California Voters Rebuked Their Governor, Legislators at the Ballot Box
If my social-media and news feeds were an accurate indication, many Californians had focused inordinate attention on the granular election tallies in such far-off places such as Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, and Clark County, Nevada, as the nation awaited the final verdict in a cliff-hanger presidential election.
But there’s a closer-to-home result that we could immediately understand without relying on election experts. Voters decisively rejected California Gov. Gavin Newsom, the state’s politically dominant unions, and the legislature. Although Californians are overwhelmingly Democratic and chose Joe Biden over Donald Trump by 4 million votes, their choices on statewide initiatives were remarkably conservative.
As Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R–Rocklin) pointed out, voters shredded the Legislature’s priorities in the four statewide measures that dealt directly with its actions. In each case, voters unambiguously rejected the prerogatives of the state’s Democratic leadership on issues involving labor law, affirmative action, the justice system, and voting rights. It’s the latest example of how far out of step the legislature is from California’s voters.
The obvious good news: Voters approved Proposition 22 by a whopping 2-million vote margin. Placed on the ballot by Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash, the ballot measure allows drivers for ridesharing and delivery services to keep working as independent contractors. Its passage signified the final and long-needed gutting of A.B. 5, which codified a California Supreme Court decision making it nearly impossible for companies to hire contractors.
Go figure, but instead of forcing companies to bring these workers on board as permanent employees, it led to widespread layoffs, the shuttering of theater groups and musical gigs, and the collapse of freelance opportunities just when Californians needed them the most—in the midst of pandemic-related stay-at-home orders. To blunt its effects, the legislature previously carved out exemptions for 100 industries. Voters finished the task by exempting drivers.
The rebukes keep coming. The legislature had placed Proposition 16 on the ballot, which attempted to deal with the nation’s ongoing racial strife by re-imposing race-based hiring and university admissions at public institutions. It would have overturned a 1996 initiative (Proposition 209) that banned race-based decisions. Voters were unambiguous, rejecting this measure by a 56 percent to 44 percent margin.
Voters also derailed the legislature’s attempt to allow 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections if they turned 18 by the time of the general election (Proposition 18). Eighteen has long been the
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