Best Voter Guide Ever (California November 2020 Election Edition)

Man Voting in California elections

Welcome to the Best Voter Guide Ever for the November 2020 Election in California!

This election, like the whole year, seems to have been going forever. Mercifully, both are finally coming to an end. While the presidential race is insane enough that it gets most of the attention, most of us already know who we are going to vote for (and if you don’t, you are beyond help at this point). But there are quite a few other important things to vote on in California this year, particularly the 12 ballot propositions, and some positions other than president that (thankfully) also have an impact on our lives.

As usual, here we give you the most concise and yet informative explanation of each of the California ballot measures. We will also briefly discuss the positions up for election.

So, settle in with your preferred beverage, and get informed. Then pass on that knowledge to others. Because voting is always important, but it’s becoming more clear how fragile our democracy really is. It’s up to all of us to keep it going. As I’ve written in my book Law is Not for Lawyers (It’s for Everyone), the United States of America cannot work for the people, if the people don’t make it work. And it starts with understanding how it all works.

Hopefully this is not the last election ever. But you never know. Here’s to many more free and fair elections in the future.

Positions (“Offices”)


Aside from the president, you will have the chance to vote on your member of Congress (or more specifically, the U.S. House of Representatives). They are up for reelection every 2 years. Californians will not be voting on a U.S. Senator in 2020, as the term of a U.S. Senator is 6 years, and these elections are staggered. So the next scheduled election for U.S. Senator from California is 2022 (but if Joe Biden and Kamala Harris win in 2020, there will be a special election for Harris’s current Senate seat in 2021).


At the state level, the California legislature is comprised of the California State Senate and California State Assembly. Assembly members are elected every 2 years, and members of the California State Senate are elected every 4 years. So, you will certainly have the chance to vote on your member of the Assembly. Depending on where you live, you may also have the opportunity to vote on your State Senator.

None of the statewide offices are up for election this year. These would include positions of governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, controller, state treasurer, attorney general, insurance commissioner, and superintendent of public education.


Depending on your city, you may have elections for mayor, city council, or other local positions.

Ballot Propositions

Prop 14: More money for stem cell research. It’s a bond, meaning the state (that is, us the taxpayers) borrows the money and pays interest on the loan (about $260M/year for 30 years). Californians voted for a stem cell research bond in 2004, and the money has almost run out, so this would put more money into this research.

Prop 15: Increases property taxes on commercial properties. In 1978, California voters passed Prop 13, which said that annual property taxes would be based on the purchase price, not the current market value. Prop 15 would change this so that for commercial properties (not residential) worth more than $3M, the yearly tax would be based on market value. This would bring in much more money for schools and local governments.

Prop 16: Allows affirmative action. This proposition would allow the government and state colleges and universities to consider a person from an underrepresented race, ethnicity, or gender as a positive factor in hiring, admissions, or government contracts.

Prop 17: Allows people on parole to vote. When a person is granted parole, this means they are released early from prison, usually for good behavior. Currently, they must wait until their parole is finished (the remainder of the original sentence) before being allowed to vote again. Prop 17 would reinstate the right to vote immediately upon release from prison.

Prop 18: Allows 17 year olds to vote in primaries if they will be 18 by the general election. It’s pretty self-explanatory.

Prop 19: Homeowners over 55, disabled, or wildfire/disaster victims, would be eligible for property tax savings when they move. Prop 19 also cracks down on the practice of wealthy homeowners transferring their home to an adult child in which the property tax payment doesn’t change.

Prop 20: Increases punishment for certain crimes. Prop 47 in 2014 reduced penalties for certain theft and drug crimes. This new Prop 20 would reverse some of that, so that people who commit certain theft-related crimes (such as repeat shoplifting) could receive increased penalties.

Prop 21: Expands ability of local governments to implement rent control. Although there is a statewide rent control law, many local governments have even stronger rent controls than the state. But cities and counties are currently limited in their power to impose rent controls. Prop 21 would allow cities and counties to apply rent control to housing that is more than 15 years old, with the exception of some single-family homes.

Prop 22: Classifies app-based drivers (Uber, Lyft etc.) as “independent contractors,” instead of “employees,” and provides drivers certain benefits. There are pros and cons to being an independent contractor rather than an employee, and some workers prefer it while others do not. Current law (AB5) classifies drivers on Uber, Lyft, Postmates, and similar apps, as employees (although this is still being disputed in the courts). Prop 22 would make these drivers independent contractors instead, which means they would not get the standard rights of employees. But the proposition would provide that they get certain new benefits including a minimum wage slightly above the general state minimum wage (but only for time spent driving, not waiting for a ride request); a monthly health insurance stipend for some drivers; new medical and disability benefits if a driver is injured while driving; and new rules pertaining to rest periods, sexual harassment and criminal background checks.

Prop 23: Increases regulations on kidney dialysis clinics. Requires a medical professional on-site during dialysis treatment. The clinics would be required to offer the same level of care to patients regardless of whether the treatment is paid for by private insurance or a government-funded program such as Medi-Cal or Medicare.

Prop 24: Strengthens consumer privacy laws. California recently passed sweeping privacy protections, including the right to opt out of companies selling their data, and the right to have the data deleted. Prop 24 would go a bit further, covering more businesses, and establishing an agency dedicated to enforcing privacy laws.

Prop 25: Ends cash bail. California passed a law in 2018 banning cash bail. The law said that suspects awaiting trial should be released or not based on whether a judge believes they are a danger to the community. It would no longer be based on whether a person could come up with bail money or not. The bail industry was, of course, upset about this, and put this proposition on the ballot to let voters decide whether to approve the law or not.

For more info on all these propositions, be sure to check out the official Secretary of State Voter Guide. And if you have questions about where all these propositions even came from, or what happens if they pass, check out our Guide to How Ballot Propositions Work in California.

Also make sure you know your Rights as a Voter.

Please. Vote. Responsibly.

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