Most Fun Voter Guide Ever (California June 2018 Election Edition)

You may have heard there’s an election on June 5 in California. Or maybe you just learned that right now. Either way, it’s one of those elections that might make you question whether there is a better way. Like, what if we set up a system to delegate this burden to people who actually want to spend their time doing this stuff? Check out my recent opinion piece on this.

Until then, here’s what you need to know to “vote responsibly.”

It’s a “primary” election, but you won’t be nominating anyone for any political party.

As of 2012, California has a “top two” primary system, where all candidates from all political parties compete against each other in the primary, and the two candidates which get the most votes move on to the general election, leaving everyone else behind in the dust. This new system has led to some odd results, where even in majority liberal districts, the liberal vote is split amongst so many Democrats and other progressives that two conservatives are able to get the top two spots and shut out progressives from the general election.

There are a total of 59 candidates for governor and U.S. Senate combined.

Warning: Voting is Hard.

We have a ridiculous number of candidates to choose from: 27 for governor, 32 for U.S. Senate.

Obviously we can’t give background info on each of them, so we aren’t going to do it for any of them. And no, we aren’t going to just talk about the “top 3” or “top 5” in the polls because that would be feeding into the idea that you should only consider the candidates that other people or the media has decided are worth paying attention to. Nope, you need to read those 59 bios and candidate statements (some of which are actually pretty nuts, both in a funny way and a scary way). Don’t like it? Then let’s change the system.

There are other positions up for election too!

Aside from governor, U.S. Senate, U.S. Representative, State Assembly, possibly State Senator, and other local positions, you will also be voting on these somewhat inscrutable statewide positions:

  • Lieutenant Governor: No, it’s not a military position, it’s the 2nd in line to the governor – think “Vice Governor”
  • Secretary of State: You’re thinking “foreign affairs,” aren’t you? Although it has the same name as the federal position that runs U.S. foreign affairs, it’s completely different. The state Secretary of State handles elections, business registrations, and more.
  • Controller: the state’s accountant/CFO
  • State Treasurer: the state’s investment manager
  • Attorney General: enforces state laws and investigates things
  • Insurance Commissioner: enforces regulations on insurance companies
  • Board of Equalization: You know, equalizes things and such. Well really they oversee the collection of property taxes and some other types of taxes
  • Superintendent of Public Education: Not maintenance. Oversees the public school system.

There are 5 ballot propositions, all placed there by the California legislature.

At this point you probably have a couple of questions: Why are they all placed by the legislature? And wait, why would the legislature put something on the ballot rather than just passing it like a normal law?

There are no voter initiated propositions because those all must go on November ballots. And there are a few things that the legislature cannot pass without voter approval, including amendments to the California Constitution, and measures to sell bonds to generate money for public projects, like parks. For more on this, see our California Ballot Proposition Rules explainer.

To be honest, these ballot propositions are not very sexy, and we shouldn’t have to vote on this stuff, but here we go:

Prop 68: Green for more green. The state of California wants to get loans (bonds) of about $4 billion to pay for habitat conservation, parks, and water-related projects. California taxpayers would pay interest on these loans of about $232 million over 30 years.

Prop 69: Currently, revenue from gas taxes generally must be spent on transportation related items. Makes sense. But revenue from diesel taxes and from vehicle fees do NOT have this requirement. Prop 69 would ensure all these types of taxes and fees are spent on transportation related things.

Prop 70: Most things require just a simple majority of votes in the legislature to pass. Easy peasy. But (mostly) Republicans want to make it harder to spend money from the “cap and trade” program that fights climate change. Starting in 2024, Prop 70 would require a supermajority (2/3) of the legislature to approve how this money is spent.

Prop 71: Currently, ballot propositions generally take effect the day after election day. Prop 71 would change that so they would take effect after the vote has been certified (about 6 weeks after Election Day).

Prop 72: Generally when a homeowner upgrades the house like adding on a deck, this usually increases the value of the house (yay) but could also mean a higher property tax bill (boo). Prop 72 specifically says that if a homeowner installs a system to collect and store rain water, this will NOT result in a higher property tax bill. It would effectively incentivize people to put in rain-capture systems, and thus conserve water.

And we’re about ready for Election Day. Exhausted yet?

Happy Voting!


P.S. Before you go to the polls (or mail in your ballot), be sure to know your voting rights.

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