As I sit down to write this column, I have not yet voted.
My ballot is on the kitchen counter, right next to the 181,000-word California voter guide. I have The Sacramento Bee’s voter guide in print in my office. I have links to that same guide at sacbee.com and to all The Bee endorsements.
But I have yet to sit down and fill in the ovals. This fall’s California election is a daunting one, a voting process for which we all need a chunk of time: 17 ballot initiatives statewide, 56 races with 154 candidates listed by Sacramento County on its elections website. And local measures, too.
That doesn’t include the race that has captivated and turned off voters across the country this year, the Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump slugfest that will determine who next will serve as president of this country.
Plenty of voters are unhappy with the two main choices for president. Too many people say they plan to skip this election because of it. Don’t do it. Commit to the health of this country the way you do to your own health and – apologies to Nike – Just Do It. Vote on Election Day, unless you have a mail-in ballot and can vote now.
In California in particular, the presidential race is only one oval of many to be filled out on the ballot. You have serious and consequential decisions to make.
You and other Californians will decide whether, after this election, it will be legal to light up and toke. Polling shows that likely voters back Proposition 64, which allows recreational use of marijuana, 57 percent to 40 percent. Given strong interest in legalization, The Bee’s Peter Hecht has reported on the potency of today’s pot and industry strategy to appeal to new users. He’s written about startup businesses and long-time users. You can find Hecht’s coverage at sacbee.com.
We’ll know after Tuesday whether we stop executing those convicted of heinous crimes in California or whether, instead, we speed up their death. Prop. 62 repeals the death penalty. Prop. 66 would do the opposite – speed up the process. These are significant initiatives that reflect our societal values, and the outcome is uncertain. Recent polling showed Prop. 62 ahead 51-45 percent with 4 percent of likely voters undecided. Prop. 66 still had 10 percent undecided, 48 percent in favor and 42 percent opposed.
Prop. 58 ought to speak to many Sacramentans and Californians given this state’s diversity and immigrant populations. The initiative would remove the restrictions of the 1998 Prop. 227, which mandated that students learning English be taught only in English and not in bilingual programs. Prop. 58 supporters say the initiative will give schools flexibility to use bilingual programs for native English speakers who want fluency in a foreign language, as well as for children learning English.
Polling shows voters breaking in favor of Prop. 58, 68 percent to 27 percent.
Taxes, use of plastic bags, bonds to build schools, prison reform – they all are on the ballot and they all are weighty issues for you to consider and weigh in on. For some reason, so is an initiative to require use of condoms for adult film performers. It’s a niche issue that ought to be decided by elected and public health officials. But it’s on the ballot and you get to cast your vote.
Given the size of this ballot, it takes some work to be informed. You can read your book-sized California Voter Information Guide (always a good idea) but The Bee also has put together a number of resources to make it easier:
▪ A more efficient voter guide for Sacramento, Placer, Yolo and El Dorado county voters that gives you information for most races on your individual ballot.
▪ Comprehensive coverage of ballot initiatives including this sacbee.com guide: “What you need to know about California’s 17 ballot initiatives.”
▪ Endorsements in all key races by our editorial board. They are printed each day on the editorial page or you can find them at sacbee.com.
▪ PoliGRAPH by The Bee’s political reporters provides fact checks of political advertising.
We all bring our values to the voting booth. What The Bee offers is the information needed before you use your beliefs to make a decision. Our endorsements, for instance, recommend a specific vote but also explain why – and you might disagree. The editorial board makes them after considerable research and interviews. Our reporting shows when big money tries to influence your vote or when politicians are spinning the truth. More simply, it explains candidate positions on issues that matter.
Once votes are in, we’ll have the results immediately at sacbee.com. Turn on your sacbee app’s notifications or sign up for our Breaking News alerts and Capitol Alert at sacbee.com/newsletters. Or like us on Facebook. Given initiatives on marijuana and schools and bilingual education, this election could change your life. Our job is to tell you how.