For the most part I voted for what Bitch, PhD recommended on her blog, and for the reasons she recommended them. I toyed with throwing a few Republicans in the mix if I felt they were reasonable, qualified choices, but in the end I couldn't. One where I almost did was for Secretary of State, because I have a general bias against people who use lots of caps and italics in their campaign blurbs in the voting guides, and he seemed like a quite reasonable candidate who hadn't. But I just can't trust a Republican to be in charge of the voting. Given that they are (for the moment) the party in charge, if they are maintaining their grip on power through unsavory manipulations of the election system, it seems too much to be letting the fox guard the hen house to let a Republican be in charge of it, no matter how personally honorable he might be. Besides, Deborah Bowen only came off as a little shrill with her use of italics, and like her Republican opposition is in favor of a proper polling system.
I did have some mixed feelings about voting for voting for Jerry Brown for attorney general. I don't mind him as a politician, but I'm not sure what I like about him as a politician will translate into him being a good attorney general. On the other hand, I didn't like his competition. Insurance commissioner was also a lackluster choice. In fact, there were a lot of positions where I was happy with the incumbents, but the incumbents were all running for some other job they might not have been as good for. Is this because of term limits? Because if so it would go on the long list of problems with them. I think it would be much better if people could remain in public service where they have the most competency, if they wanted.
There were also a few local offices that I was poorly qualified to vote for. I read all the position statements in the voter guide and the recommendations of the Marin Independent Journal, but in the end it all seems like a crapshoot. And speaking of crapshoots, then there were the ballot initiatives...
There are some weird dynamics to California law. One of which is how things are funded. I can't even begin to explain how it works because I only barely have any idea, but from what I gather the legislature has to float certain taxes past the public through referendums (ballot measures/propositions). Maybe that's ok, in a way, because if there is, as is the case now, criticism that there are too many bonds and that the legislature should be funding things through regular tax revenues, this gives the public a chance to say so, albeit in a rather inarticulate way. I'd never really thought about the bond problem before, but this year it really struck me as an issue, so I ended up voting against things I'd really like to have just because I felt bonds were an inappropriate funding structure to achieve them. Like Prop 1C, for instance, which is for a housing and emergency shelter trust fund. Absolutely this should be funded, but not with bonds. I said ok to using bonds for roads, transit, seismic school repairs - major capital improvements whose benefit would last into the repayment period. But not other things I think should be a regular part of the tax budget.
The other weird thing about California law is that people can place initiatives on the ballots without going through the legislature. While in theory this means that people have more direct, democratic access to their government's law-making ability, in practice you can end up with all sorts of crap on the ballot that's never gone through any sort of hearings or legislative vetting, but simply gets on the ballot because well-funded advocates can get enough signatures together (unfraudulently, if we're lucky) to place it there and then try to get it passed with tons of campaign spending in support. Meanwhile anyone who might oppose it for whatever potentially good reason is left to scramble to organize resources to try to defeat it. It's really a crummy way to legislate, because tiny yet well-heeled minorities can drastically change the legislative landscape nearly single-handedly, which ultimately is about as un-democratic as you can get. (This is how California ended up with a different guy for governor all of a sudden.) And it's often very difficult for the public to understand these propositions well enough, even if they do take the hours to pore over the legislative analyses included in the voter's guide, to begin to make informed decisions about whether they are a good idea or not.
For example, there were two flood-related measures on the ballot this time, one placed there by the legislature and one by public signatures. I'm totally in favor of what they both hope to achieve. But it is unclear whether they are complementary, redundant, or what. So I voted for the one put on there by the legislature since I figured they'd actually paid some attention to how it would fit in with California law generally, and against the other one. If we need more flood laws, then let's get the legislature to write more. Even if that second one would be a great law that's still really needed, it just seems like a "too many cooks in the kitchen" thing to have both proposals become law all at once.
Meanwhile some of these proposals are horrifically bad ideas. The sex offender registry proposal (Prop 83), for instance. I tend to think there are significant concerns with respect to the general fairness and constitutionality of sex offender registries generally, but all that aside, even some of their regular advocates were recommending against this law, fearing that it was so incredibly heavy-handed that it would just drive sex offenders underground and negate any purpose these registries are supposed to have. Also example of a bad proposition is the purported "anti-Kelo" measure, Prop 90, which seems, at best, like a solution in need of a problem. Sometimes the government really does need to make takings, and this proposition if made law would make it very difficult to do so, with no real benefit in exchange. And as for Proposition 85, I couldn't possibly vote to require pregnant teens to tell their parents before having an abortion. We may want that all parents and teens have such relationships where the kids can talk to their parents about everything, but for the state to insist upon it is an intrusive use of state power. (This proposal is even worse than that, but I'll leave it to others to dissect it for now. Hopefully by tomorrow it will be a non-issue anyway.)
I did, however, vote for some of these initiatives. I voted for Prop 86, which raises the sin tax on cigarettes to fund various public health issues. I used to like taxes like this much more, but I do worry that cigarettes are becoming so expensive as to start driving underground economies in them, with the associated unlawfulness that other underground economies (e.g., drugs) often have. Still, in the hope that cigarettes could be so hideously expensive as to dissuade kids from starting smoking, I voted for it. Though I suspect this may be the last time I vote for such a tax for the reasons mentioned above.
I also voted for Propositions 87, an alternative energy law, and Proposition 89, a public campaign financing scheme. I don't know if either are quite fully-baked as proposals, but I liked what they were trying to do (and the Clinton/Gore endorsements for 87 were meaningful to me). So I decided to vote yes, with the hope that any wrinkles can get ironed out through subsequent litigation or legislation.
Similarly, I voted for Marin County Measure R. Measure R funds a train line and construction of a complementary bike trail. Marin definitely needs both. However, there are concerns that the specific language of Measure R may not achieve either as well as they should. Which is concerning, and there may be a lot of people who will vote no, not because they don't like the proposal in principle but just because they want better language to provide for it. Again, I decided to vote yes and hope that the details can still get sorted out subsequently. I was afraid that if I voted no the details might never get sorted out ever at all.