At this point, it feels like we’ve been talking about mid-term elections since…well, basically November 9th, 2016 (for those of us who regained the ability to speak so soon after the previous evening’s general insanity). So in many ways it seems unreal that the big day is tomorrow. Unreal and scary—for many of us, it’ll likely be an awesome or awful day, if we’re erring on the side of hyperbolic dramatics (we usually do).
For those of us in California—the land of voter initiatives, ballot measures, and bond-driven, power-to-the-people-be-them-informed-or-not change—the 37 offices and 16 measures (the actual count in our district) we’re voting on can be totally overwhelming, especially when we’re choosing between two pretty progressive Democrats for US Senate and said measures involve complicated, longterm change with results that are difficult to predict at best.
Take Proposition 10, the statewide measure that attempts to address rent control—for one, the rent’s too damn high, as the various billboards and ads tell us. Who besides landlords would argue with that? But experts agree that allowing localities to provide and/or strengthen rent control doesn’t directly address the housing crisis which can only really be done by creating much more new affordable housing. And people who study rent control closely over time largely agree that rent control can actually increase gentrification as landlords tend to convert formerly rent controlled units to high income for-sale homes when the time eventually does come.
Or how about Proposition 12, widely billed and accepted as the measure to prevent cruelty to farmed animals. You’d think, as longtime ethical vegans, we’d be all for that, but it’s actually much more complicated and convoluted than it seems. The measure is basically a follow-up to 2008’s Prop. 2, which was also billed as cruelty prevention measure and promised the banning of chicken cages in California by 2015 (which didn’t happen). But it was mired by lack of specific language (it vaguely requires caged egg-laying chickens be given enough room to stretch their wings) and a decent amount of controversy. In ways, this is an attempt to rectify the errors of that past work, but Prop. 12 is equally or maybe even more flawed according to some. It states that we’ll tentatively be cage-free by 2022, but the cage-free environments might be even worse for the lives of chickens (picture a dark warehouse, not a bucolic pasture—this is still factory farming, after all); the proposed protections for pigs and calves seem thin, at best; and some people in the animal rights community just feel that the whole thing is too permissive of a cruel, animal-centric diet.
So, shrug emoji, right?
Even though, often, the more we look into a particular measure or candidate, the more discouraged we get, we remain forever very, very, very pro-vote. Our vote is our voice and when we stay silent, we make the voices of those who don’t all the more loud and all the better heard, diluting our say in how we run this city, county, state, country, and how all that influences the rest of the world. And even with these very flawed measures, they can do some good, even when they’re far from perfect, especially when you look at California’s long history of legal influence on the rest of the country (we’re a house split on Prop. 12, to be honest, but trending towards the ‘it will hopefully do some good’ camp).
A couple of years back, then 1st Vice Chair of the Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley and a self-described a progressive activist and proposition nerd, Damian Carroll, gave us a little guidance as then-still-new Californians in the form of propositional haikus. He’s doing the same again this year, which you can check out below. These are primarily for fun—some of these are in fact no-brainers for a lot of us but, again, most are pretty complicated and nuanced.
So we encourage everyone to check out a few of our favorite voters guides too, especially with the all-important local races, judges, sheriffs, and other elected officials that really set the day-to-day rules and directly affect so many citizens. And totally do the work and fill out your sample ballot beforehand and look into every single measure and candidate. Whether we think we should be deciding all these things or not as citizens, we are, and people fought and died for these votes (see above note about tendencies toward the dramatic, but true nonetheless). Let’s not just throw our hands up and say the system is broken, why bother; let’s use the tools we have now and work to improve them later.
Here’s a list of our favorite voter guides, some of which rather objectively detail candidates’ views and platforms, some of which straight-up give their endorsements:
League of Women Voters’ Education Fund + Women’s March LA
Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project Los Angeles County
LA Forward (props. + measures only)
ACLU SoCal (props + measures only, partial)
Democratic Socialists of America—LA
Paige Elkington/Westwood Westwood (who wins for best design; this one’s also great for the nonpartisan, yes/no offices)
Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal’s Two Evils Guide (also great for the nonpartisan offices, with some nice, entertaining explanation on many and an award for Most Disingenuous Measure)