Bay Area Non-Partisan Voter Guide To The 2020 General Election

As the 2020 General Election rapidly approaches, voters around Southern California are beginning to research the issues and candidates as they prepare to cast their ballot. But before you fill in your ballot, there are a few things you need to know about voting this year.

Thanks to COVID-19, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order earlier this year that will see the state sending a vote-by-mail ballot to every registered voter by Oct. 5th. People can either return those ballots by mail, or return them to any vote center in L.A. County before closing time on November 3rd.

If you vote by mail, your ballot must be postmarked on or before November 3rd and received by the county election's office no later than November 20th, 2020.

You can sign up to track the status of your ballot here.

Important Dates to remember:

The deadline to register online or by mail is Oct. 19. (Voters in the Bay Area will be allowed to register in person on election day)

  • Election Day is Tuesday, November 3rd.
  • Select Voting Centers across the Bay Area are now accepting ballots until November 3rd.
  • Vote-by-mail ballot must be postmarked no later than Nov. 3, 2020.

Other Important items Amid COVID-19

  • Every registered voter will receive a vote-by-mail ballot for November's election.
  • Every registered voter can sign up to receive vote-by-mail ballot tracking by text (SMS), email, or voice call.
  • Extra sanitation methods and social distancing measures will be in place at all voting locations.
  • All California active registered voters will receive a vote-by-mail ballot for the November 3, 2020 election. Your county elections office will begin mailing ballots by October 5, 2020.
  • Voters who can vote-by-mail will help ensure safe physical distancing at voting locations.
  • Ballots returned by mail must be postmarked by November 3, 2020.Ballots returned at a secure ballot drop box or a voting location must be deposited by 8:00 p.m. on November 3, 2020.
  • In-person voting locations will offer same-day voter registration, replacement ballots, accessible voting machines, and language assistance to those who need it.

Quick Links:

Major Races, Campaigns and Ballot Propositions

Running for President of the United States

President Donald J. Trump vs. Former Vice-President Joe Biden

Learn more about the candidates and their stances on the issues here:

President Donald J. Trump

Former Vice President Joe Biden

California Statewide Elections

California doesn't have any Senators up for election this year, but all House representative will be on the ballot.

You can find out who represents you in Congress here.

California Statewide Ballot Measures

PROPOSITION 14 - The California Stem Cell Research, Treatment, and Cures Initiative of 2020

Summary: Authorizes $5.5 billion in state general obligation bonds to fund grants from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine to educational, non-profit, and private entities for: (1) stem cell and other medical research, therapy development, and therapy delivery; (2) medical training; and (3) construction of research facilities. Dedicates $1.5 billion to fund research and therapy for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, epilepsy, and other brain and central nervous system diseases and conditions. Limits bond issuance to $540 million annually. Appropriates money from General Fund to repay bond debt, but postpones repayment for first five years.

Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local governments: State costs of $7.8 billion to pay off principal ($5.5 billion) and interest ($2.3 billion) on the bonds. Associated average annual debt payments of about $310 million for 25 years. The costs could be higher or lower than these estimates depending on factors such as the interest rate and the period of time over which the bonds are repaid. The state General Fund would pay most of the costs, with a relatively small amount of interest repaid by bond proceeds.

What it means: In 2004, voters passed Proposition 71, which created the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) and establish a state constitutional right to conduct stem cell research. What Prop. 14 does is continue the funding for CIRM by authorizing another $5.5 billion in general obligation bonds for research into various treatment and therapies. Some of the money ($1.5 billion) will be spent on research into nervous system diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and dementia. Another 1.5% of the funds would be spent on sites dedicated to conducting human clinical trials, treatments and cures, while about 0.5% would be spent on the 'Shared Labs Program,' which are dedicated research facilities conducting research on human embryonic stem cells.

PROPOSITION 15 - The California School and Local Communities Funding Act of 2020

Summary: Increases funding for K-12 public schools, community colleges, and local governments by requiring that commercial and industrial real property be taxed based on current market value. Exempts from this change: residential properties; agricultural properties; and owners of commercial and industrial properties with combined value of $3 million or less. Increased education funding will supplement existing school funding guarantees. Exempts small businesses from personal property tax; for other businesses, exempts $500,000 worth of personal property.

Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local governments: Net increase in annual property tax revenues of $7.5 billion to $12 billion in most years, depending on the strength of real estate markets. After backfilling state income tax losses related to the measure and paying for county administrative costs, the remaining $6.5 billion to $11.5 billion would be allocated to schools (40 percent) and other local governments (60 percent).

What it means: Proposition 15 is being pitched as a way to increase funding for schools and local community project by changing the way certain commercial and industrial properties are taxed. Currently, commercial and industrial properties are taxed based on the purchase price. Prop. 15 would change that to a tax on current market value beginning in 2022.

If Prop. 15 is approved, the "split roll" property tax would be created, with commercial and industrial properties taxed differently than residential properties. Exemptions to the new law would are included for commercial agricultural operations and for properties whose business owners have $3 million or less in holdings in California. Those properties will continue to be taxed based on their purchase price.

The legislature is also charged with passing laws to phase-in the new market value-based tax and how often tax reassessments would occur (no less than three years between reassessments).

PROPOSITION 16 - Repeal Proposition 209 Affirmative Action Amendment

Summary: Permits government decision-making policies to consider race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin to address diversity by repealing article I, section 31, of the California Constitution, which was added by Proposition 209 in 1996.

Proposition 209 generally prohibits state and local governments from discriminating against, or granting preferential treatment to, individuals or groups on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, education, or contracting.

Does not alter other state and federal laws guaranteeing equal protection and prohibiting unlawful discrimination.

Fiscal impact: No direct fiscal effect on state and local entities because the measure does not require any change to current policies or programs.

Possible fiscal effects would depend on future choices by state and local entities to implement policies or programs that consider race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in public education, public employment, and public contracting. These fiscal effects are high uncertain.

What it means: In 1996, voters passed Proposition 209 which essentially ended affirmative action involving race-based or sex-based preferences in California. If Prop. 16 passes, the state constitution would be changed to once again allow state, local and other public departments to (within the bounds of federal law) use affirmative action programs for hiring that grant preferences based on race, sex, color, ethnicity and national origin in public employment, public education, and public contracting.

PROPOSITION 17 - Voting Rights Restoration for Persons on Parole Amendment

Summary: Amends state constitution to restore voting rights to persons who have been disqualified from voting while serving a prison term as soon as they complete their prison term.

What it means: Current California law requires that anyone who has been convicted of a felony must complete their prison and parole sentences before can regain their right to vote. However, if Prop. 17 passes, that would be limited to only those serving in prison and those on parole would regain the ability to vote.

PROPOSITION 18 - Primary Voting for 17-Year-Olds Amendment

Summary: If passed, Proposition 18 would allow 17-year-olds who will be 18 at the time of the next general election to vote in primary elections and special elections.

What it means: If you're a 17-year-old who has a birthday in August, you aren't allowed to vote in California's primary, even though you'll be eligible to vote by the November election. Prop. 18 would change that and grant those 17-year-olds the right to vote in California's primary elections (currently held in March).

PROPOSITION 19 - Property Tax Transfers, Exemptions, and Revenue for Wildfire Agencies and Counties Amendment

Summary: If passed, the bill would allow homeowners who are 55, severely disabled, or whose homes were destroyed by wildfire or disaster, to transfer their primary residence’s property tax base value to a replacement residence of any value, anywhere in the state. The bill would also limit tax benefits for certain transfers of real property between family members and expands tax benefits for transfers of family farms.

Fiscal impact: Any state revenues or savings would be allocated to fire protection services and reimbursing local governments for taxation-related charges.

What it means: As wildfire season continues to lengthen and ravage California, some homeowners have found themselves on the receiving an unexpectedly large tax bill, something that Prop 19 hopes to fix. If passed, this bill would allow eligible homeowners to transfer their previous tax assessments of their properties to a different home of the same or lesser market value. That would help people who have lost their homes to wildfires or other types of natural disasters.

For example, if a homeowner who owned a cheaper home that was destroyed by wildfire, they would be allowed to transfer that tax assessment to anywhere else in California - even if that new residence's tax assessment was higher than their previous home.

Eligible homeowners would include those who've lost their residences to a wildfire or disaster, and for those persons over 55 years old or persons with severe disabilities.

PROPOSITION 20 - Criminal Sentencing, Parole, and DNA Collection Initiative

Summary: If passed, this would limit access to parole programs that have been established for non-violent offenders who have completed the full term of their primary offense by eliminating eligibility for certain offenses. It would also change the standards and requirements governing parole decisions under this program. The bill also authorizes felony charges for specified theft crimes currently chargeable only as misdemeanors, including some theft crimes where the value is between $250 and $950.

Finally, this would also require any persons convicted of specified misdemeanors to submit to collection of DNA samples for state database.

What it means: Between 2011 and 2016, several criminal sentencing and supervision laws were passed as legislatures worked to get tough on crime while at the same time, alleviating California's severely overcrowded penal system. Prop. 20 is an effort to amend several of those laws, changing the sentencing guidelines on specific types of theft and fraud crimes.

For example, Prop. 20 would change things like firearm theft, vehicle theft, and the unlawful use of a credit card to be chargeable as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the offense. Prop. 20 would also establish two new types of crime in the state code - serial crime and organized retail crime.

Those convicted of certain misdemeanors would also be required to submit to the collection of DNA samples for state and federal databases.

Prop. 20 also changes how the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's parole review program would look at felon's records while deciding if they should be released or not. Those additional factors include: the felon's age, marketable skills, attitude about the crime, and mental condition, as well as the circumstances of the crimes committed.

The ballot initiative would also define 51 crimes and sentence enhancements as violent to exclude them from the parole review program.

PROPOSITION 21 - Local Rent Control Initiative

Summary: If passed, this would amend state law to allow local governments to establish rent control on any residential properties that are over 15 years old and allow localities to pass limits on annual rent increases that are different than the current statewide limit. It would also allow for rent increases in rent-controlled properties of up to 15 percent over three years at start of new tenancy (above any increase allowed by local ordinance).

Any individuals who own no more than two homes would be exempt from the new rent-control policies.

In accordance with California law, prohibits rent control from violating landlords’ right to fair financial return.

What it means: As the housing crunch in California sends housing prices sky high, one ballot proposition would try to give local governments more control on how rapidly rents can rise in any given neighborhood. In 1995, the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act limited what local governments could do with rent control. Prop. 21 would change that to allow local governments to adopt rent control on housing units and require those governments to adopt rent control that allows landlords to increase rental rates by 15 percent during the first three years following a vacancy.

Other exemptions include:

  • Housing first occupied within the last 15 years
  • united owned by people who own no more than two housing units with separate titles (single-family homes, condos, duplexes, or subdivided interests).

PROPOSITION 22 - App-Based Drivers as Contractors and Labor Policies Initiative

Summary: This would reclassify those drivers who use app-based transportation (rideshare) and delivery companies as “independent contractors,” and not “employees,” unless company the company sets drivers’ hours, requires acceptance of specific ride and delivery requests, or restricts working for other companies.

The proposition would also allow the independent-contractor drivers to be entitled to other compensation - including minimum earnings, healthcare subsidies, and vehicle insurance.

Finally, if passed, Prop. 22 would criminalize the impersonation of drivers.

What it means: Prop. 22 is the result of a long, drawn-out battle between rideshare/gig companies and the California legislature. In 2019, the legislature passed AB 5, which sought to establish firmer rules when it came to independent contractors. AB 5 established that in order to be classified as an independent contractor, the worker:

  • Must be free from the hiring company's control and direction in the performance of the work
  • Is doing work that is normally outside the company's usual course of business
  • Is engaged in an established trade, occupation or business of the same nature of the work performed.

That three-pronged test ensured that people working for 'gig' apps like Lyft, Uber, and Doordash would become eligible for benefits normally afforded to a full-time employee under state labor laws (such as health benefits, overtime and sick leave). In August, the Superior Court of San Francisco ruled that both Uber and Lyft have been violated AB 5 by misclassifying their workers, which led to Prop. 22 on your ballot this year.

If passed, Prop. 22 would challenge AB 5 and reclassify app-based drivers as independent contractors. The ballot proposition would also enact new labor and wage practices that would be specific to app-based drivers and companies. Those changes include:

  • Drivers would be eligible for payments in the difference between a worker's net earnings (excluding tips) and a net earnings floor that would be based on 120% of the minimum wage while the driver was engaged in a ride. Drivers would also receive 30 cents per mile while working for the app-based program (that amount will be adjusted with inflation after 2021).
  • Drivers would no longer be allowed to work more than 12 hours during a 24-hour period unless that driver has been logged off for at least 6 hours.
  • Drivers who average 25 hours per week every quarter will be eligible for subsidies that are equal to 82% of the average California Covered premium every month. (Drivers who average between 15 and 25 hours per week will be eligible for 41% of the average premium).
  • Companies will make occupational accident insurance to cover medical expenses and lost income (at least $1 million) resulting from any injuries suffered while working for the company.
  • Eligibility for disability payments
  • Accidental death insurance for the driver's spouse, children or other dependents if they die while using the app.
  • The proposition also defines the driver's engaged time as the time between accepting a service request and completing the request

PROPOSITION 23 - Dialysis Clinic Requirements Initiative

Summary: If passed, Proposition 23 would require at least one licensed physician on site during treatment at outpatient kidney dialysis clinics. It also authorizes the California Department of Public Health to exempt clinics from this requirement if there is a shortage of qualified licensed physicians and the clinic has at least one nurse practitioner or physician assistant on site.

Requires clinics to report dialysis-related infection data to state and federal governments.

Prohibits clinics from closing or reducing services without state approval.

Prohibits clinics from refusing to treat patients based on the source of payment for care.

What it means: If passed, Prop. 23 would require dialysis clinics to have at least one licensed physician present at the clinic while patients are being treated. It would also require the clinics to report the number of infections related to the dialysis to the state health department and the National Healthcare Safety Network.

PROPOSITION 24 - Consumer Personal Information Law and Agency Initiative

Summary: Permits consumers to: (1) prevent businesses from sharing personal information; (2) correct inaccurate personal information; and (3) limit businesses’ use of “sensitive personal information”—including precise geolocation; race; ethnicity; religion; genetic data; private communications; sexual orientation; and specified health information.

Establishes California Privacy Protection Agency to additionally enforce and implement consumer privacy laws and impose fines.

Changes criteria for which businesses must comply with laws.

Prohibits businesses’ retention of personal information for longer than reasonably necessary.

Triples maximum penalties for violations concerning consumers under age 16.

Authorizes civil penalties for theft of consumer login information, as specified.

What it means: In 2018, the California Consumer Privacy Act was approved as part of a rising concern on voters' part to the increased invasion of people's personal lives online. If Proposition 24 is passed, businesses would be required to:

  • Not share a consumer's personal information upon their request
  • Provide people with an 'opt-out' option that would allow their private information used or disclosed for advertising or marketing purposes
  • Obtain permission before collecting data from anyone under the age of 16
  • Obtain permission from a parent or guardian before collecting data from anyone younger than 13
  • Correct any inaccuracies in a person's personal information upon their request.

PROPOSITION 25 - Replace Cash Bail with Risk Assessments Referendum

Summary: A “Yes” vote approves, and a “No” vote rejects, a 2018 law that:

Replaced the money bail system (for obtaining release from jail before trial) with a system based on a determination of public safety and flight risk.

Limits detention of a person in jail before trial for most misdemeanors.

Fiscal impact statement:

Increased state and local costs possibly in the mid hundreds of millions of dollars annually for a new process for releasing people from jail prior to trial. Unclear whether some of the increased state costs would be offset by local funds currently spent on this type of workload.

Decreased county jail costs possibly in the high tens of millions of dollars annually.

Unknown net impact on state and local tax revenues generally related to people spending money on goods rather than paying for release from jail prior to trial.

Photo Source: Getty Images

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