (65% yes, 35% no)

Measure M – “San Jose Park Use Agreements” – amends the San Jose city charter to approve park use agreements with non-city entities for up to 25 years in parks larger than 5 acres (rather than current 3 year limit), provided that agreements enhance park’s recreational purposes. For example, the city could make a deal with a company to build a new facility in Alum Rock park, but with the previous 3-year limitation, many companies would not see a return on their investment, so it would be too risky for them to bother. With a 25-year limit, the return on investment is easier to guarantee, so a company would be more inclined to enter into a contract with the city, thus making our city parks more useful to everyone. – I voted yes, it passed (72% yes, 28% no)

Measure R – “Campbell Union H.S. Tax” – Campbell Union High School District wants to renew an existing assessment for 5 more years in order to improve education with independent oversight and no money for administrator salaries. Kind of a no-brainer. – I voted yes, it passed (79% yes, 21% no)

What’s truly troubling about the election results is how the numbers reflect the fact that voters were not motivated outside of a few core issues. Statewide, there were 12 Propositions on the ballot with a grand total of 1,142 precincts in Santa Clara County voting on them. Let me stress this – ALL 12 PROPOSITIONS WERE ON THE BALLOT AT ALL 1,142 PRECINCTS. So how do the numbers add up?

Total votes cast (yes AND no votes):

Prop 1 – 455,333 (89% of total votes counted) – won by 20.96% margin
Prop 2 – 474,755 (93% of total votes counted) – won by 33.08% margin
Prop 3 – 464,992 (91% of total votes counted) – won by 20.56% margin
Prop 4 – 476,128 (93% of total votes counted) – lost by 13.52% margin
Prop 5 – 467,085 (91% of total votes counted) – lost by 14.02% margin
Prop 6 – 461,454 (90% of total votes counted) – lost by 39.80% margin
Prop 7 – 472,651 (92% of total votes counted) – lost by 27.98% margin
Prop 8 – 496,548 (97% of total votes counted) – lost by 11.08% margin
Prop 9 – 460,540 (90% of total votes counted) – won by 4.50% margin
Prop 10 – 468,580 (92% of total votes counted) – lost by 15.37% margin
Prop 11 – 445,954 (87% of total votes counted) – won by 5.64% margin
Prop 12 – 450,176 (88% of total votes counted) – won by 24.38% margin

In order, the top 4 Propositions in terms of voter turnout were Prop 8, Prop 4, Prop 2, Prop 7 – which are coincidentally the same Propositions that had the most cash pumped into advertising and marketing. But the other Propositions were equally as important. For example, Prop 11 (redistricting) – which could affect property taxes and who your representatives are – pulled in the LOWEST turnout of all the Propositions. What’s more, the margins are so low on Prop 9 and Prop 11 that the percentage of people who did NOT bother to cast a yes OR no vote could have changed the results of those Propositions for the entire county, simply by just making a choice one way or the other.

The overall number of votes cast in Santa Clara County was 510,987. Of those, 496,548 (97% of the total votes) voted on Prop 8 while 445,954 (87% of the total votes) bothered to vote on Prop 11. A full TEN PERCENT of voters voted on Prop 8 who DID NOT vote on Prop 11. That’s 50,594 more votes cast for Prop 8 than for Prop 11 JUST IN THIS COUNTY, let alone statewide. The likelihood of Prop 8 being repealed or overturned in some way is quite high, but Prop 11 isn’t going anywhere.

Also worth noting is that the 3% who didn’t bother voting on Prop 8 represents roughly 15,329 votes for this county alone. Prop 8 got a total (yes AND no) of 10,246,434 votes.  This represents less than 1 tenth of 1% of the overall vote, but those 15,329 votes represent the unheard voices of 1 of 58 counties in the state. One of the most traditionally liberal/Democrat counties, too. Compare that to conservative/Republican counties like Kern county (where more votes were cast for Prop 8 – 193,753 then for President – 190,845) and Stanislaus county (where 99% of the total voters weighed in on Prop 8, voting 68% YES – only 1,673 didn’t vote on it). Prop 8 passed because not enough people voted for it, not because of any other reason. So ask yourself, in a liberal county where 3% of the voters didn’t bother to weigh in, and in conservative counties where a larger majority of the voters did, who is truly to blame for this?

Based on the numbers here, around 3% of the total voted for the President and did not vote on ANY of the Propositions, while between 3% and 10% voted for President and at least SOME of the Propositions, if not all. THAT is troubling as it shows a trend of voter apathy or ignorance (or both). A yes or no vote can be defended with an argument, but simply not voting shows a lack of interest on behalf of the voter.

This trend is also present in the Measures, as ALL of the Measures on my ballot passed with LANDSLIDES in every single case. The closest margin was still a whopping 28% in favor of passing the measure. While these are harder to analyze like the Propositions were above, it certainly is distressing to see a trend in voting that runs contrary to how voters treated the statewide Propositions.

Given that all the measures passed with nearly a 3/4 vote in favor, it is almost as if many voters just chose to put “yes” for everything without actually knowing what it was for.  This was certainly not the case in the Propositions, as statewide many of them were very close, and even in some counties, the vote was very close. But these local Measures didn’t appear to see the same level of voter scrutiny.

This is particularly shameful, given that many of them were attempts by VTA to line their pockets with more tax increases while failing to deliver on the 8-year promise of a BART extension, increased service and increased service quality and “upgrades.” We have one of the worst public transportation systems in the state, if not the country. In the 2006 Census, only 4% of the valley’s commuters reported using public transportation. VTA is the sole entity responsible for the administration of that transportation system.


Local representatives are the people who represent YOUR INTERESTS LOCALLY and who are your first line of defense (and attack, in some cases) when it comes to your rights. Especially important given yesterday’s election, THESE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO WILL EITHER GO TO BAT FOR YOU LOCALLY OR WHO WILL IGNORE YOUR PLEAS when it comes to, for example, repealing prop 8. What did we do with our local representatives? We voted “incumbent” or “Democrat,” across the board, even when those incumbents and Democrats are likely to uphold prop 8 (both Alquist and Honda’s primary concern is education – the main supporting argument used to defend prop 8), let alone your privacy rights, first amendment rights and many other issues local friends, family, co-workers and associates are worried about.

Senate District 13 – Santa Clara County
Elaine Alquist (D – incumbent) – 71%
Shane Conolly (R) – 23%
John Webster (L) – 6%
I voted for John Webster, who never stood a chance. The incumbent (Democrat) won in a landslide.

U.S. House District 15 – San Jose
Mike Honda (D – incumbent) – 72%
Joyce Cordi (R) – 23%
Peter Myers (G) – 5%
I voted for Peter Myers, who never stood a chance. The incumbent (Democrat) won in a landslide.

Elaine Alquist and Mike Honda voting records. See if they reflect your interests at all.

State Assembly District 24 – Saratoga
Jim Beall (D – incumbent) – 66%
Doug McNea (R) – 34%
I voted for Jim Beall, who won.

Superior Court Judge Office No. 8
Diane Ritchie – 55%
Lane Liroff – 45%
I voted for Lane Liroff, who lost.

I also voted for Obama, but that was the least of my concerns going into the election as I already believed his chances were good. I admire and respect some of my friends and family for encouraging people to vote for Nader, and I would have gladly opted to vote for him instead but we all know there is no way Nader would have made it to the White House because of the electoral college system (unfortunately) and this was far too important an election to – WHOOPS – give it to your 3rd choice by default because you decided not to vote for your 2nd choice and instead voted for your 1st choice whose name wasn’t even on the tongues of probably (realistically) more than a third of the population in this country.

I believe the last time I registered, I registered as an Independent. Some of the things I voted for are more “Republican,” some are more “Democrat.” I voted for a Democratic President, a Libertarian Senator and a Green House Rep. I read the entire text of the Propositions, all 62 pages of it. I read the text of the local Measures, too. Even in seemingly unimportant races like the local community college board members, I tried to investigate them fairly and kept my emotions out of it. Just like a job application, you want to select the best candidate for the job. And just like a company is more than a CEO and break room rules, an election is about more than a President and the few big ticket issues you read about on the news.

Considering how motivated people were for “change,” how excited they were to get Bush out of office and how willing they were to dedicate time, money, resources, Facebook statuses, MySpace bulletins and comments, AIM status messages, Twitter updates, blog posts, texts, phone calls and in-person conversations, I am utterly ashamed and embarrassed to say that my experience of voting seems to be the exception rather than the norm.

People got fired up about animal rights, sick kids, abortion, gay marriage, taxes and spent the majority of their time focused on these narrow and emotionally-charged ideals. Ideals are not politics. Emotions are not politics. The legislation, at the end of the day, is what matters. Thanks to the folks of this great state who have elected NOT to do their research, we now have things entering into our state Constitution and state LAW that I promise you will hear people bitching about for generations, even though they voted to approve it. But we only have ourselves to blame.

Santa Clara County has an eligible voting population of around 1.1 to 1.2 million people (based on the most recent census of adults over 18, not counting non-citizens). The total number of registered voters in this election was 788,821. The total number of actual votes cast was 510,987. This means that roughly 43.5% of the eligible voters actually voted and only around 69% of the eligible population even bothered to register. While this is certainly better than past elections, it hardly shows a fully engaged group of responsible citizens.

We’re not any better on a national scale. The latest US population estimate is just over 305.5 million people. Of that, 148,218,161 votes were cast in this election (as of this writing, only 98% of precincts have been reported, so this number may increase slightly, but not significantly). Based on previous registration data, the amount of registered voters nationally has not gone up as much as has been claimed. For example, in California, voter registration only went up about 800k from the last election, while the population has gone up about 1.2 million people, dropping the overall percentage of registered voters from 75% in 2004 to 74.56% in 2008. On a national scale, this means around 49% of the population turned out to vote and not much higher a percentage bothered to register. THIS IS STILL LESS THAN HALF OF US. Next time you’re in a group of people who are discussing something like high gas prices, abortion, the economy or any other touchy subject, assume that half of them didn’t take the time to even cast their ballot. How does that make you feel? It SHOULD make you feel outraged.

The point of this entire post isn’t whether or not what I voted on won or lost. The point is that the data clearly shows the Democratic process is broken and the public is lacking faith in it. The electoral college system is flawed (even though in this particular election, the results would have been the same based on popular vote alone). Public responsibility and respect for their civic duties is at an unacceptable level. While the data and details discussed here may be relevant to my own County and the communities within it, the problems I’ve brought up are symptomatic of the nation as a whole. Whether Obama or McCain won, it is clear that all of us are ready for change and ready for a better country to live in. But unfortunately, no matter how much rhetoric, media spin and public opinion polls you see, ultimately, we have to take responsibility for our own choices and take them seriously if we are to ever see the future we truly want.

California Voting

Shout Into The Void