election-2020:-here’s-what-californians-said-with-their-votes

Describe elections any way you want – as acts of political power; as peaceful alternatives to insurrection; as long, collective rage tweets – but don’t ignore this:

Elections are megaphones.

At their core, every big vote is simply a bunch of people telling the world how they feel about that ballot’s particular batch of politicians and ideas.

With that in mind, here’s a quick look at five things Southern California voters said in the election that ended Tuesday, Nov. 3.

1. “We like democracy!”

If that sounds like a no-brainer, you haven’t been paying attention. Americans, in theory, are increasingly skeptical of everything from government integrity to the idea that elections are fair. In that context, casting a vote for president – particularly when the popular vote winner doesn’t always go to the White House – could feel empty.

Or not.

Though complete data isn’t in for every county, it looks like voters in Southern California were more than eager to participate in democracy. Turnout is likely to crack 75% in Orange County, and is expected to be nearly as high in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties when all walk-up and mail-in ballots are tabulated.

Nationally, turnout – as measured by the percentage of voting-age eligible people who cast a ballot – is expected to beat 66%. That’s the highest since 1908 – and not the message you’d expect from voters supposedly wavering on democracy.

2. “We don’t like rent control.”

If we looked only at the general election, when voters rejected Prop. 21 — which would have made it easier for cities to enact rent control measures – by about 19 points, we might not have heard this message. But that was the second time in just more than 24 months that California voters said no to rent control expansion. In the 2018 midterm, 59% of all state voters rejected Prop. 10, which would have allowed local governments to adopt rent control on any type of rental housing.

None of which is to say rent control is a bad idea, or that the concept doesn’t have many – millions, in fact – supporters.

And it’s definitely not unpopular in every community. Ballotpedia reports that from 2016 to 2019 rent control questions appeared on 17 local ballots in 14 California jurisdictions – and rent control won seven times.

But rent control statewide? Voters keep saying no, thanks.

3. “We do like homeowners.”

The slim win for Prop. 19 – which gives some tax breaks for older homeowners who buy and sell properties – isn’t the only reason to think voters are into home ownership. California has been helping property owners – and, by extension, supporting the real estate industry – for decades. The 1978 approval of Prop. 13, the law that pole axed rising property taxes and sparked a national copycat movement, is probably the best-known ballot proposal in state history.

One way to look at Prop. 19 is as this year’s add-on to Prop 13. Both were backed by real estate sellers, and both were pitched in some circles as a way to spur lots of home buying and selling. At least one group argues that Prop. 19 will lead to 30,000 transactions a year in California, with older people selling off their homes to downsize and younger families buying up their properties.

Will any of that come true? Who knows? But voters seem to be in favor of it.

4. “We’re confused! No, wait, are we?”

Voters had a small buffet of social justice-minded proposals to choose from this year, and they chose … randomly.

Should we end cash bail, the legal rule that most clearly punishes people who don’t have money? Should we revive affirmative action, which presumably helps people of color?

At first glance, voters seemed to weigh in against the little guy, rejecting both Prop. 25 (which would have ended money bail) and Prop. 16 (which would have allowed race to be used as a positive in government contracts and school admissions) by wide margins.

There was nuance in both propositions, of course. And lots of people rejected those ideas because they don’t go far enough or because they fix problems in ways that might raise new affronts to social justice. But at first blush, the results seem unexpected in one of the nation’s most socially liberal states.

But then, on a couple other questions – specifically about felons and people accused of some crimes – voters showed a different attitude.

They said, yes, people on state parole should be allowed to vote, when they approved Prop. 17 by a wide margin. And they said, no, we shouldn’t increase the penalties for people convicted of certain non-felonies when they rejected Prop. 20.

5. “We don’t like Donald Trump!”

First, yes, lots of people in California do like Trump. Some love him; millions in the state voted for him.

But many millions more voted against him. Again.

In the two times Trump appeared on a ballot in their state, Californians have cast an estimated (not all of this year’s numbers are in yet) 9 million more votes for his opponents. Trump lost the national vote twice, too, but in both contests California was something of an anti-tipping state. In fact, if you pulled the state out of the mix Trump would be about break-even in the national electorate.

###

By Richard Moran

Richard Moran loves to write about sports with the Golden State Online. Before that, he worked as a senior writer at ESPN. Richard grew up in San Diego and graduated from the University of San Diego in 2004, after which he worked as an editor for five years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *