Answer key for the November 2016 ballot

OK, folks, time to prepare our crib sheets for the big test on November 8th–or to fill out our mail-in ballots.

This is my semi-regular voting guidance for people who want to vote like Bay Area lesbian musician tech nerd manager consultant progressive types. As you’ll see below, I’m puzzled in plenty of places—please advise.

img_4776First, let’s take stock of the challenge. Voting in California–as in Chicago–is not for wimps. This is advanced citizenship. Kaja shown for scale.

Now let’s talk voter disenfranchisement:


WTH? Are they discriminating against fountain pen users?

No, probably not. Apparently, the real message is not “use ballpoints” but “use black or blue ink, but not a Sharpie,” because Sharpies can bleed through the paper and make the back side hard to scan, thus invalidating a whole ballot. In California, we have thick cardstock ballots, so it’s probably not an issue. I’m using my fountain pen. So there. A Visconti Homo Sapiens bronze extra fine filled with Visconti black ink, if anyone cares.

Ballot the first: party-nominated offices

President and Vice President

Have you not been paying attention? Hillary. She’s the adult in this race. She’s also wicked smart and progressive. She’s been working almost her entire life on civil rights, women and children’s issues, family issues, and all the other good progressive causes. Hillary starts with a capital H and that rhymes with H and that stands for Health care–which children have thanks to her good work as First Lady and policy advisor in the 1990s. As President she’ll work to fix some of the gaps in Obamacare, which does have some serious problems–Bernie was right about that, and Hillary agreed with him. They differed on how to fix it, but no sane adult would argue that any of the other candidates for Leader of the World on this ballot would be better for health care than Hillary.

She’s also better on all the other issues. She’s not perfect on lots of them, but she’s pragmatic and smart, she has a good track record of doing her homework, listening to all sides, and looking for common ground to write policies that will pass. She screws up sometimes. Maybe too often. But she also listens, learns, and adjusts. On that point, too, she is better than all the alternatives.

And: Hillary! Yeah. About damn time. Why? It’s 2016.


Loretta Sanchez and Kamala Harris are both good choices. Pick your favorite. When in doubt, go with the woman.

Oops! Both women.

When in doubt, go with the minority.

Oops! Both minorities. Sanchez is Latina. Harris is African American.

When in doubt, go with the one wh…

Ah, screw it. I like Kamala Harris. She did good work as District Attorney of San Francisco and as Attorney General of California. She’s smart and works hard. Her sister is one of Hillary’s policy advisors. Good enough for Governor Moonbeam is good enough for me. I’m voting for Kamala.

Loretta’s good, too. Kamala’s generally considered to be more progressive, Sanchez more moderate.

I’ll miss Barbara Boxer.

U.S. House, District 13

Barbara Lee! See above. And may I remind you, she was the one person who had the courage and the sense to vote against Dubya’s rush to war in Iraq? (Yeah, Hillary screwed that one up. She had a reasonable argument, not that anyone has paid attention to it, and she’s the first to agree that it turns out to have been a mistake.)

State Senator, District 9

Nancy Skinner vs Sandré Swanson. Tough one. Really close on all the issues; both are strong choices. White woman vs. African American man: see above, “when in doubt, go with the woman.” I’m going with her, but he’s a worthy choice. Robert Reich likes her. So does our awesome Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. Works for me.

State Assembly, District 15

Tony Thurmond, male Democrat, vs. Claire Chiara, female Republican. Supposedly he’s a progressive, but he’s kind of meh. Meh.

Superior Court Judge, Office #1

These are hard. Scott Jackson gets a slight nod from the Green Party voter guide and DailyKos.

Peralta Board, Area 6

Oy. Trans-man vs. woman. Hard to tell apart. Greens say Weinstein mainly because Resnick did not return a questionnaire and because his Facebook page suggests leanings toward charter schools. Weinstein.

AC Transit, Director at Large

Geez. Why is this an elected office? Greens say Peeples has done a lot of good but they complain about his boongdoggle with a Van Hool bus purchase and give a nod to Dollene Jones “with reservations.” Oy. But when in doubt, women. And when in doubt, black over white. Three votes for Dollene.

AC Transit, Director, Ward 2

Oy again. Seriously, does anyone have advice on this mess?

BART Board, District 3

Rebecca Saltzman. Progressive who’s learning. Varun Paul is a Green that the Green party has issues with–among which, an infatuation with Uber and Lyft. Nuh-uh. Uber is evil, Lyft is close. And when in doubt, vote for the woman.

East Bay Regional Park District, Ward 2

First, can I just point out that I’m in District 13, District 9, District 15, Office #1, Area 6, District 2, District 3, and District 2 already, and I’m just finishing up my first ballot? I’m telling you, voting in California is not for wimps.

Take your choice of Rosario or Jones-Taylor.

I’m going with Jones-Taylor and the goats. She says,

“The risk of wildfires and the need to retain native plant diversity from the onslaught of nonnative plants is real. A great deal of this effort can be accomplished with hand crews from various Conservation Corp programs, volunteer work days like we did in the city of Oakland. I support non pesticide uses whenever possible, this includes a carefully managed goat grazing program, until we are able to come up with the proper means and funding to remove all the non native trees and plants. I do support limited pest/herbicide use as a spot effort on certain stumps to prevent sprouting of additional non native trees. One of the ideas I intend to really look into is the plan that phases the removal over time in an effective way to replaces nonnative plants like eucalyptus with native plant communities that existed before the eucalyptus sprouted, as what has already occurred in the Claremont Canyon. I have looked into this and at the present time it is cost prohibitive. I am interested in having a more in-depth looks at the overall cost and seeking outside funding to assist in the implementation and removal of the nonnative trees. What I am clear about is that we cannot afford to not take action.” [Green questionnaire responses]

Ballot the second: Measures submitted to the voters.

As I wrote in November 2010:

Fasten your seatbelts. The propositions are where democracy is at its most challenging in California. Holy crap, I hate our so-called voter initiative process. Let’s face it, most of the propositions are so poorly worded that it’s hard to figure out how to vote even after you’ve figured out how you feel about the issue. Most of them address things our Assembly is too wimpy to do, more badly than even the Assembly could manage to do them. Most of them are heavily funded by massive corporations who do not have the needs of California citizens in mind.

So, my first rule is always: when in doubt, not just no, but hell no.Now let’s struggle through each one of them.

No. I can’t even. Let’s start with some progressive voter guides. This one summarizes advice from all the left wing organizations:, and the ones they make seem clear are:

51 yesimg_4779
52 yes
53 no
55 yes
56 yes
57 yes
58 yes
59 yes
60 no

But, wait–WTF?! How could there be so many yes propositions? Propositions suck. Do we have to dig in after all? Crap.

51. Greens say no. Gov Moonbeam says no. My rule says no. The yes people are backing Big Real Estate. No.

52. Yeah, no. The supposedly nonpartisan says yes, reports that “Before we explain anything, you should know that the only group that opposed this measure withdrew its opposition and switched from ‘opposed’ to ‘neutral.’ So at this point, no group opposes the measure, and it is very widely supported,” and clinches the deal for me by mentioning “Note: we intentionally omit the official arguments/rebuttals found in the official voter guide. We believe they exaggerate claims, mislead through emotions, and use ALL CAPS irresponsibly.” I am not in favor of irresponsible caps. Yes.

53. Just no. Requires more voter involvement in spending money, and if there’s anything we know, it’s that people vote against taxes, which means nothing ever gets done because people are more worried about saving 50 cents a year in taxes than they have ever worried about how much they spend every day on cigarettes, coffee, and junk food. Not just no, hell no.

54. Sounds like BS to me. It’s a proposition. When in doubt, not just no, hell no.

55. Everyone says yes on taxing the rich to pay for education and healthcare, including the Greens. OK.

56. Cigarette tax to fund… well, who even cares what? As long as it’s not Donald Trump’s campaign fund, I’m in favor of taxing cigarettes, because higher taxes mean fewer kids start smoking. Been proven over and over again. Yes.

57. Parole on non-violent sentences. Everyone says yes, and we all know that the private prisons for profit situation has led to lots of stupid imprisonment and racially unbalanced sentencing. Yes.

58. English proficiency. Whoa! This one is tricky. That title suggests that it’s racist BS, but that’s to trick racists into voting yes. It’s really about bilingual education, which is good. Yes.

59. Repeal Citizens United. Not just yes, hell yes.

60. Adult films, condoms. First, let’s enjoy that the Greens advise, “Very strange, you decide.” Pause to enjoy. And then, “The porn industry and many outspoken performers have opposed stiffer standards at every turn.” Dunno. Seems like a good idea, but it also risks destroying the California porn film industry. Is that good? Dunno, you decide, very strange.

61. State prescription drug purchases. Uff da.

62. Repeal the death penalty? Well, duh. Yes. Are you pro life? Vote yes. Are you pro choice? Vote yes. Do you believe in science? Vote yes. Are you humane? Vote yes.

63. Firearms, ammunition sales. The hell? Seems good but exempts retired cops. Propositions create bad laws that are hard to clean up. Hell no.

64. Marijuana legalization. Dude!

65. Carryout bags. Greens say “Out-of-state manufacturers of flimsy single-use plastic bags are trying to confuse California voters.” California Porgressive gives it 3 red Xes. Remember rule one about propositions: Hell no.

66. Speed up the death penalty. Hell no.

67. Ban on single-use plastic bags. Yes. This one is opposed by Big Plastic. What more do you need to know?

Uff da.

Two ballots down. Two more to go.

There might not be enough Scotch in my house.

A1. Alameda affordable housing bond. Sounds good but looks dodgy. Rule 1. Hell no.

G1. Parcel tax for art, music, languages, blah blah. Yes.

HH. The soda tax or the grocery tax, depending on which propaganda you read. Yes. It’s only a start, but it’s a start.

II. Increase of maximum lease term. Oy AND uff da. Beats the spit out of me.

JJ. Something something rent control. Just yes.

KK. Fix potholes. Yeah.

LL. Police commission oversight. The Oakland police chief scandals one through ninety-eight have been a bit of an embarrassment. Our awesome Mayor Libby Schaaf is in favor. I’m with her.

C1. More frakking AC Transit yada yada. Uff da. Oy. Taxes for transit. OK, I guess.

RR. BART something something. Yeah, all right.

Ballot the fourth! And final!

Nonpartisan offices. My ass.

City Council, At Large

Ranked voting, thank god. Peggy, Rebecca, and Matt are the reasonable answers. Vote your conscience in deciding how to rank them.

img_4778img_4780Origami. Our ballots come with folding instructions. Which do not specify whether to tear off the stubs at the top. I’m assuming the perforation is there for a reason. The ballots themselves say to detach and keep in two languages. All righty, then.

Return address, stuff, lick, seal, sign, stamp.

Additional postage required. Is this a poll tax? How much? The county knows how much paper they sent me; why can’t they just provide the answer? It’s two stamps. I have a kitchen scale. I’m not afraid to use it.

Don’t forget to fill in a return address and sign the back.