It’s that time again! As if 2020 hasn’t already been a crazy enough year (with COVID-19, civil unrest and racial strife, the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, presidential debates, etc.), we still have an election on Tuesday, November 3.
Even though each election seems to be getting more and more contentious, I still firmly believe in our duty as Christians and citizens of the United States to steward our political opportunities and responsibilities well.
With that said, these are my recommendations for the November 2020 election in California. I’ll start with national elections and work my way down to local/city elections. I’ve divided it based on how it appears in the voting guide. If you need guidance on other local or federal offices, I will post resources at the end which should have that information.
President of the United States:
Donald Trump/3rd Party/Write-in/Leave Blank
Let’s face it. Unless you live in a swing state, then the Presidential vote for California really only matters in the national total, which does have its own significance, but won’t determine who gets in the White House. If we end up in another situation (like 2016) where one candidate wins the electoral college but loses the popular vote, then the popular vote will have a greater significance. So, don’t discount who your vote goes to.
Trump vs. Biden
If we are looking solely at Donald Trump and Joe Biden, you are looking at two highly flawed candidates for different reasons.
Trump is thin-skinned and childish, seems to have little capacity for empathy, frequently bullies or dehumanizes those who don’t support him, and until last week had not (to my knowledge) used clear and unequivocal language condemning white supremacy and other hate groups.* Meanwhile, his policies have been generally good, though not perfect by any means.
[*Update: This interesting video was posted yesterday by the Daily Wire detailing other past instances where Trump has condemned white supremacy. I had not been aware of all of these. On the other hand, I will say that for each of these statements he’s made, he’s also made statements that are vague, unclear, and open to misinterpretation.]
Biden, on the other hand, presents more of the public image that we would want out of a national leader and genuinely seems like a nice guy. Yet, his policies run contrary to a Christian worldview on multiple levels, especially on issues like abortion and religious liberty. As opposed to being a moderating force on the far left of the Democratic Party, he appears to be bending over backwards to appease them. One such example is his reversal on his support of the Hyde Amendment, which he supported for his entire political career since it passed until being pressured to reverse his position.
Voting is a difficult decision. While we ideally want a candidate with good character and good policies, that isn’t the situation we have in 2020. While different people will give different weight to character versus policies (and have legitimate reasons for doing so), as of now, I lean towards giving a little more weight to policies.
One reason is that a president with bad character will eventually leave office thanks to term limits. However, the bad laws a president signs will still remain on the books long after he is out unless repealed or altered by further legislation. This doesn’t mean that a lack of character doesn’t have its own kind of long-term consequences. I just think those are more easily reversible than bad policy.
Something else that should be mentioned is that, as a general rule, good policy usually flows from good character, bad policy usually flows from bad character. This isn’t to say that Trump has good character because he has generally good policies. He could very well be supporting certain policies solely to appeal to his base of support and maintain political power. Nevertheless, I bring this up more to point out that even though Biden puts up a better public face and public leadership to the nation, the fact that his policies are fairly bad does reflect poorly on his character and worldview in other ways. On many issues, he is promoting policies in outright contradiction to the Catholic Church he professes to believe in.
All of this to say, if you are looking at just Trump vs. Biden and I had to choose just one, I’d vote for Trump while still acknowledging his many flaws.
If you’d like to hear from three different conservative evangelical authors whom I deeply respect but come to different conclusions on this, I would check out the following:
- John Piper: Policies, Persons, and Paths to Ruin
- Wayne Grudem: A respectful response to my friend John Piper about voting for Trump
- Albert Mohler: Christians, Conscience, and the Looming 2020 Election
3rd Party Candidates
If your conscience won’t allow you to vote for Trump, then you may want to look into the 3rd party candidates. Here’s just a quick analysis of each:
Peace and Freedom Party: Gloria La Riva/Sunil Freeman
As soon as I saw the tagline of their website on Google (“For the Earth to Survive, Capitalism must End!”), I laughed and said, “Nope!”
American Independent: Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente Guerra/Kanye Omari West
Positionally, I would categorize Rocky’s platform as moderate to center-left. Although it might be interesting to see Kanye as Vice President, I wouldn’t give them my vote over the Libertarian Party.
Green Party: Howie Hawkins/Angela Nicole Walker
In many ways, they would be more extreme than a Biden/Harris administration. That’s a no for me.
Libertarian Party: Jo Jorgensen/Jeremy “Spike” Cohen
If my vote is ever going to one of the established 3rd parties, it’s almost always going to be the Libertarian Party. Libertarians are generally excellent on economics and numerous other issues. While they tend to be more socially liberal, their small government/personal responsibility instincts will push them more in the direction of “live and let live” than forcing you to agree or support their positions, which bodes well for religious liberty concerns.
To summarize my thoughts:
- Between Trump and Biden, Trump would get my vote.
- If not Trump, then Libertarian is the way I would go.
- If no candidate suits you, write someone in who does or leave this spot blank. Your voice is needed on plenty of other issues on the ballot.
Don’t let people try to bully you or guilt you into voting one way or the other. It’s important to consider both the philosophical and practical implications of voting for one of the major candidates, a 3rd party candidate, writing in a candidate, or leaving it blank. But ultimately, you must act in good conscience and give an account of yourself to God (Romans 14:10-12, 23; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
The LA Times has put together a video with a brief overview of each proposition.
Here are a few other resources if you would like to do more research:
Proposition 14: No
What it does: Back in 2004, California voters approved money to be borrowed and spent on stem cell research. That money is starting to run out. Prop 14 authorizes the state to borrow an additional $5.5 billion for stem cell and other medical research.
My opinion: Although stem cell research has the potential for good medical advancement, it is also fraught with ethical concerns over the origins of where the stem cells come from. Often, they are derived from destroyed or aborted embryos, which presents a problem for pro-life Christians.
These things aside, I don’t see why we need to issue bonds and borrow $5.5 billion to fund this research (It will cost $7.8 billion over the course of repaying the debt). Vote no.
Proposition 15: No
What it does: Back in 1978, Californians passed a prop which limited property taxes on homeowners and businesses to about 1% of their purchased property value with an annual increase of 2% or whatever inflation was for that year. Since the taxes were based on the purchased property value, the amount of property taxes paid did not reflect the actual market value of the property itself. The value of the property (and the property taxes on that value) is reassessed whenever the property is sold. Prop 15 would seek to change property taxes to be based on the actual market value for commercial properties worth more than $3 million.
My opinion: By exempting homeowners and small commercial properties, the hope is that people will be willing to tax the “rich” businesses in California in order to fund everyone’s favorite recipients: schools and children. Who can say no to that? Well, I do. To start, although $3 million sounds like a lot of money, in commercial business terms, it actually isn’t, especially if you own property in a high cost of living area like Los Angeles. This will hurt a lot more small and medium-sized businesses than it sounds like, even with extra provisions they put in there to try and help businesses with less than 50 employees or reducing a business’ taxable equipment by $500,000 starting in 2024.
Long story short, with California’s economy and businesses struggling even more due to the coronavirus, adding extra taxes will only serve to shut down businesses, drive more businesses out of the state, and further increase the cost of living. And let’s not forget, taxes don’t just get absorbed by the businesses. Most of them get passed on to the consumer—you and me. Vote no.
Proposition 16: No
What it does: In 1996, California voters passed proposition 209, which says, “The State shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.” Prop 209 essentially ended affirmative action types of programs in public employment, education, and contracting.
Proposition 16 seeks to repeal proposition 209 in order to allow the state to consider things such as race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in public employment, education, and contracting. It would allow the state to reinstitute affirmative action programs with the hope of increasing diversity and correcting historical imbalances and injustices. This doesn’t negate any other state or federal anti-discrimination laws otherwise in effect.
My opinion: Affirmative action is an emotionally complex subject. On one hand, I recognize the ways in which systemic racism of the past has created disparities along racial lines and in many ways have had lasting effects until today. If there were ways of correcting those injustices without discriminating against people who had nothing to do with it (though nonetheless may have indirectly benefitted in some way), I would definitely consider voting for something like that. But allowing for active discrimination by the government against anyone isn’t right. It wasn’t right back then. It isn’t right now. As Chief Justice John Roberts is famous for saying, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
The proposition is also shortsighted. While such discrimination could be used for what you might consider a “good” purpose now, that doesn’t mean it will always be used for good in the future.
Proposition 17: Lean No
What it does: As a part of the criminal justice system, those in prisons are sometimes let out on parole for good behavior or as a part of their sentence. Under current law, a criminal has to finish both their prison term and parole before they get their right to vote restored. Prop 17 would allow those who have completed the incarceration portion of their prison terms but are on parole to be able to vote. Proponents argue that giving parolees the right to vote will help them reintegrate into society.
My opinion: I could probably be convinced either way on this depending on which parolee is in front of me. The one who is striving to reintegrate into society and is living in a law-abiding way should have the right to vote. Unfortunately, you can’t tell who that is just by looking at them. According to the National Institute for Justice, “Six out of ten admissions to California prisons are returning parolees, and on any given day, parole violators make up nearly a third of the state’s prison population.” One study done by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service found that “more than 50 percent of inmates paroled after completion of a determinate sentence were convicted of a new crime within 3 years following release.” To be fair, some of these new convictions are minor parole violations and not serious crimes. Nevertheless, as parole is part of the given prison term anyway, I lean towards having a person finish the entirety of their sentence (including parole) before earning back the right to vote. However, once that is completed, they deserve every right to be able to vote again (which is the law already in California).
There are good arguments to be made on both sides of this one, but I lean towards voting no.
Proposition 18: No Preference
What it does: Allows 17-year-olds to vote in primary and special elections if they will be 18 by the time of the general election.
Normally, a general election is held every two years when federal offices are on the ballot. Earlier in those years, there are primary elections held to determine who will be on the ballot in November. On rare occasions, there are also special elections if, for example, a seat becomes vacant due to a death or resignation.
Currently, you need to be 18 to vote, no matter what. So, for example, if you turn 18 in August, after the primary elections in March, you would not be able to vote in the primary election but could vote in the general election in November. This prop would change CA voting law so that you could vote in the primary election if you would be 18 by the time of the general election.
My opinion: On one hand, I’m all for getting youth engaged in politics. On the other hand, young voters tend to be more liberal. But, in the end, this only gives them more influence in the primary elections, not in the general election. I could go either way on this.
Proposition 19: Lean No
What it does: This prop is a bit complicated. Explaining the background and details of this proposition would take too much space. Basically, this proposition does three main things:
- Eligible homeowners (those 55+, severely disabled, or who have been affected by a natural disaster or waste contamination) would be allowed to keep their lower property tax rate up to three times rather than one when purchasing a new home
- Reassesses the property tax rate for inherited properties based on the current market value of the property unless the child or grandchild inheriting it uses it as a place of residence.
- Dedicate some of the revenue raised towards fire protection and emergency response
My opinion: This prop is a grab bag of different items, some good and some bad. I like allowing eligible homeowners to keep a lower property tax rate, especially if they have been affected by a natural disaster. I don’t like the provision trying to tax generational wealth passed from parent to child or grandparent to grandchild; this hurts everyone, especially minorities who are first-generation middle class and want to pass their built-up wealth to their children. In general, I would support more funding for fire protection, but this is a really bad legislative way to go about it. The OC Register called this prop a “cynical special interest money grab” by California realtors.
In my assessment, the bad outweighs the good, so I lean no.
Proposition 20: Lean Yes
What it does: This proposition serves as a referendum on a series of criminal justice reform bills: AB 109 (2011), Proposition 47 (2014), and Proposition 57 (2016). The bill would do four main things:
- Creates two new classifications of crimes: “Serial Theft” and “Organized Retail Theft.” They are intended to give the option of a harsher punishment to repeat offenders, defined as two or more occurrences of theft involving more than $250 worth of property. They would be classified as “wobblers,” meaning they could be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Some other theft crimes involving property worth less than $950 would also be able to be charged as felonies rather than misdemeanors.
- Makes numerous changes to the parole system (too many to spell out here). Most of them consist of making it harder for some criminals to get parole or for additional factors to be considered before granting parole.
- Adds a host of crimes to the list of “violent felony offenses” which are currently considered “non-violent,” including rape of an unconscious person, assault with a deadly weapon, battery on a police officer or firefighter, domestic violence, etc.
- Expands DNA collection for many misdemeanor crimes, including “shoplifting, forging checks, and certain domestic violence crimes.”
My opinion: California can’t seem to make up its mind and find the right balance on criminal justice reform. This proposition is a mixed bag, as many “tough on crime” types of bills usually are.
On one hand, the United States has the largest prison population per capita than any other country in the world. California’s prisons are overcrowded and led the Supreme Court to order California to reduce crowding. This is what led to many of the initiatives in the first place. In general, I think we tend to overcriminalize people and aren’t open enough to alternatives. Some of the DNA collection also seems onerous.
On the other hand, for many of these crimes to not be classified as “violent crimes” seems absurd to me. Some of the other reforms seem reasonable too, especially in trying to capture repeat offenders.
Overall, while there are some heavy-handed measures, in my judgment this prop does more good than harm, but it could easily be argued the other way too. I lean towards voting yes.
Proposition 21: No
What it does: Prop 21 alters the three main provisions of the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act of 1995:
- Changes the range of applicable housing that rent control can apply to. Instead of housing built before Feb 1, 1995, it will change to housing not built in the last 15 years. It exempts individuals who own two or fewer homes.
- Changes how much a landlord can increase rent when a new tenant moves in. Currently, there is no restriction. This would put in place a restriction that rent could not increase by more than 15% over the first 3 years of occupation of the new tenant.
- Puts into law court rulings which state that a landlord must be allowed to make a “fair rate of return.”
My opinion: The larger issue isn’t that landlords are charging too much, but that there’s a huge demand for housing in California and not enough supply. This measure is similar to prop 10 back in 2018. As I said back in that election,
Rent control, while well-intentioned, falls into the same traps as other price controls. Housing is so expensive because there aren’t enough homes. Supply and demand make costs go up. Rent controls will ultimately exacerbate the housing crisis and discourage investors from building new housing. Check out these videos here and here to learn more about why this happens.
Proposition 22: Yes
What it does: Last year, the California Legislature passed AB-5, which put a huge damper on the gig economy (drivers for Lyft and Uber and other industries like musicians who often get short term “gigs”). They were apparently being taken advantage of because the companies that hired them temporarily or as independent contractors with flexible hours did not provide them with health benefits, Social Security, unemployment and disability insurance, organized labor protections, minimum wage guarantees, etc.
Prop 22 is a response to that, largely for those who are drivers or who use other app-based services. It is a compromise bill which allows these companies to keep their employees as independent contractors and in return gives them certain benefits such as “minimum compensation levels, insurance to cover on-the-job injuries, automobile accident insurance, health care subsidies for qualifying drivers, protection against harassment and discrimination, and mandatory contractual rights and appeal processes.” It also requires, “criminal background checks, driver safety training, and other safety provisions to help ensure app-based rideshare and delivery drivers do not pose a threat to customers or the public.”
My opinion: A few years ago, there was a period of a few months where I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to make ends meet. During that time, I got a job as a Lyft driver, which allowed me to earn money with my vehicle within the flexibility of my own schedule. It gave me the income and flexibility I needed to help myself during that time. AB-5 could have taken away that opportunity from me by forcing Lyft to treat me like a regular employee rather than an independent contractor in order to “protect” me from being “exploited.”
In my opinion, AB-5 should be repealed altogether, but Prop 22 is a suitable compromise for app-based services and drivers. Other independent contractors are still out of luck. People should have the freedom to be able to work on their own terms and not fall under the state’s burdensome labor regulations. Vote yes!
Proposition 23: Lean No
What it does: Remember Prop 8 in 2018 which tried to regulate how much profit kidney dialysis clinics made? Well, the same labor union which sponsored that prop (Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West, SEIU-UHW) has sponsored Prop 23, which does the following to dialysis clinics:
- Requires each clinic to have a doctor on-site during business hours
- Requires the clinics to report infection-related information to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH)
- Changes penalties for clinics if they fail to report such information
- Requires that clinics or the companies that manage them notify and obtain permission from the CDPH before closing or reducing services
- Prohibits clinics from discriminating against or refusing to treat patients based on how they are paying for the treatment (for example private insurance vs. Medicare)
My opinion: Some things here are fairly innocuous and wouldn’t necessarily be bad ideas, but the reason I lean towards voting no is that it’s going to significantly increase costs for the companies who run these clinics and ultimately for patients, especially the provision which requires that a doctor always be present during business hours.
I don’t know why voters are being asked again to vote on the minutiae of regulations for kidney dialysis clinics, but so long as we are, vote no.
Proposition 24: Lean No
What it does: Back in 2018, the California legislature passed the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which offered some protections to consumers over how their data is used by companies. Prop 24 would expand some of those provisions to include:
- Changes which businesses must keep these protections (increased from those companies who manage more than 50,000 people’s data to companies that manage more than 100,000 people’s data)
- Changes existing consumer data privacy requirements (such as notifying you of the length of time they will keep your data)
- Provides new consumer privacy rights including being able to limit the sharing of private data, correct personal data if it was incorrect, and limiting the use of “sensitive” personal data
- Changes penalties related to certain violations of these provisions
- Creates the California Privacy Protection Agency (CPPA) to oversee these new laws
My opinion: You have liberals and conservatives on both sides of this one. It is a mixed bag. Some of this sounds good, but a lot of people seem to agree that this proposition (the longest of all this year – 34 pages!) is convoluted and complex. While there may be some good things in here, a new bureaucracy plus complicated language always makes me lean towards no.
You also might want to read the arguments for and against this proposition in the voter guide for more info.
Proposition 25: Lean Yes
What it does: In 2018, the California legislature passed SB 10, which sought to do away with the cash bail system in favor of using a system that uses risk assessment. Proposition 25 will decide whether to keep the new system (a “yes” vote) or go back to the cash bail system (a “no” vote).
Rather than using cash bail, the new system will use a “validated risk assessment tool” to see whether someone poses a risk of either committing a new crime or not appearing in court. Those deemed high-risk will be held in jail until arraignment. Those of a medium risk may require further assessment and may or may not be released. Most of those deemed a low risk (such as for misdemeanors) will be released. This assessment would need to take place less than 36 hours after a person is placed in jail.
My opinion: Christian groups such as Prison Fellowship (founded by Chuck Colson) have long recognized the inadequacies of the cash bail system. The cash bail system disproportionately affects the poor. Depending on the crime, bails can amount from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars or more. If you have the money, you are able to continue to be with your family, work, or do other activities. Or, if you have more nefarious intentions, you can commit a crime again or flee the state—again so long as you have the money. But if you are poor, then you are stuck in jail until your court date unless someone bails you out or you pay a fee to a bail bondsman (sometimes still thousands of dollars depending on the bail amount) to pay it for you. Your ability to remain free until your court date shouldn’t be determined upon your ability to pay a bond, but based on the risk you pose to the community and the potential for appearing in court.
Some worry about how the computer algorithms used to determine risk will unfavorably affect racial minorities. People have also raised concerns about the cost. These are valid concerns. However, these are unknowns which, if they end up becoming problematic, can be fine-tuned later. It doesn’t refute the underlying injustice which surrounds the cash bail system.
The bill may not be perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction. I’ll be voting yes.
County (Los Angeles)
District Attorney: Jackie Lacey
Neither is ideal, but Jackie Lacey is the more moderate of the two. George Gascon is endorsed by the LA Democratic Party, the LA Times, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Civil Rights and Black Lives Matter Leaders.
I use the following websites for my judge recommendations:
Office No. 72: Steve Morgan
Office No. 80: Coin Toss/Leave Blank (both are given an equal rating)
Office No. 162: David D. Diamond
Measure J: No
What it Does: Measure J seeks to “set aside a baseline minimum threshold of at least ten percent (10%) of the County’s locally generated unrestricted revenues in the general fund” for things such as youth development programs, job training for low-income workers, capital for minority-owned businesses (especially Black-owned businesses), rent and housing assistance, community-based restorative justice programs, community-based health services, mental health and wellness, etc. This 10% cannot be used for “any carceral system or law enforcement agencies.”
How it works: Of LA County’s $35 billion budget, about $8.8 billion is derived from local taxes (“locally generated”). Of that money, $4.9 billion is “unrestricted,” meaning it is not already designated for a specific purpose. Measure J seeks to automatically designate a minimum of 10% of that $4.9 billion (estimated between $360 million to $490 million) towards the efforts mentioned above. Those funds could not be used for jails or police (“carceral system or law enforcement agencies”).
My analysis: This is, in essence, in the same vein as “Defund the Police.” Even though it does not mandate that money be taken away from police, by designating that 10% of the unrestricted funds not go to the jail system or police, that will inevitably be the result, unless the County decides to cut 10% out of a different part of the budget. At a time when police are facing extraordinary social and political pressures and when civil unrest seems to be growing, police need more resources, not less.
These things aside, the mechanism of mandating 10% of the budget go to such issues (only to be overridden by a four-fifths vote by the Board of Supervisors) is unsound. It does not give legislators the freedom year-by-year to adjust budgets based on actual needs of that year rather than what are perceived needs now. Imagine if Congress passed an amendment to our Constitution mandating that 40% of our federal budget automatically be allocated for military expenses, no matter what. Even though the military and national defense are worthwhile causes, it would constrict future legislatures from allocating resources to where they are needed that year. The military may need 40% or more of the budget during a large-scale war, but perhaps not during a relatively peaceful time.
Many of the goals of Measure J are well-intentioned and perhaps worthy of consideration in a different context. But going about it in a way that will inevitably come at the expense of the police and handicap future legislative budgetary processes is not the way to go.
- Los Angeles Times: Endorsement: Yes on Measure J. Shift L.A. County spending from punishment to treatment
- Los Angeles Daily News: 2020 Elections: Measure J aims to shift L.A. County law enforcement funds to community investment
- LAist: Measure J: LA County Prop Could Shift $110 Million From Sheriff To Community Investment
- Official Sample Ballot
Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District Governing Board Member
You get to vote for up to 3 candidates for this office. Based on recommendations given to me from friends who know the local politics well, I will be voting for the following people:
- Christopher Staples
- Karen Morrison
- Jesus “Jesse” Urquidi
In other words, vote for everyone except Jose M. Rios.
Member of the State Assembly 57th District:
Jessica Martinez is a repeat Republican contender and will be getting my vote.
United States Representative 38th District:
Linda Sanchez/Flip A Coin/Leave Blank
Thanks to California’s Top 2 primary system, we have 2 Democrats running for this office.
Linda T. Sanchez is the incumbent and will likely win easily.
Michael Tolar is a young guy (28-years-old) but seems to be as equally progressive, if not more, as Sanchez.
Neither is a good option, but if I had to choose, I would probably go with Sanchez.
If you would like other resources or need help with other offices in California I didn’t cover, I would recommend checking out Election Forums:
Also, as a tip, if you can’t find info on local/city candidates, they will sometimes put statements in the official voting guides you get in the mail. That can help give you a sense of who they are or where they stand on the issues.