Joe Biden
Congress, District 12
Nancy Pelosi
Congress, District 14
Jackie Speier
Scott Wiener
Assembly, District 17
David Chiu
Assembly, District 19
No Endorsement
San Francisco
Supervisor, District 1

Marjan Philhour #1

Veronica Shinzato #2

Supervisor, District 3
Danny Sauter
Supervisor, District 5
Vallie Brown
Supervisor, District 7

Myrna Melgar

Joel Engardio
(honorable mention)

Supervisor, District 9
No Endorsement
Supervisor, District 11
No Endorsement
Board of Education

Michelle Parker

College Board

Jeanette Quick

Victor Olivieri

BART Board, District 7
Lateefah Simon
BART Board, District 9
No Endorsement


Prop 14 — No Endorsesment

Stem Cell Research Institute Bond Initiative

What is it?

This is a $5.5B bond to fund the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), which was created in 2004 by Prop 71, which included a $3B bond. As of October 2019, CIRM had $132MM in funds, and had suspended applications for new projects due to depleted funds. No more than 7.5% of the bond could be used for operational costs, the remaining is to be spent on grants to entities that conduct research, trials, and programs related to stem cells, as well as start-up costs for facilities.

Why is it on the ballot?

Californians for Stem Cell Research, Treatments & Cures, a political action committee, is leading the campaign in support of the ballot initiative. The campaign had received $6.58 million. As a proposed bond, it is constitutionally required to go to a ballot proposition.

Why didn’t we make an endorsement?

We feel that there are strong arguments to be made both for and against this ballot proposition and thus did not feel confident committing to a particular stance.

On the one hand, if California is to raise debt, now is the time to do it. Interest rates on California bonds have never been lower, making it the perfect time to borrow long term and lock in those low interest payments. R&D can pay large societal dividends over the long run, making it the perfect use of borrowed funds. Further, the CIRM in particular has funded some groundbreaking research that has greatly advanced the state of medical science while cementing California’s position as a leader in the field.

On the other hand, California’s budget situation is very dire. The pandemic is tearing a hole in the state’s finances, forcing deep spending cuts across the board. Worse, the widespread work-from-home spurred by the pandemic may erode California’s position as the global tech epicenter, which would depress tax revenues even as the economy recovers from the covid recession; while we do not think this is especially likely, we cannot dismiss the possibility altogether. Given this budget uncertainty in both the short and long term, committing $260 million per year in interest payments for the next 30 years, without any new source of revenue, seems like a luxury we cannot afford. While stem cell research funding from the CIRM will dry up without this proposition, the same is not true for stem cell research as a whole. The NIH spent $2 billion funding stem cell research at the federal level last year, a figure that is growing annually even under a Republican administration. The federal government is not subject to the same financial constraints as California is, and thus they are potentially a more appropriate entity to fund stem cell research than the California state government.

Ultimately, the decision on whether to vote for this proposition depends on just how high a value one places on stem cell research relative to other uses of state money, and how important one considers it that California in particular fund this research and keep the state a leader in the field. We hope that our summary makes it easier to make your own informed decision, but we cannot firmly recommend you vote one way or the other.

Prop 15 — YES

Tax on Commercial and Industrial Properties for Education and Local Government Funding Initiative

What is it?

Prop 15 reforms 1978’s Prop 13 to remove the tax subsidy from commercial and industrial properties worth at least $3 million, while maintaining the subsidy for residential and agricultural properties.

The tax revenue generated by this reform (in the ballpark of $10B per year) will be earmarked for “schools and local communities,” and which will supplement existing school funding rather than replace it (ie whatever school funding exists now will be the baseline, the new tax revenue will be added on top). Other uses of the tax revenue must be “allocated in the same manner as other property tax revenues, consistent with prior ballot measures approved by voters, to improve the quality of life in local communities in all parts of California.”

Why is it on the ballot?

Prop 13 was passed via ballot initiative. Our rules dictate that any changes to a past ballot initiative must also be done via ballot initiative.

Why should you vote yes?

Anything that weakens Prop 13 is good. Prop 13 effectively takes money from schools to subsidize long-term land owners. While we would prefer full repeal of Prop 13, a partial repeal targeted at commercial and industrial property is a necessary political bargian. Homeowners really like getting their property tax bill subsidized by the state, and repealing that subsidy remains tanatalizingly out of reach.

Prop 15 will unlock billions of new dollars in taxes and help fund our underperforming schools. It is the first chip in the armor protecting Prop 13 from full repeal.

While we support Prop 15, one must consider the unintended consequences of increasing property taxes on commercial and industrial properties. Already, cities prefer to add jobs without adding housing because commerical property generates lots of tax revenues without requiring constituent services like schools. In the Bay Area, we have added 8 jobs for every 1 home for the past decade, and Prop 15 could make this ratio even worse.

Increasing the taxes from commercial property while maintaining artificially low taxes on residential properties will further incentivize cities to prefer office construction over housing. On the flipside, the higher taxes may disincentivize developers from building offices, so these competing incentives may ameliorate each other.

Still, the road to full repeal of Prop 13 is long and requires temporary and uncomfortable compromises. It is worth taking this step, despite its possible negative consequences, so that we may one day soon finish the journey to end Prop 13.

This satisfies both #GoodGovernment.Promotion, #Taxation.LiberateSetAsides(kinda), and #Taxation.NewTaxes from our voting framework.

Prop 16 — YES

Repeal Proposition 209 Affirmative Action Amendment

What is it?

This will repeal California’s ban on affirmative action. Passing Prop 16 will allow, but not require, the state and local governments, public universities, and other public entities to develop affirmative action policies. This will permit policies based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, and national origin.

It is a simple repeal that strikes Article I, Section 31 of the California Constitution and does not introduce any new language.

All affirmative action policies must still meet federal requirements, including prohibitions on explicit racial quotas and on blanket awards of extra points in the admissions process based solely on race.

Why is it on the ballot?

This is a constitutional amendment to overturn 1996’s Prop 209 (also a constitutional amendment) which banned affirmative action in the state. All constitutional amendments must go to a vote, and all modifications of prior ballot initiatives must also go to a vote.

Why should you vote yes?

Prop 209, passed by voters in 1996, banned discrimination and preferential treatment in public employment based on a person’s race, gender, or national origin. This had the effect of both protecting people from certain abuses and banning affirmative action.

According to a report by the New York Times,

…[B]y nearly every measure, the ban has harmed Black and Hispanic students, decreasing their number in the University of California system while reducing their odds of finishing college, going to graduate school and earning a high salary.

We believe in anti-racism: a policy framework that does not merely seek to attain equality, but to actively help people negatively affected by institutional racism. We believe that repealing Prop 209, thus legalizing affirmative action, helps achieve these goals.

First, it’s worth highlighting that this repeal would affect hiring in areas such as public employment and government contracts. Minority and women-owned businesses could receive the extra support they need to win contracts outside of the insular networks that politicians and other powerful people have built through the decades. Leveling the playing field in government contracting could increase competition and decrease waste and corruption in the public sector.

However, most of the concern around this ballot measure is focused on affirmative action for public college admissions, particularly within the University of California system, which enrolls 285,000 students annually. The UC Regents support this measure and have adopted policies to ensure that, if the prop passes, their implementation will comply with all federal requirements.

We believe the goals behind affirmative action policies are good, and research indicates the implementation effects are good as well. For example, a paper in the National Bureau of Economic Research found that affirmative action actually increased the SAT scores for minority students. It is, perhaps, the knowledge that the students had a good shot at getting in that pushed those students to perform better on the SAT. Incentives matter.

There is some belief in the Asian-American community that affirmative action will disadvantage their children when it comes to college admissions. While it is true that admissions to any particular university are zero-sum (and thus that admitting more Black and Hispanic applicants will mean fewer white and Asian-American applicants are admitted), the high-performing white and Asian-American students who might lose out on admissions to schools like UC Berkeley are not typically harmed in the long run by this:

[I]n focusing on those who got into the most selective U.C. campus at Berkeley, the study found that white and Asian-American students received little concrete benefit from the policy. Mr. Bleemer’s study suggests they would have otherwise enrolled in an equally selective college elsewhere, and had the same chances to graduate and begin successful careers.


Another recent study of the Texas top 10 percent admissions preference found similar results: The more racially and economically diverse students who benefited by enrolling at selective University of Texas campuses were more likely to graduate and earn higher salaries, while the students who were displaced did not suffer by the same measures.

For high-performing white and Asian American students, getting into any particular selective university does not actually have a large effect for future career trajectory, whereas getting into a selective university has a drastic effect for Black and Hispanic students. David Chiu, himself a Taiwanese-American and a stalwart proponent of Asian-American rights and representation, has endorsed Prop 16. Prop 16 is simply not meant as, nor is likely to become, a blow to the future success of white students or students from Asian-American communities.

Prop 16 satisfies #Values.Equity from our voting framework.

Prop 17 — YES

Voting Rights Restoration for Persons on Parole Amendment

What is it?

This will restore the right to vote for people on parole.

Currently, California allows people on probation to vote, but all people currently in prison or on parole cannot.

Why is it on the ballot?

This is a California Constitutional amendment, which requires a public vote. To get on the ballot, this amendment first needed a 2/3 majority in both the State Assembly and the State Senate, which it achieved.

Why should you vote yes?

All people deserve representation, even if they have committed crimes. Two states (Maine and Vermont) do not strip the right to vote from prisoners, and as of 2020 people on parole can vote in 19 states. California is behind the curve on criminal justice reform and we need to catch up.

Prison sentences are voter suppression. Many people end up in prison for crimes of desperation, and do not deserve to have everything taken from them when they already have so little. It’s one thing to remove someone from society if they are a danger, but it’s another to remove their voice entirely – especially people we’ve deemed fit to reintegrate with society.

This satisfies both #GoodGovernment.Promotion and #Representation.Rights from our voting framework.

Prop 18 — YES

Primary Voting for 17-Year-Olds Amendment

What is it?

It would extend voting rights to 17 year olds to vote in primary elections if they will be 18 and satisfy all other requirements to vote at the time of the general election.

Why is it on the ballot?

This is a California constitutional amendment, which is required to go to a vote. It passed a vote in both chambers of the state legislature to get on the ballot.

Why should you vote yes?

Unlike San Francisco’s Prop G, this is relatively straightforward. There are only a few months between the primary and general election. Youth who come of voting age during this window are at a disadvantage because they may find the options on the ballot narrowed down without being able to express input in the primary. Extending voting rights to the primary allows these voters to get exposure to the issues and candidates, and gain experience with the electoral process so they can submit a more informed vote in the general election.

Eighteen states already allow 17 year olds to vote in primaries if they will be 18 by the general.

This satisfies #Representation.NoLobby from our voting framework.

Prop 19 — YES

Property Tax Transfers, Exemptions, and Revenue for Wildfire Agencies and Counties Amendment

What is it?

First, for background, Prop 13 is the landmark 1978 ballot initiaitive, led by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, that made substantial changes to tax law in California. In short, Prop 13 subsidizes property taxes for long-time landowners. It sets property taxes at 1% of the purchase price of a property and only allows 2% growth per year. In a state where property values have increased something like 5% per year, this subsidy has added up to billions of dollars of tax revenue not collected. And, since property taxes are the primary funding source for schools, it has starved our public education system of desparately needed funding.

Prop 13 also mandated that all new taxes be put to a public vote, but that is unrelated to this reform.

This year’s Prop 19 modifies some provisions of Prop 13 pertaining to inheritance and transfers of tax rates.

Currently, Prop 13 allows:

  • Passing on your tax rate to your heirs
  • Transferring your prop 13 tax rate to a property of equal or lesser value (to incentivize empty-nesters to downsize) just once, and only to a smaller home, and only if you’re 55 or older.

Prop 19 modifies Prop 13 to:

  • Remove the tax rate inheritance of properties that are not the primary residence of the inheritor
  • Allows transfer of tax rates to anywhere in the state
  • Allows transfer of tax rates to more expensive homes
  • Allows transfer of tax rates up to three times
  • Dedicates additional revenue or net savings to wildfire agencies and counties

Why is it on the ballot?

This modifies Prop 13, which was enacted via ballot initiative. All laws from ballot initiatives can only be changed by subsequent ballot initiatives. In addition, this is a constitutional amendment, which must also go to a vote.

Why should you vote yes?

Prop 13 created a permanent landed class by allowing people to pass on their subsidized tax rates to their children. Effectively, this let the children of landowners inherit a property they could rent out at market rates, while continuing to get a substantially below-market tax bill.

Eliminating the tax rate inheritance for investment properties is great! Inheritance is the least deserved wealth imaginable and should not be subsidized with low rates (especially for investment properties where the family does not risk facing eviction).

From a political perspective, reducing the number of people who can inherit Prop 13 tax breaks could gradually erode Prop 13’s political support and pave the way for full repeal in the future.

The original stated intention of Prop 13 was to help aging people afford to stay in their homes by ensuring they weren’t priced out by rising property values. Inheriting artificially low tax rates on properties that aren’t even your primary residence is not part of that intention, and Prop 19 wisely eliminates this provision. However, granting the elderly greater flexibility to move without increasing their tax bills does further that cause. While it might seem like an extra transfer to old rich homeowners, it’s at least one that has some real benefits in accordance with Prop 13’s justification, and it seems a worthwhile tradeoff to make.

Of note, YIMBY Action endorsed Prop 19, which is a strong signal that it is good housing reform.

This satisfies both #GoodGovernment.Promotion and #Values.Movement from our voting framework.

Prop 20 — NO

Criminal Sentencing, Parole, and DNA Collection Initiative

What is it?

This will allow certain crimes to be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies, rather than just misdemeanors (apparently called “wobblers”).

It will add two new crime types to the state code: serial crime and organized retail crime; letting both be charged as wobblers.

It requires people convicted of some past misdemeanors to submit DNA samples to state and federal databases, which is currently only required for some felonies.

It changes parole review guidelines to require considering the “felon’s age, marketable skills, attitude about the crime, mental condition, and circumstances of the crimes committed” before granting parole.

Why is it on the ballot?

This reforms two prior ballot initiatives (2014’s Prop 47 and 2016’s Prop 57). All changes to prior ballot initiatives must also go to a vote.

Why should you vote no?

This seeks harsher penalties for many minor crimes, and to make it harder for people to be released on parole. California already has more prisoners, per capita, than many Western democracies. As of 2017, our prison population was at 137% of capacity. Since 1980 our prison population has increased from 0.1% of all Californians to 0.5%.

We cannot continue down this road of locking up people for minor offenses, of overcrowded and inhumane prisons, of making it harder for people to reenter society.

A just society requires just treatment of its people, including those who have harmed society through crime. This ballot prop will make meaningful prison reforms harder and further the injustices perpetrated by our prison system.

Collecting DNA samples from people convicted of misdemeanors (including drug possession!) seems like a needless invasion of privacy, and misclassifying 51 crimes as violent to exclude them from the parole review program is vindictive and punitive, making it a step in the wrong direction for criminal justice reform.

Prop 20 undermines #Representation.Rights from our voting framework.

Prop 21 — NO

Local Rent Control Initiative

What is it?

This repeals the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, passed in 1995, which banned cities from enacting new rent control laws on housing first occupied after Feb 1, 1995.

Recently, David Chiu passed AB 1482, a statewide “just cause eviction” law that effectively enacts rent control of CPI + 5% (technically, it applies relocation assistance penalties to landlords who raise their rents by more than CPI +5% and cause their tenants to move).

AB1482 applies to:

  • Corporations
  • REITs
  • LLCs with at least one corporate member

And does not apply to individual owners, even if they own several homes.

Prop 21 will allow new rent control on all housing first occupied more than 15 years ago (as a rolling window).

Prop 21 will apply to all homes except those owned by:

  • Natural persons who own 1 or 2 properties
  • Revocable trusts (or other look-through entities) containing people who own 1 or 2 properties

In addition to allowing rent control, Prop 21 also allows vacancy control. Currently, California ties rent control to a particular residency, so that when a tenant moves out the rent on the unit may reset to the market rate. Vacancy control would ban this practice, allowing an increase of just 15% when a tenant moves out.

Why is it on the ballot?

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation collected signatures to put this on the ballot. It could have been done by the legislature.

Why should you vote no?

There are a number of reasons to oppose Prop 21, and several of them have nothing to do with the merits of rent control or vacancy control.

First, because Prop 21 is a ballot initiative, it can only be changed by the legislature with a 2/3 vote of both houses. And even then, those changes must “further the purposes” of the initiative. Any changes which seek to restrict or eliminate the powers that Prop 21 grants to cities must go to a full statewide vote. This means that if a city enacts such onerous laws that they kill all development, the only remedy is a statewide ballot prop campaign.

Second, we shouldn’t throw out all the hard work that David Chiu put into AB1482, which effectively established reasonable state-wide rent control of “CPI + 5%” – that is, Consumer Price Index inflation plus 5%. Assemblymember Chiu worked with tenant advocates, labor unions, and property developers to find a compromise that furthered the goals of housing stability while not disincentivizing construction and investment. Prop 21 will override AB1482’s carefully crafted provisions and let cities enact wildly different rules from their neighbors. This increase in legal complexity will make developing new housing even harder.

Beyond the procedural reasons to vote No on Prop 21, you should also vote No on the merits.

Vacancy control has failed everywhere it has been tried. In Stockholm it led to a waiting list of over 500,000 people that can take 30 years to move through. In Mumbai it led to a thriving black market and bribes to get an apartment, horribly deteriorating rental housing stock, all while pushing new development into ownership units rather than rentals, further limiting the options of those not wealthy enough to own. There is no reason to think the outcome will be any different in California.

Renters deserve stability, and they deserve high quality homes. While Prop 21 may increase stability for existing renters, it will make rental housing both harder to find and lower quality. It may even incentivize bribery by wealthier people in order to convince a landlord to rent to them.

We supported David Chiu’s AB1482 bill, as we would support anything that made the necessary compromises to grow the housing stock. Expanded rent control must be coupled with development incentives, otherwise we are merely treating a symptom while making the disease worse. Fundamentally, rents are high becase we have a shortage of 3.5 million homes, and rents will not go down until we start addressing the reasons for the shortage: overly restrictive development laws and local governments captured by NIMBYs.

Rent control isn’t actually the reason that rents are high, despite what many people think. Rent control is an OK band-aid for a dysfunctional market, but vacancy control will lead to much more dysfunction. Rent control passed in the legislation as part of a compromise package that includes housing production/streamlining would be a positive thing, but not as a standalone ballot prop.

Prop 21 undermines #GoodGovernment.Promotion from our voting framework, because of its high threshold to modify and forcing future decisions to the ballot.

Why should you vote yes?

Though a majority of us are against Prop 21, the vote was not unanimous. Here is the dissenting opinion:

Prop 21 would help renters currently in non-protected residences achieve stability. Yes to Prop 21 means supporting harm-reduction measures until we get to housing abundance. Prop 21 expands the applicability of rent control to more classes of housing by closing loopholes that corporate landlords were able to exploit, but still exempting true “mom-and-pop” landlords. It would be the first major change to Costa-Hawkins, and enact a 15-year rolling exemption to rent control for new properties, rather than setting a start date in stone (currently, all properties built after 1995 are exempt).

Rent control is not necessarily in opposition to fixing the supply-side problems of our housing shortage. What disincentivizes production of new housing is not our rent control laws, but rather that we make new housing illegal through zoning ordinances. The fight to remedy California’s decades-long housing shortfall will take time to achieve victory.

Price controls and scarcity are in fact a disaster, but those fighting for renters rights want some level of regulation with an absence of scarcity. Price controls can be dangerous, but sometimes worth the trade-off if the advantage is positive enough - namely keeping people stabily housed. Rent control is a tool we can use to prevent displacement as we work to bring down prices by increasing supply.

The claim that Prop 21 would kill all development is overstated, it simply allows cities to enact rent control. Prop 21 sets reasonable limits, such as exempting new development. Assuming that all cities immediately implemented local rent control and all Prop 21 eligible rental supply were maxed out, it is unlikely that all development would cease. At some point, demand would drive new development.

Vacancy control is not uniquely dangerous, nor would exacerbate the dysfunction of the current housing market. Arguments against vacancy control are that it diminishes the quality of existing rental stock because landlords aren’t incentivized to maintain and favors a select few tenants who benefit. Currently in vacancy decontrol, we still have these issues. In the present day, landlords raise rental rates to market even without improving the quality of the good or making it competitive with new development. Because there’s so little new development anyways, the supply competition and incentive argument is not as applicable here.

As for the argument that vacancy control leads to the formation of a “black market” of rental stock or bribery from wealthy tenants, these incentives arise because housing is not a self-regulating market. Housing is a market administered by public agencies and elected officials. They have a responsibility not to simply impose regulations and walk away, but instead work to make sure the market functions more optimally. It doubles the resolve that we must demonstrate to build the necessary housing, and keep scarcity to a minimum to prevent black markets from arising.

Prop 22 — NO

App-Based Drivers as Contractors and Labor Policies Initiative

What is it?

This is a special exemption to AB5, which reclassified independent contractors as full-time employees. This change is only applicable to “app-based drivers,” e.g. Uber/Lyft drivers and UberEats/DoorDash/Postmastes food delivery drivers. The provisions are rather complicated, but Ballotpedia has a rather helpful summary. Under AB5, drivers would be treated as full-time employees, and thus be entitled to the same minimum wage and benefits as full-time employees in other industries. Prop 22 would instead keep drivers classified as independent contractors but establish some degree of minimum wage and insurance benefits that are less generous than those for full-time employees. Rather importantly, any amendments to Prop 22’s provisions would require a 7/8th supermajority in both chambers of California’s state legislature.

Why is it on the ballot?

DoorDash, Lyft, and Uber funded a ballot initiative campaign to put it on the ballot. Constitutionally, it could have been passed by the legislature instead.

Why should you vote no?

The flexibility of ride hailing is definitely a boon for many part-time drivers, and that flexibility has long played a key role in the branding of “gig economy” companies. However, despite a starring role in the YesOn22 advertisements, such drivers are not actually the core of the ride-hailing workforce. Instead, 70% of drivers drive for over 30 hours per week, and a majority rely on ride-hailing as their primary source of income, making them full-time employees in all but name. And such drivers constitute the lion’s share of the actual rides delivered by Uber and Lyft. Full-time employees deserve normal worker protections, and full-time employees are the bulk of the ride-hailing industry.

Further, on procedural merits, Prop 22 is entirely indefensible. Labor law, especially in grey areas and new industries, is extremely complicated and difficult, as AB5’s flaws and unintended consequences highlight. Being able to amend laws to deal with unforeseen consequences is of utmost importance. But Prop 22 directly attacks the notion of any flexibility, etching one particular set of regulations into stone. Any gaps or flaws in this bill written by industry lobbyists would be permanent, barring a virtually unobtainable 7/8 supermajority in both chambers of the legislature.

The legislative process has already allowed some cleanups of AB5’s larger mistakes and unintended consequences. AB2257 was signed into law on September 4, 2020, exempting more freelance professions from AB5 such as musicians and journalists. If AB5’s standards for ride hailing prove to be unreasonable in practice, it seems reasonable to expect that a similar cleanup bill could happen for ride hailing. But Prop 22 would foreclose on any ability to amend the law based on circumstances.

We are broadly supportive of the gig economy, which has been a boon for consumer welfare and legitimately created new opportunities for people to find novel forms of employment. But it is a perversion of our democratic process for corporations to write their own regulations, and this proposition would kneecap our ability to have an agile legislature that can respond to the challenges of labor law. We urge you to vote NO on Prop 22. For more, please see this excellent Twitter thread.

Prop 23 — NO

Dialysis Clinic Requirements Initiative

What is it?

This will introduce new rules for dialysis clinics in California. It will mandate that clinics:

  • Maintain at least one licensed physician physically present at the clinic while patients are being treated (unless there’s a bona fide shortage of physicians)
  • Report infection data back to the state health department and the National Healthcare Safety Network
  • Provide a written notice to the state health department to get permission to shut down a clinic

Why is it on the ballot?

The SEIU-UHW (Service Employees International Union - United Healthcare Workers) West union paid to collect signatures to put this on the ballot.

Why should you vote no?

This is only on the ballot because the SEIU-UHW West union could not come to an agreement with the various companies running dialysis clinics in the state. Much like 2018’s Prop 8 (which mandated price caps on dialysis clinis), this ballot prop abuses the electoral process in service of a negotiating tactic.

Regardless of any merits to this ballot prop, voters should reject it on principle. Private organizations should not use our electoral process to further their agenda.

In addition, due to increased costs of requiring a physician on site, this ballot prop will raise prices and lower access to care for patients. Clinics may reduce their hours or more remote ones may close down. And it’s worth noting that the California Medical Association is opposed.

This undermines #GoodGovernment.Promotion from our voting framework.

Prop 24 — NO

Consumer Personal Information Law and Agency Initiative

What is it?

This will change some laws around personal data privacy in California and create the California Privacy Protection Agency. It will:

  • Allow companies to be fined immediately, without any grace period to fix violations
  • Require businesses to:
    • Not share consumer data upon request from the consumer
    • Provide an opt-out for having “sensitive personal information” used in advertising or marketing
    • Obtain permission before collecting information from people under 16
    • Obtain permission from parents/guardians for people under 13
    • Correct inaccurate information upon request
  • Prohibit businesses from retaining personal information for “longer than reasonably necessary”

Why is it on the ballot?

It was placed on the ballot by Alastair Mactaggart, a San Francisco real estate developer. Over $4MM was spent on signature collection.

Why should you vote no?

This should be done via the legislature so that it could be amended as necessary. By passing this via ballot prop instead, we are tying our hands in the case that it is disastrous.

The ACLU of California is against it. They claim that this will weaken consumer privacy because a single blanket opt-out wouldn’t be possible. Instead, they say, people will have to opt out of every business individually.

This is a worse version of CCPA (California’s equivalent of the GDPR). As the global tech epicenter, we should not be taking our cues for how to regulate tech from the famously sclerotic European Union.

This undermines #GoodGovernment.Promotion from our voting framework.

Prop 25 — YES

Replace Cash Bail with Risk Assessments Referendum

What is it?

A Yes vote will uphold 2018’s SB10, passed by the California State Senate, which changed the bail process to use a risk assessment rather than money. If someone was deemed low risk they would be released on bail instead of held in jail until trial or needing to post a large cash bail.

A No vote will repeal SB10 and return California to a cash bail state.

Why is it on the ballot?

When Governor Jerry Brown signed SB10 into law, the American Bail Coalition (a trade association of bail-bond companies) filed a referendum and collected the signatures to put it on the ballot. Nearly $3MM was spent to collect signatures.

Why should you vote yes?

Cash bail is a system that sounds sensible in theory but has been horrific in practice. While many people can post a nominal amount of money as collateral to ensure that they show up to trial, this creates a severe financial burden on the poorest in our society, who cannot instantly come up with hundreds or thousands of dollars to meet bail. This creates a two-tiered criminal justice system, where the rich can post bail while the poor languish in jail for months before trial and can lose their jobs because of crimes that they are eventually acquitted of. Around 50,000 people are held in California jails without being convicted of a crime, a gross violation of the principle of “innocent until proven guilty.”

Automated risk assessments, like those authorized by SB10, can provide a better approach. If done properly, they can ensure that only defendants who are actually likely to flee are held pre-trial, while the bulk of defendants, even those without the financial means to post cash bail, are allowed to experience our justice system as it was intended: innocent until proven guilty. In fact, perfectly accurate risk assessments could provide the ultimate free lunch: not only would fewer innocent defendants who pose no flight risk be allowed to walk free pre-trial, but more defendants who would post cash bail and then flee to avoid trial would be detained and ultimately stand trial. Existing examples offer some reason for optimism. Kentucky, New Jersey, and Orange County have all begun using risk assessments to replace cash bail, which has generally led to fewer people being held in jail pre-trial without drastically increasing the rates at which people skip trial (indeed, Orange County saw fewer defendants skip trial, as high-risk but wealthy defendants could no longer buy their way out of the system).

All that said, our endorsement does come with some reservations. Algorithmic systems are not automatically free from bias if they are trained on biased data. Applied poorly, automated risk assessments can end up further perpetuating societal biases, all while granting a false sheen of objectivity. For example, many jurisdictions have begun basing their pre-trial detention decisions on risk assessment scores from a closed-source system called “COMPAS.” An investigation by ProPublica found that risk scores produced by that system were deeply biased, systematically underestimating the future arrest likelihood of white defendants while overestimating it for Black defendants. Though the developers of the system undoubtedly had good intentions, algorithmic bias can be very difficult to avoid or correct, and it is essential that any system used by California be open sourced to allow the public to ensure that it is free of bias. SB10 does not prescribe any particular risk assessment system, and the positive experiences of Kentucky, New Jersey, and Orange County (none of which saw racial disparities worsen as a result of their risk assessment scores) make us cautiously optimistic that risk assessments can be done in a way that does not further racial disparities. But if Prop 25 passes, we will be closely watching to ensure that the systems chosen are transparent and demonstrably unbiased.

This proposition satisfies #Representation.Rights from our framework. For more information, please see the YesOn25 campaign page or this Vox article on SB10 from when it was initially passed.