California Elections Attorney/Official Says Be Patient – May Be Millions of Votes Left to Count

The 2020 General Election was the first all-mail-in-ballot election under California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s then-executive order, now a law. Since then, many voters still are not sure about the process. And after Tuesday’s California Primary Election, many voters have reservations.

The Globe spoke with Audrey Martin, an Elections attorney and Elections official for the Republican National Lawyers Association who works on election integrity, as well as with many county registrars.

Martin says California does mail-in voting well.

I told her that right before the 2020 General election I visited the Sacramento County’s Voter Registraton and Election office to learn what happens after a mail-in ballot is dropped off.

What I witnessed was a sophisticated production process replete with checks and double checks.

Martin agreed. She said she doesn’t necessarily agree with all of California’s voting laws, but most county registrars “are very well run.”

Martin said not all county voter registrars have the same computerized capabilities as Sacramento, so when some counties were sharing early totals on Election night, others still had bags of ballots stacked throughout their offices which had not yet been processed and counted.

“Theoretically there could be a lot of ballots to process – it’s usually a big number,” Martin said. Maybe millions? She said with so many people waiting to drop off their ballot, or mailing it on Tuesday, “it takes much more time by registrars on the back end.”

And this happens “because it is so easy to vote in California,” Martin said. There are many options, which also means people don’t always know the way to vote, particularly those who always voted on Election Day in person. The voting-by-mail for them just isn’t clear. For many, they are worried that their mailed ballot doesn’t get to the registrar, so they show up in person on Election Day to cast their vote. Martin said this takes county registrars so much extra time because they have to check the voter logs against the mailed ballots.

In the  Sacramento County’s Voter Registraton and Election office, ballots collected from the more than 170 official collection boxes around the county are sorted by precinct. Those ballots go next to employees operating the machines that slice open the return envelope, and a poof of air allows the operator to lift the ballot out, while a second operator separates but saves the envelope, which are used later for audits.

The ballots are scanned into the computer system, and voter signatures on the envelope are matched to the voter’s signature in the county elections system. If the operator feels the signatures don’t match, the voter is mailed a new signature page, which they fill out and send back.

Deep inside of the elections offices is a production center which resembles the production process in a printing plant bindery. Operators feed ballot return envelopes in stacks into a large machine which scans them, and separates by batches and precincts. Other operators act as auditors along the way. And there are phone banks of employees taking calls about the process.

There are employees in teams of two who analyze the actual ballot for any votes “X’d” out as a mistake, looking for voter intent. If they cannot make out the voter intent, it is left blank.

All of these operations are monitored by “Big Brother” – cameras in every room, from several angles.

With so many outstanding ballots, and 36 days to count them, expect some of the races to tighten up, or other candidates to pull away with bigger leads.

US House Races in California Could Shape Future of Congress

U.S. House battles took shape in heavily Democratic California that could tip the balance of power in Congress, while former Trump administration Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was in a tight match to claim the Republican nomination for a new House seat in Montana.

In Mississippi, two Republican congressmen were forced into runoffs to keep their seats. Rep. Steven Palazzo had been dogged by ethics questions over his campaign spending, while Rep. Michael Guest faced a challenger who criticized his vote on a proposal to create an outside commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

Primary elections across seven states Tuesday set up November contests in dozens of races, as Democrats look to protect the party’s fragile majority in the House.

In a diverse district anchored in California’s Orange County, Republican U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel, a South Korean immigrant, will face Democrat Jay Chen. The district, which includes the nation’s largest Vietnamese American community, is widely considered a toss-up.

In other districts in the nation’s most populous state, two Republican House members were trying to surmount challenges tied to former President Donald Trump: One voted to support Trump’s impeachment after the U.S. Capitol insurrection, while the other fought against it.

A look at results in key U.S. House races Tuesday:

BATTLEGROUND CALIFORNIA: TRUMP HISTORY LOOMS IN KEY DISTRICTS

In 2020, Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Garcia won a narrow victory in a Democratic-leaning district north of Los Angeles. The former Navy fighter pilot was endorsed by Trump that year, then joined House Republicans who rejected electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania and opposed Trump’s impeachment after the Capitol insurrection. That record will be a focus for Democrat Christy Smith, who earned a chance for a rematch with Garcia, after losing two years ago.

In a Democratic-tilting district in the state’s Central Valley farm belt, Republican Rep. David Valadao is highlighting an independent streak while contending with GOP fallout for his vote to impeach Trump over the Jan. 6 insurrection. Early returns showed him holding an edge over Republican Chris Mathys, who made Valadao’s vote a centerpiece in his campaign to oust him. The winner will face Democrat Rudy Salas, a state legislator.

California uses a top-two election format in which only the two leading vote-getters advance to the November general election, regardless of party.

In the Central Valley, Republican Connie Conway won a special election to complete the term of former Rep. Devin Nunes, who resigned to head Trump’s media company.

TWO MISSISSIPPI CONGRESSMEN FORCED INTO RUNOFFS

A pair of GOP congressmen in Mississippi are headed to June 28 runoffs.

U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo, first elected in 2010, will face Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell after failing to win the GOP nomination outright on Tuesday, earning less than 50% of the vote.

A 2021 report by the Office of Congressional Ethics found “substantial reason to believe” Palazzo, a military veteran who serves on the Appropriations and Homeland Security committees, abused his office by misspending campaign funds, doing favors for his brother and enlisting staff for political and personal errands. His then-spokesperson, Colleen Kennedy, said the probe was based on politically motivated “false allegations.”

In another Mississippi district, U.S. Rep. Michael Guest will face former Navy pilot Michael Cassidy in a district that cuts through parts of central Mississippi.

Cassidy criticized Guest for being in the minority of Republicans who voted to create an outside commission to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol — a group that would have been separate from the congressional committee now conducting the investigation. Cassidy also says on his website that President Joe Biden should be impeached.

FORMER TRUMP CABINET MEMBER SEEKS RETURN TRIP TO WASHINGTON

Montana gained a second congressional district this year thanks to its growing population, and Zinke, an Interior Department secretary under Trump, is one of five Republicans on the primary ballot for the open seat.

Zinke’s rivals have been drawing attention to his troubled tenure at the agency, which was marked by multiple ethics investigations. One investigation determined Zinke lied to an agency ethics official about his continued involvement in a commercial real estate deal in his hometown. He’s faced a smear campaign over his military service from the extreme right wing of his party and questions about his residency following revelations that his wife declared a house in California as her primary residence.

Zinke, a former Navy SEAL and former Montana congressman, was in a tight race Wednesday against former state Sen. Al “Doc” Olszewski, an orthopedic surgeon and hard-line conservative who has tried to paint Zinke as a “liberal insider.” The results of the race were being delayed because of ballot printing errors that forced officials in one county to count votes by hand.

The winner will face Olympic rower and attorney Monica Tranel, a Democrat, in the general election.

IOWA’S SOLE DEMOCRATIC HOUSE MEMBER FACES A TOUGH FIGHT

A Republican state senator has captured the slot to take on Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne this fall in a newly drawn district that appears more favorable for the GOP.

Axne is the only Democrat in Iowa’s House delegation.

State Sen. Zach Nunn easily outdistanced rivals Nicole Hasso, a financial services worker, and Gary Leffler, who works in the construction industry, to claim the GOP spot. Nunn, an Air Force pilot who has served in the Legislature since 2014 and has worked to cut taxes, was the best known among the GOP contenders.

In previous elections, Axne was elevated by her strong support in the Des Moines area, even as she struggled in rural counties that typically lean Republican. The new district includes several counties in southern Iowa known to turn out strongly for Republicans, increasing the pressure on Axne to drive up her numbers in Democrat-friendly Des Moines and its suburbs.

REMATCH COMING IN NEW JERSEY HOUSE BATTLEGROUND

In what could be New Jersey’s most closely watched contest in the fall, Democratic U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski and Republican Tom Kean Jr. won their primaries, setting up a rematch of their closely contested 2020 race.

Malinowski, a State Department official in the Obama administration, is seeking a third term as his party faces headwinds heading into the general election. His district added more Republican-leaning towns during redistricting, making his reelection bid potentially more difficult.

Another complicating factor is an ethics investigation he’s facing over stock transactions in medical and tech companies that had a stake in the pandemic response. A report from the Office of Congressional Ethics said the board found “substantial reason to believe” he failed to properly disclose or report his stock transactions.

Malinowski said his failure to initially disclose the transactions was “a mistake that I own 100%.” He said he didn’t direct or even ask questions about trades made by his brokerage firm.

Kean, a former state Senate minority leader and the son of the former two-term Republican governor, said in a tweet that he was humbled by his victory and looks forward to seizing the seat in November.

Click here to read the full article in the AP News

Column: Rep. Levin’s District Is a Battleground Again, This Time With Strong GOP Headwinds

North County Democrat’s primary election mailer seeks to boost desired GOP opponent for November

Several California congressional districts always come up in discussions about control of the House of Representatives. The 49th District represented by Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, is one of them.

Regardless of whether the district straddling the San Diego-Orange county line ends up being pivotal in November, the election there promises to be a close one.

Seeking his third term, Levin seemingly has an unencumbered path to the fall general election in the slightly Democratic-leaning district, allowing him to marshal his resources and focus strategy on his eventual Republican opponent. Meanwhile, a handful of Republicans are slugging it out to advance out of Tuesday’s primary.

That’s the good news for Levin. The other news is he’ll have to face one of a few robust GOP challengers during an election year in which so many dynamics are trending in the Republican Party’s favor. That’s a change from his first two elections, when the political climate had the wind at his back.

Not only that, the district has been redrawn to adjust to population changes reflected in the once-a-decade census, adding some new voters he hasn’t represented and taking away some he has.

“There certainly is peril that Mike Levin faces in this district,” said Thad Kousser, chair of the UC San Diego political science department.

Having said that, Kousser isn’t so sure the GOP effort to retake the House majority “hinges on this district.” In other words, if Levin loses, that will be indicative of a big Republican win nationwide on Nov. 8, according to Kousser.

Levin isn’t just waiting for the fall campaign. He’s become a presence in the primary — as a player in the battle among GOP candidates.

The most prominent Republicans are three who hold or have held elective office: Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett of Dana Point, former San Juan Capistrano Mayor Brian Maryott — who lost to Levin in 2020 — and Oceanside City Councilmember Christopher Rodriguez.

mailer supporting Levin noted Rodriguez favors the repeal of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion across the country. With the Supreme Court poised to overturn Roe, the issue of protecting abortion rights has become a potentially potent one for Democrats in this election — particularly in purple swing districts like the 49th.

The tactics behind such a mailer are two-fold: It looks like a hit on an anti-abortion candidate to Democrats, while it might encourage conservative voters to back Rodriguez.

“This is the emerging part of the Democratic playbook,” Kousser said. “. . . We’ve seen this in other races where a strong Democrat is trying to pick the weakest Republican candidate.”

Maybe there’s polling that suggests Rodriguez is the better target for Levin in November. But the Oceanside council member is a Latino Marine veteran in a district that includes the Camp Pendleton Marine base and is home to a lot of veterans and Latinos.

Complaints that such maneuvers amount to meddling in the other party’s contest tend to fall flat these days. Back when there were separate Republican and Democratic primaries, making cross-party forays generated more controversy.

But here, Levin is running in the primary against not just the one little-known Democrat, but the Republicans as well. In California’s nonpartisan primary system, the candidates are on the same ballot and the top two vote-getters advance to November, regardless of party affiliation.

Elections such as this have much of the same feel of the old, separate primaries. In other districts that are dominated by Democratic or Republican voters, it’s not unusual for the top two finishers to be members of the same party.

Not only are congressional politics trending Republican, Kousser said there is a “stronger set of Republican challengers across the state this year.”

Click here to read the full article in The San Diego Union Tribune

Compton City Council Election Overturned in Wake of Vote Rigging Scandal

Results of a Compton City Council race decided by one vote have been overturned following an election rigging scandal that prompted criminal charges against the winner last year.

Two-term Councilman Isaac Galvan must be replaced by his challenger, Andre Spicer, after a judge determined that four of the votes cast in the election were submitted by people who did not live in the council district that the two men were vying to represent, according to a 10-page ruling issued Friday by Superior Court Judge Michelle Williams Court.

After a contentious primary, Galvan and Spicer advanced to a runoff in June 2021, which Galvan won, 855 to 854. With the four illegal ballots disqualified, Court ruled that Spicer was the rightful winner of the election by a tally of 854 to 851.

Calls to Galvan and Spicer were not immediately returned Monday. Spicer, a Compton native and entrepreneur, told NBC he was “elated” by the ruling.

It was not immediately clear when Spicer would take office. A spokesman for the Los Angeles County Registrar referred questions to the city. Compton Mayor Emma Sharif did not immediately return a call seeking comment Monday.

The municipal contest drew attention in August, when the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office charged Galvan with election rigging and bribery.

Prosecutors alleged that Galvan conspired with primary opponent Jace Dawson to direct voters from outside the council district to cast ballots for Galvan in the June runoff against Spicer. Galvan was also accused of trying to bribe an elections official with concert tickets, according to the criminal complaint. The official immediately reported the attempt, according to Dean Logan, the county’s top elections official.

Dawson, Kimberly Chaouch, Toni Sanae Morris, Barry Kirk Reed and Reginald Orlando Streeter were charged with two counts each of conspiracy to commit election fraud last summer. When she ruled on Spicer’s election challenge Friday, Court found that Chaouch, Morris, Streeter and a man named Jordan Farr Jefferson all voted in the runoff between Spicer and Galvan despite not living in the Compton City Council’s second district.

Chaouch, Morris, Streeter and Jefferson all listed Dawson’s address in Compton as their home when registering to vote in the race, according to the 10-page ruling.

Six days after the race, Chaouch admitted on a recorded line that she actually lived in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles and that Dawson had her register to vote from his address, court records show.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Bid to block California ballot measure costs taxpayers

Backers of a pending criminal justice initiative say California taxpayers are on the hook for nearly $60,000 in legal fees after a judge rejected former Gov. Jerry Brown’s attempt to bounce it from next year’s ballot.

Brown argued the measure lacked enough valid signatures to roll back a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2016. It allows most prison inmates to seek earlier parole and participate in rehabilitation programs.

A Sacramento County Superior Court judge ruled against the former governor in May. The ballot measure’s backers said Wednesday that an agreement with state officials requires the state to pay their legal costs. …

Click here to read the full article from the Associated Press

California Republican Seeks Recount in O.C.


Janet Nguyen1A California state senator who narrowly lost her re-election bid is requesting a partial recount of ballots in Orange County, the county’s elections chief, Neal Kelley, announced Thursday.

Former Republican Sen. Janet Nguyen requested the recount on Tuesday, a day after Democrat Tom Umberg was sworn in to replace her.

A voter in Senate District 34, on behalf of Nguyen, originally requested a complete recount of votes in Orange County, which comprises the vast majority of the district. Kelley said the request was later scaled back to 12 precincts in Santa Ana.

Nguyen lost the district by about 3,100 votes out of 267,000 cast. She did not respond to a request for comment. California Republican Party spokesman Matt Fleming said the party wasn’t involved in the request. …

Click here to read the full article from KTLA

California’s Rigged Election Process is Coming to America

440px-Election_MG_3455The conventional wisdom of the experts who monitor elections in America is unvarying: Voter fraud is statistically insignificant. These sanguine claims are made despite the fact that internal controls are often so poor, or even nonexistent on election integrity, that it is nearly impossible to know if voter fraud has even occurred. In every critical area – voter identification, voter registration, duplicate voting, absentee ballots, ineligible voting, ballot custody, ballot destruction, counterfeit ballots, voting machine tampering – gaping holes exist that invite systemic fraud. But so what? How relevant is voter fraud, if the entire system is already rigged to favor one party over the other?

Come to California to see what’s going to roll out across America in time to guarantee a progressive landslide in 2020. It may be legal. But it’s so rigged it would make Boss Tweed blush.

When planning for the November 2018 election, California’s Democrats didn’t just aim to pad their supermajority in the state Legislature. They weren’t going to be satisfied with a sweep of every elected state position, including Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Controller, Treasurer, Insurance Commissioner, and Superintendent of Public Instruction. They knew they could do that, but they aimed higher. They were bent on eliminating every Republican Congressman they possibly could, and they did pretty well in that. Going into the 2018 election California’s Republican Congressional Caucus had 14 members. After the election, there were only 7 left.

The way they did this was to pass laws designed to rig the system.

Three laws in particular combined to stack the deck against Republicans. First, the Motor Voter law was passed. This meant that as soon as any California resident acquired or renewed their driver’s license or state ID, they were automatically registered to vote. Second, the state legislature authorized counties to automatically send absentee ballots to voters, even if they had not requested those ballots. Third, the rules governing ballot custody were changed so that anyone could turn in absentee ballots, not just the actual voter.

The opportunities presented by these three laws were fully exploited by Democrats. According to a Republican campaign worker who operated in one of the Orange County congressional districts where an incumbent Republican was narrowly defeated by a Democratic challenger, for a week prior to November 6th, the Democrats had over 1,000 people on the ground, going door to door, collecting ballots. Armed with precise voter information, they only knocked on the doors of registered Democrats, and in thousands of cases, they actually collected the ballots and brought them to a polling center for the voter.

According to Orange County GOP chairman Fred Whitaker, 250,000 ballots were dropped off on election day. The actual amount of harvested votes may have been much higher, since harvesting was occuring for weeks prior to the election. In Orange County, out of 1.1 million ballots cast, 689,756, or 62 percent, were “vote-by-mail” ballots.

This is not your ordinary get-out-the-vote effort. For each congressional district in play, the cost per thousand full-time paid vote harvesters was approximately $125,000 per day. Tens of millions were spent by the Democrats, and it made the difference in several congressional races. This process of vote harvesting swept across California, funded by well-heeled public sector unions (which collect dues in excess of $800 million per year in California), and by leftist billionaires such as California’s own Tom Steyer.

To be fair, Republicans could have taken advantage of these same corrupt laws to harvest votes from registered Republicans. But not only did the Republicans rely primarily on a vastly outnumbered handful of unpaid volunteers, they didn’t even bother to provide their volunteer canvassers with up-to-date data in the phone apps they were using to determine which voting households to approach.

California’s Secretary of State, Alex Padilla, quoted by Politico, reacting to charges that the Democrats stole close races, said, “Our elections in California are structured so that every eligible citizen can easily register, and every registered voter can easily cast their ballot.”

You can say that again. In a scathing commentary on just how rigged California’s election laws have become, former California State GOP Chair Shawn Steel wrote, “California Democrats have systematically undermined California’s already weak voter protection laws to guarantee permanent one-party rule.” In addition to automatic voter registration, automatic sending of absentee mail-in ballots, and legalized vote harvesting, Steele itemized additional ways the Democratic legislature has rigged elections in California.

They have legalized pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-olds, based on the accurate assumption that these youths, products of leftist indoctrination in California’s K-12 public school system, will vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. They have legalized the right for convicted felons and, in some cases, prison inmates to vote, based on the accurate assumption that these cohorts tend to favor Democrats. They have even passed laws in some California cities that permit non-citizens to vote in local elections.

There’s more. California’s legislature passed a law that requires a mailed ballot merely to be postmarked by election day. These ballots then have over a month to get counted. They have also permitted “conditional ballots,” wherein an unregistered voter can decide on election day to vote, and they will be simultaneously registered and handed a ballot. In California, 40 percent of the votes were tabulated after election night. Who were these 41 percent? Why is it they were overwhelmingly supporting Democrats?

The answer to this question casts the entire split between Democratic and Republican voters into a harsh perspective.

What sort of voter needs to be automatically registered instead of taking it upon themselves to sign up?

What sort of voter waits until election day to finally register and vote?

What sort of voter would not vote unless a mail-in ballot was automatically mailed to their home without them even requesting it?

What sort of voter needs someone to come to their home, remind them to vote, then collect their ballot and bring it to a polling place for them?

What sort of voter is your average convicted felon, or prison inmate?

The Democrats passed laws in California that allowed them to harvest hundreds of thousands of votes, if not millions of votes, from people who are the least engaged politically. They have built a system that harvests millions of votes from the most apathetic, most easily manipulated, low-information voters in the electorate. And that strategy, because it worked so well, is on its way to every state in America.

Count on it to happen fast – wherever Democrats control a state legislature, California’s new election rules will become law. In those states, using government union money and foot-soldiers, augmented with limitless funds from globalist left-wing billionaires, the Republican party will be wiped out forever. The massacre will not spare countless battleground congressional districts currently held by Republicans.

Is there voter fraud in America? There probably is, because as noted, the process is so riddled with loopholes and weaknesses that statistically significant fraud could be occurring and we would never know. But why rely on just fraud, when you can also rig the laws to harvest millions of votes?

This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.

How Dems apparently used election law change to rout California Republicans

vote ballotsA minor change in California’s election laws may have had a major effect on last month’s midterm elections that saw Democrats steamroll their Republican rivals and claim all but seven of the Golden State’s 53 House seats.

Despite holding substantial leads on Election Day, many Republican candidates in California saw their advantage shrink, and then disappear, as late-arriving Democratic votes were counted in the weeks following the election. While no hard evidence is available, many observers point to the Democrats use of “ballot harvesting” as a key to their success in the elections.

“Anecdotally there was a lot of evidence that ballot harvesting was going on,” Neal Kelley, the registrar for voters in Southern California’s Orange County, told Fox News.

In Orange County – once seen as a Republican stronghold in the state– every House seat went to a Democrat after an unprecedented “250,000” vote-by-mail drop-offs were counted, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. …

Click here to read the full article from Fox News

Will Top-Two Primary Provide Typical Wacky Results?


VotingWith less than a week to go before voting closes in California’s June primary, political insiders’ attention is riveted on the endless range of possible outcomes that are a function of the three-dimensional political chess game we call the Open Primary.

Big Bang’s Sheldon Cooper, while likely considering all this child’s play, might be amused, if not fascinated, by developments in the closing days of the campaign that include, but are by no means limited to, the following.

In the race for governor, ads for the Democratic frontrunner are aimed at driving Republican voters into the arms of the Republican frontrunner, with the hope of avoiding a Democrat versus Democrat fall face off.  Ads for the Democratic runner up in current polling are aimed at driving Republican voters in the opposite direction, with the hope of achieving a Democrat versus Democrat general election match-up.

In the battle for control of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Democrats assert that a few pick-ups in California are essential to regain a majority.  Toward that end they have unloaded on the order of four million dollars on Republican contenders in three Congressional districts that the Democrats have consistently tagged as toss ups, ignoring the vote history in both.  Having boasted that they could win these historically Republican seats, they will suffer an embarrassing setback if one or more of them wind up with Republicans taking the top two spots for the fall.

To the pols in Washington who have no real understanding of California, the tumult of our top two primary season has undoubtedly confirmed their view that this is a certifiably wacky place.  But, irrespective of how wacky the outcomes will be next Tuesday compared with what a traditional closed primary would have produced, good old Will Rogers must be laughing in his resting place.

More than a year ago, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced with some fanfare that it was deploying a platoon of at least eight staffers from Washington to Irvine to help capture the five southern California House seats where Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump for President. This notwithstanding the fact that no Democrat other than Clinton has ever carried any of those districts.

That high profile effort clearly inflamed the passions of would-be Democratic Members of Congress and produced a bounty of candidates who, it became evident at some point, could wind up splitting the collective Democratic vote into so many pieces that the top two vote getters turn out to be Republicans.

Whether the Democrats’ effort also inflamed the passions of voters in those districts we will know next week. If it did, the Party’s strategy will be proved brilliant. If it didn’t, we come back to Will Rogers and his confession more than 80 years ago that “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

The California Target Book will host a comprehensive Post Primary Analysis and Look Ahead to November the afternoon of Monday, June 11 in Sacramento. For details and to register please visit CaliforniaTargetBook.com.

ublisher of the California Target Book and USC professor.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Seven initiatives to watch that threaten California prosperity


VotedVoters may face as many seven ballot measures damaging to California’s business and political climate in November. Any one of these measures should motivate millions in opposition spending by affected industries. More than a few are likely to qualify for the ballot.

Conventional wisdom teaches that gubernatorial elections deliver older and more conservative voters to the polls, which normally drives liberal and anti-business initiative entrepreneurs to aim their measures for presidential election years, like 2016 or 2020. But this formerly reliable rule has crumbled in the face of a low qualification threshold, interest group imperatives, and impatient wealthy donors. It’s open season on the deep pockets!

Increase taxes

In 2016, California voters extended top income tax rates (already the highest in the nation) through 2030, increased tobacco taxes by $2-a-pack, and imposed new taxes on marijuana use and production. Elsewhere, voters in hundreds of local jurisdictions raised sales, property and excise taxes for a variety of municipal or school services.

For certain unions and special interest groups, this isn’t enough. Two proposed ballot measures would impose multi-billion-dollar tax increases on businesses and upper income earners.

The United Healthcare Workers union has proposed a one-percent income tax surcharge on all income over $1 million, which would raise up to $2.5 billion annually for various health care programs. Wealthy taxpayers would pay a top rate of 14.3%, well above the highest income tax rate of any other state.

A coalition of liberal interest groups is circulating a split roll property tax proposal, requiring that nearly all commercial and industrial properties, except production agriculture, be assessed to full market value, and then reassessed every three years thereafter. Tax bills for business would increase by $10.5 billion a year.

Worsen housing crisis

California’s notorious housing shortage contributes to many social ills, including poverty, long commutes, air pollution, and flight of middle class jobs and job seekers. Tenant advocates, backed by the head of the Los Angeles AIDS Healthcare Foundation, are circulating a proposal that would exacerbate this shortage by repealing long-standing limitations on rent control.  Far from alleviating the housing shortage, this proposal would simply allow local politicians to benefit some existing renters at the expense of future renters and homeowners.

Regulate industries

A measure purporting to improve consumer control over personal internet privacy promises to be among the hardest fought and most expensive ballot battles. A San Francisco investor proposes requiring businesses to provide to consumers upon request a copy of any personal information it has accumulated and allows consumers to opt-out any or all collection of their personal information – even if not personally identifiable. This measure undermines widespread business models in the industry and likely reduce many services now available to internet users.

United Healthcare Workers is also soliciting signatures for a measure to establish price controls for privately-operated kidney dialysis treatment. Intended to create leverage on dialysis clinics to increase unionized staff, passage of the measure would increase overall costs by shifting dialysis treatments from clinics to more expensive venues like emergency rooms or hospitals.

Stall economic development

For more than two decades, excise taxes on California gasoline and diesel remained flat, contributing to the erosion of purchasing power of those tax revenues and creating a backlog of maintenance and operational improvements for roads and highways. In 2017, the Legislature and Governor agreed on a $5 billion annual boost in transportation revenues to repair roads and bridges and add capacity in some of the most congested corridors.

A San Diego politician has proposed repealing the excise tax increases and subject future increases to statewide voter approval, which would freeze in place hundreds of planned transportation improvements throughout California, without a plausible replacement revenue stream.

Disrupt state governance

A Silicon Valley millionaire is again attempting to qualify a measure to break apart California, this time into three separate states, centered on the Bay Area, Greater Los Angeles and San Diego/Orange County, with the rural area divided among the new states. The new states would obviously create new and unpredictable winners and losers – economically, socially and politically. Rather than working to knit the fabric of our state more tightly together, this proposal would tear it apart.

Initiative proponents will begin submitting petitions to counties in May for signature verification. It is not too soon to begin educating affected business and industry leaders about the consequences of these proposals.

resident of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily