|Now that it's all said and done, here are my thoughts on the election (including California's ballot measures). Please note that these are my individual thoughts, which anyone is free to disagree with if they feel otherwise.
PRESIDENTIAL RACE: Barack Obama re-elected
I voted for Obama for three reasons. First, I didn't believe that Mitt Romney had a viable game plan. He talked a lot about creating jobs and fixing the economy and doing things differently that Obama, but I didn't see many concrete details. The economy is slowly recovering and while I agree that we haven't seen the change that we hoped to see by now, nothing in Romney's speeches, campaign materials, or talking points led me to believe that he has a clear and better plan for the direction our country is headed. I have no doubt where Romney wants to see us go, but I also don't feel like he communicated any specifics about how he plans to get us there. Second, even Romney's plan called for budget that would only be balanced after ten years... after even his second term. Obama's plan is slowly making progress and I don't see why Obama only gets four years to fix everything if even Romney says it can't be done in less than eight. Things aren't ideal yet, but they're getting better and are significantly better than they were in 2008, so I have to give the benefit of the doubt to the guy who wants to keep us on course rather than try something radically different. And third, I just don't trust Romney. He changed his position numerous times on key issues like abortion, foreign policy, the size and role of the federal government in disaster relief, etc. While I do think that the "Moderate Mitt" of the latter half of the election would have made a perfectly fine President, there's also that part of him during the primaries that was as a hardcore, ultraconservative right-winger... and I just didn't think we could be sure about which one would actually take office. All that said, I voted for Obama not because I think he's infallible... but because I think the country is slowly headed in the right direction and that he deserves the same eight years that every other candidate claimed to need in order for their plan to take shape.
U.S. SENATORIAL RACE: Dianne Feinstein re-elected
I actually like both of California's U.S. Senators, so I was happy to see Feinstein re-elected.
PROP 30: Passed
Quick Overview: Temporary income tax increase (for people making over $250K) and sales tax increase to fund public education and pay down state debt.
I obviously support this proposition, especially since my wife is a teacher and the public schools in California desperately need money. What I don't like about this prop is the fact that we were basically blackmailed into passing it (if it didn't pass, $6 billion in additional cuts to public schools would have gone into effect), and that there is a provision which allows the funds to be spent on state debt as well. While I am all for raising taxes on those who make more than $250,000 and seeing a slight bump to our sales tax in order to pay for this education reform, I'm on board. But I'm also desperately afraid that Sacramento politicians are going to mismanage the funds like they've done for the past several years, repeatedly taking money out of education and funneling it elsewhere. I support the prop, but I pray they actually use the money for schools like it's intended. I don't think the state can handle another fiasco where voters think they're voting in support of education and then schools don't ever actually see any of the money.
PROP 31: Failed
Quick Overview: Budget reform; would have required legislature to approve a state budget for a two-year period rather than current one-year period.
Honestly, if we can barely keep the budget balanced as it is, I don't see how moving to a once-every-two-years budget requirement is going to help. We need more consistent oversight of how our budget is being handled, not less. The California legislature isn't exactly doing a great job of keeping our state funded... I think the budget needs to be more carefully managed, not less.
PROP 32: Failed
Quick Overview: Limited corporate and union political contributions.
On the surface, this one made sense. No one wants employers taking their employees' money and investing in their own political agenda. But that's not what this proposition was about. Due to the way it's written, it exempts Super PACs and big businesses from the legislation, which really means that the only people affected are unions and other organizations who actually get their money from their members' income. This was largely an attempt for special interests to try and remove the ability of unions and other organized labor to fund campaigns and opposition and, thankfully, the voters saw through it.
PROP 33: Failed
Quick Overview: Auto insurance reform.
Proponents of this proposition claimed that it would allow you to take your "good driver" discounts from one insurance company to another (you currently start from scratch when you change insurance companies and your driving history is not taken into consideration). However, there was also a clause that allowed insurance companies to raise rates if you've ever had a gap in your auto insurance coverage. So if you're a student getting their first car, or didn't have insurance for a period because you didn't need a car, your premiums would go up. An interesting fact is that this proposition was funded almost entirely (94% ... more than $16 million in total!) by George Joseph, the billionaire founder of Mercury Insurance. And as someone against the prop appropriately asked, "When was the last time the insurance industry did something in your best interests?"
PROP 34: Failed
Quick Overview: Abolished the death penalty in favor of sentencing for life in prison.
For me, the death penalty has never been a huge issue. I don't fully support it and I don't vehemently oppose it. I voted for this prop because I do believe that, when you factor in the total cost of a death sentence (not just actually putting them to death but the entire legal appeals process that drags out and costs millions), it is cheaper to pay the costs to keep them in prison year after year. California isn't exactly an eager death penalty state like Texas either... the state has only executed three in the last ten years, and thirteen since 1976. A stark contrast to the 490 total executions in Texas or the 109 in Oklahoma or the 101 in Virginia during that same time period. Heck, Texas has executed the same number of people (so far) in 2012 as California has in the last 36 years! . I voted for this prop because I feel like these tax dollars could better be spent elsewhere than pursuing the death penalty in a state that really doesn't use the death penalty except in extremely rare circumstances.
PROP 35: Passed
Quick Overview: Increase in sentencing for human trafficking offenses including prostitution, sexual slavery, etc.
Opponents of the bill cited its bad drafting and potential for abuse by prosecutors that won't actually provide a meaningful improvement to the lives of sex workers and those who have been a victim of human trafficking. But c'mon... the gist of the law is that it increases sentencing guidelines for people who engage in human trafficking. That's not a bad thing, and 81% of the state voters happen to agree.
PROP 36: Passed
Quick Overview: Amends the three strikes law to only apply in the case of "serious and violent" felonies.
For a long time, California has had the toughest three strikes law in the country. People could be convicted of three strikes (after three strikes, you can be sentenced to 25 years-to-life in prison) for nonviolent or other felonies that aren't "serious." While I'd contend that all felonies are serious, it was concerning to see that the list of strike offenses included arson, carjacking, gang allegation, aggravated assault, criminal threats, and conspiracy to commit any of a long list of felonies. Which means that someone who steals a car, burns down their house for the insurance money, then threatens someone not to report him could get the same 25-to-life sentence as a murderer or other violent offender. I support the fact that they're amending the law to give them leeway when considering which felonies to treat under the three strikes law. I certainly don't want dangerous or violent people out on the streets... but I also understand that we don't all live in happy, safe suburbs. Some of us grow up around gang influences and other criminal activity and I hate to think of some eighteen year old kid spending the rest of his life in prison for a few mistakes he made in his youth that didn't ultimately pose a serious or violent danger to anyone else.
PROP 37: Failed
Quick Overview: Genetically modified food labeling requirements.
I'm at a loss when it comes to this proposition. The only thing I can say is that the big food and biotech conglomerates won by managing to convince enough voters that this additional labeling requirement would ruin small farms and cost the taxpayers millions. I'm not sure how adding the words "genetically engineered" to a package you're already labeling costs millions and millions (not to mention the fact that I don't know any small farms and local agriculture people who genetically engineer their foods), but somehow they managed to do it and we voted against requiring companies who use chemicals and other artificial products to label their products as such. Maybe one day people will realize that this kind of legislature costs practically nothing and doesn't deprive you of anything (you can still buy whatever you want at the grocery store)... but for now, score another one for biotech and them not being required to disclose whether the food you eat contains pesticides, chemicals, or other artificial additives.
PROP 38: Failed
Quick Overview: Raised taxes to fund public education.
I'm really conflicted on this one. On the one hand, it's not nearly as vile as many opponents paint it to be. I posted a blog about this initiative early on and was shocked (okay, not really) to see that opponents grossly mischaracterized how much the average person would pay in additional taxes... but I also didn't like the way that this proposition locks itself in for the next twelve years, requires more infrastructure, and doesn't give us many options (short of another proposition to repeal it) to fix the new system in the event of corruption, mismanagement of funds, or flat-out failure to produce results. I was both happy and sad to see this fail; sad because I really think we need a ton of additional education funding and this one presumably couldn't be used to pay debt instead of finance schools... and happy because it was also a flawed proposition.
PROP 39: Passed
Quick Overview: Elimination of multi-state tax break for businesses.
I don't think the majority of voters (myself included) have any idea how taxes work for multi-state corporations, but hey, it's supposed to close whatever loopholes they have and bring that revenue back in-state.
PROP 40: Passed
Quick Overview: Redistricting
Considering the fact that the ballot information packet itself said the "No on Prop 40" proponents have changed their position and now support the proposition, I'm shocked that over 28% of voters still voted No.
MEASURE B: Passed
Quick Overview: Requires adult film actors to wear condoms
I confess that I couldn't actually vote on this measure since it was for Los Angeles County and I'm now a registered voter in Orange County, but I thought it was worth listing. The adult entertainment industry has long been headquartered in the San Fernando Valley just outside of Los Angeles, and this measure now requires adult film stars to wear condoms when they engage in sex acts on camera. On the one hand, I support the idea that safe sex should be promoted (both to protect the health of the actors as well as show audiences that using protecting is important), but I feel like this kind of requirement will only make adult film companies (who did not want this measure passed) shoot their films elsewhere. They can literally move their production operations to another nearby county like Ventura, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, Kern, etc. and avoid this requirement entirely. It will be interesting to see how the industry adapts to this new "safe sex" requirement.