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Making Your Vote Count, CA edition UPDATED

twig's picture

UPDATE: If you'd like to know more about the non-legacy party candidates for California governor, they'll be debating tomorrow (28 Oct). Brown and Whitman have been invited, too, but, according to the press release, neither one has responded yet.

The debate is sponsored by the Free and Equal Elections Foundation. It's scheduled for 1 to 2:30 pm. Pacific Time, and will be streamed live and archived at the Free and Equal website (link above).

Participants include Peace and Freedom Party candidate Carlos Alvarez, American Independent Party candidate Chelene Nightingale, Libertarian Party candidate Dale Ogden and Green Party candidate Laura Wells.
End of update

Bottom line first: If you're a California voter and want to let the Dems know you're not happy with them, vote Green or for another non-legacy candidate. Not because I said so*, but because it seems to be the best way to make your vote count. Undervoting (see below) might be tempting, but it just doesn't have as much impact. This isn't my opinion; it's based on a conversation with a state election official.

Here are the details:

A few weeks ago, during a NOTA discussion, I offered to find out how effective undervotes (not voting for any candidate for a specific office) are in California, where NOTA is not an option and write-ins are only allowed if there's a "qualified write-in candidate."

Let's say, for example, that you are unhappy with Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer. You want to vote, but not for the R candidate (gak!) and there's no write-in available. What to do? You could undervote by filling out the rest of the ballot and leaving the Senate race blank.

The question is, will your undervote be counted? Yes -- and no. Here's the problem, according to the official. Undervotes are counted. The system automatically tabulates votes for each candidate, as well as the number of votes that were not cast in each race.

But there are two problems with undervoting. First, there is no way to separate your purposeful undervote from those people who accidentally overlooked this race or didn't know who to vote for and opted to choose no one, or who didn't think Fiorina was borderline insane enough, etc. In other words, the message to Boxer (or Fiorina) is mixed in with and diluted by all those people who were not sending a message.

Second, no one from any party has every requested undervote information, according to this official, who has been involved in elections for more than ten years. So yes, the data is available, but no one requests it, most likely because of problem number one -- there's no way to tell if an undervote is an error, an oversight or a statement to a candidate, and if so, which one?

Unfortunately, the person I spoke with didn't know if this was true for other states. He did, however, completely understand the issue. "I get calls all the time from angry voters who want to know what they can do," he said. "I tell them what the options are and that if they're unhappy, they should write to the elected officials and the local and state party officials to tell them why they're voting the way they are."

So, fwiw, that's the CA undervote situation.

* Not trying to influence anyone's vote. It's for information purposes. If you have different information, please leave it in the comments.

No votes yet


Roman Berry's picture
Submitted by Roman Berry on opinion here should probably be ignored, but when it comes to the Boxer race for the senate and Brown's run for governor, if I were a Californian I would have to vote for both. I don't believe that the Boxer vs. Fiorina and Brown vs. Whitman races are cases where the Dems are only "2 percent less evil." In both cases, while neither Brown or Boxer is anything approaching perfect, I think they objectively weigh out on the side of good...with some evil along for the ride. But what do I know? I'm not a Californian.

quixote's picture
Submitted by quixote on

because otherwise you're subscribing to a doctrine of collective guilt.

That said, to avoid the taint of collective guilt, the individual involved would have to be a shining beacon of conscience who was willing to go against the party whenever necessary and who just happened to have a D after her or his name. (Some youthful indiscretion, perhaps?)

I'm not saying anybody like that exists. It's just the principle of the thing....

Submitted by lambert on

I don't see how holding institutions accountable as institutions is equal to collective guilt, which applied to (perceived) races or nations.

Transposing the argument to finance: Is arguing that the big banks should be broken up into smaller institutions really the same as, say, "The ____s stabbed ____ in the back"? I don't think so.

Submitted by lambert on

... that's more important to build new institutions than to support individual candidates, because no matter how good the individual, they won't be able to function in the institutions we have. How is that "collective guilt"?

quixote's picture
Submitted by quixote on

I thought you meant that no matter how good a (theoretical) individual candidate might be, never vote for them if they belong to Ds or Rs. That doesn't seem right to me.

If you were saying, don't expend any energy on individuals, save it for real change, which as you say has to be institutional, then I agree 100%.

Submitted by lambert on

.... but I want to make the burden of proof for voting for a legacy party candidate very, very, very high. Wellstone probably would make it, had he lived. Kucinich, based on his ridiculous HCR performance, would not.

quixote's picture
Submitted by quixote on

(Kucinich strikes me as a bit of a kook -- viz. his kind-of-anti-choice stance and getting together with that twilight-zone-libertarian whats-his-name -- but I was truly surprised when he folded on HCR. For what? He'd been stiffnecked about much smaller stuff. Why fold then? I can only think that when he was on that little plane ride they told him, in the nicest possible way, that they had some blackmail on him.)

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

A Californian, I mean. But I wouldn't vote for Brown after the whole "whore" controversy. We saw a bellyful of misogyny plus some out of the Democrats in 2008, plus the 2009-10 follow-through, and contributing support to that, even if it's just a vote, is not on. Esp. when such clear cases have been made for the alternatives.

Because I'm a bit lazy, and because she says it better than I could, Anglachel:

Let's be clear about Whitman. Meg Whitman is a member of the dominant social class that mostly identifies as Republican, but not always, and is currently trying to return this country to a pre-New Deal condition. She is trying to win office to protect the interests of her class and position herself for a run at the White House....Her actions are unexceptional and completely conventional in the context of campaigning. This does not make her into anything except a candidate. She is not a political problem for the Democrats though she is proving to be an electoral problem.

The political problem is the lackluster and tone-deaf campaign Jerry Brown is running and the larger failure of the Democrats to take seriously the disaffection of large blocks of Democratic constituencies after the horrific slash-and-burn primaries of 2008. In particular, the deliberate deployment of misogyny opened wounds that have not healed for many of us who previously and strongly identified as Democrats and who now are not willing to give candidates, especially male candidates, much leeway in how they and their campaigns deploy gender-based appeals and attacks.

Further, the use of the term whore (sorry, I won't call it "the w-word") wasn't an outburst in the midst of a heated debate, but calmly put forth as a deliberate strategic move. How anyone could think that publicly calling a female opponent a whore could be a winning or advantageous strategy boggles the imagination.

I'm so over the Democrats.

twig's picture
Submitted by twig on

like texting. He went along with Whitman on canceling a debate with a radio talk show host who's known for actually asking follow-up questions (imagine!). And it was fine with him to exclude Laura Wells, the Green candidate for governor from the debates. Plus, no outrage over her being arrested at one of them! And then, the whore remark, which should have done him in. But apparently not.

Every day, at least one person tells me how I have to vote for him and Boxer, absolutely have to or I'm throwing my vote away, I'm voting for Whitman and Fiorina, etc., etc., you know the rest.

Okay, sorry, I've gone off on a tangent here. But the crazy thing is there's no reasoning with them. And I'm certain that when 2012 rolls around, we'll be having the same arguments again, only with different candidates. It would be nice to be wrong about that, but what are the odds?

Submitted by lambert on

That is, the suppression of the Greens and other third parties has to end. Make that the litmus test for supporting a D, if you must.

ms_xeno's picture
Submitted by ms_xeno on end the suppression of alternative candidates. I don't see this happening, and I wouldn't trust any Democratic candidate who claimed such support. Too much water under the bridge, too much bullying, too much b.s. I don't think they can be trusted to look out for anyone but themselves.

ms_xeno's picture
Submitted by ms_xeno on

...IOW, once again, it's all about them shoring up their own shared monopoly with Republicans-- on a case-by-case basis. Doesn't have a damn thing to do with breaking the monopoly down at either a local or national level.

Color me unimpressed.

Submitted by jm on

Boxer's voting record is actually pretty good. Nevertheless, what has she accomplished? Being on the correct side of losing vote after losing vote is no longer sufficient reason to vote for her.

Boxer also voted for the USA Patriot Act and, tellingly, its reauthorization, and for just about every Defense Appropriation bill over the past 18 years. So sure, there's some limited dissent at the highest levels of government, but the machine grinds on. Politicians like Boxer help maintain the illusion of democracy.

I'm one Californian who is fed up with the charade. I won't be voting for Boxer, or any other Democrat this year. Yes, Fiorina represents the worst this country's culture of power has to offer. (And yes, I'm deeply offended by Whitman's attempt to purchase the governorship.) But the Democratic Party is clearly not the answer.

In the long run, I don't think the political climate will change unless sufficiently large numbers of people with little left to lose take to the streets and demand concessions from power. The powerful never cede anything without a fight and they will accept limits on their power only when the alternative costs them too dearly.

And in the short run, the only way the social safety net will not be gutted by the Austerians is if the Democrats use the issue as a rallying point from the minority ala 2005.

twig's picture
Submitted by twig on

Politicians like Boxer help maintain the illusion of democracy.


I was really torn about Boxer, but the whole Prop 19 issue, which the Ds refuse to support, was the last straw. Call me crazy, petty, whatever, but I think it's criminally insane to ruin the lives of tens of thousands of people every year by throwing them in prison for using a substance that's safer than most prescription meds and has so many proven benefits. I realize the Ds think they're risking being called drug-pushing hippies, but come on -- they're just maintaining the Reefer Madness mindset. It's beyond stupid -- it's heinous and cowardly, which is where I had to draw the line.

mojave_wolf's picture
Submitted by mojave_wolf on

what has she accomplished? Being on the correct side of losing vote after losing vote is no longer sufficient reason to vote for her

Voting for Boxer was a close call for me, I didn't decide yes until this week and I certainly understand why someone would be upset at some of her recent turns, but I've seen the "she doesn't get other people to vote with her/she's too strident" argument all over the media for months and don't even begin to understand it.

We only want a Senator who can persuade all the other Senators to vote w/her? Good luck on that. I sure as hell don't want more kissing up to the enemy or joining w/them a la Obama or Feinstein. If she votes the right way all the time, I don't care if the rest of the jerks up there all donate to her opponent and write letters to the editor about how much she annoys them; they can screw off. This is like yelling at Feingold for not getting 50 people to vote w/him on the inititial Patriot Act. The problem is the other people, not here. (which isn't to say she's always on the right side; she isn't, and if I loathed Fiorina less or if Boxer's history wasn't a lot better than her last couple of years, I'd be voting Green here, I am hoping for a return to her former self if she pulls this off)

Also, totally supporting the main post; Green or Peace and Freedom are the only Cali alternatives unless you want your dissatisfaction spun as "need more compromising centrists!" (which is already being touted here; there was a whole LA Times front page article saying this is what the voters wanta week or two ago).

I don't get the resistance to voting Green or SOMETHING where it's obvious your protest vote goes in the liberal direction and the love of "NOTA" here; people are still swayable by the media, and if we want an effective protest, we have to make sure it has a clear direction where spins to the middle or right fail even the most innattentive voter's laugh test.

Thus, Laura Wells for Gov for me (Jerry Brown has issues far beyond the "whore" comment; and I truly wish people in the news and on the street would stop talking about him as if he's still 70's Brown; he hasn't resembled that person in any way for a long time), and other Greens for House & state assembly races.

the propositions are also important; esp 19 (yes! strike a blow against the encroaching police state and the "war on drugs" bs), 23 (no! nonono!) and 25 (yes!), so if any Cali people are reading this and don't plan to vote for anyone; that's fine; these props are probably all a LOT more important than any individual candidate vote.

Also, to be all tinfoily for a minute, does anyone find the sudden polling twists on both Boxer and 19 a little... strange?

Brown pulls away from Whitman despite the whore comment, but at the same time Boxer goes from pulling away from Fiorina to a close call?, even tho Whitman is running a much more palatable campaign than Fiorina? (not saying Whitman's campaing isn't truly beyond awful and that I don't think she'd be the worst gov we ever had, cause, yes to both there). Doesn't compute.

And prop 19, after weird polls that contradicted each other all summer, gradually gets more and more support in everything, looks like a near certain winner, and then about 10 days before the election suddenly goes from leading outside the margin of error in all of them, in some cases by double digits, to trailing in all of them, in some cases by double digits? To get these results, not only would ALL undecideds have had to break to "NO", but a lot of "Yes" votes would have to change. And independents and Latinos have consistently favored 19, in many polls support reaching 60%, but new polls show it trailing among both groups, with support around 40% or even lower in one poll? WTF?

I live in a majority conservative area of the state, and most of the people I see on a regular basis are conservative, and if all the people who are keeping quiet oppose it, then it wins among local conservatives by about 70-30, so the polling in general strikes me as either incompetent or deliberately skewed). Anyone who has a LOT more time than me to keep up w/this have any non-conspiracy (by which I don't necessarily mean cheating w/the ballots, but at least deliberately skewing poll results for a propaganda effort of some sort) explanations?

mojave_wolf's picture
Submitted by mojave_wolf on

Make that "former Dem", switched to independent 7-8 years ago. Apparently in a hurry I revert to old labels, even if I now constantly bash the label. *g*

twig's picture
Submitted by twig on

one explanation is that the pollers aren't reaching younger people's cell phones. And Nate Silver claims it's a variation on the Bradley effect, which he calls the 'Broadus effect' in honor of Snoop Dogg (real name Calvin Broadus). People don't want to admit to supporting 19 to a live pollster, but they will to a robocall. Who knows?

Meanwhile, it's almost fun watching the mis-information crowd struggle to come up with evil weed warnings. Today, it was "when you're in the hospital, do you want a nurse who's high taking care of you? That's what will happen if Prop 19 passes!!!" It takes about 10 seconds to find flaws in all their arguments. Although I have to hand it to DiFi -- the Save the Children from Pot Brownies bill is excellent material for the Onion.

Why Boxer is having a hard time against Fiorina is mysterious, too -- although it looks like she's pulling ahead now. The anti-Boxer ads I've seen are ludicrous, attacking her for things like "spending" and "partisan politics." Huh? I don't watch much tv, though, so there could be others that are more damning. But how anyone could take Fiorina seriously is beyond me.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

I remember seeing the same thing in 2004, when I helped out a lot in various campaigns. She's a good closer, for whatever reason(s). Most Dems close strong in CA. People are always unhappy, but CA Republicans are some of the most extreme in the country.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

I would vote for Boxer because of her actions after the 2004 election, specifically being the only senator to support the black caucus in bringing up the problems with Ohio before the Senate. For that alone I would vote for her. But that is just me.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

Her silence said a lot. If you want to hold Boxer up as someone who cares about election integrity, I cannot buy it. Not for a second. What happened in FL and MI (and the TX caucus fraud) was as bad or worse than what happened in OH. the only difference is that Boxer got what she wanted in 2008, not in 2004. If you care about election integrity, you can't pick and choose which elections you care about.

quixote's picture
Submitted by quixote on

I have to chime in on the "whore" controversy.
1) Sexualizing women in a way that men never are: BAD.
2) Neither Brown nor Brown's campaign has done this or condoned it in supporters in any systemic way, such as, for instance, Obama in the primaries and after.
3) Whitman does not stand up for women in any of her actions, past or present.
4) Brown is way less of a disaster for women, and, as far as I can tell, actually more respectful of them.
5) He should have jumped on that aide immediately, right in that phone conversation.
6) He has apologized every single time it comes up. Whitman brings it up every chance she gets. She doesn't seem to see anything wrong with that, which says to me she doesn't even understand what's wrong with it.

People are right to be angry about it, but, really, this is a venial sin on Brown's part, not a cardinal one. Doesn't mean he shouldn't be called out for it. He should. But keep it in perspective to the other putdowns of women coming from absolutely everywhere.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

Sexism isn't dependent on the particulars of the individual at whom it is directed. It's words and actions which demean and oppress women as a class.

Any support for #4? Besides not actively (publicly) grinding women under the wheels of the bus? Does he have any positive accomplishments which have helped women?

When he was governor he supported public-funding for abortion, but later had some sort of epiphany and decided that abortion was "crazy" and "killing the unborn", and supported an anti-abortion activist (who actually received a prison sentence for "storming" a clinic). Although he does now say he will protect choice. Hmmm. Like Obama, perhaps?

#4 is really only relevant if you believe that the only choices are D or R, ie the two-party monopoly.

#6: His initial "apology" was to claim it was a private conversation; and subsequent apology (through a spokesperson) apologies was distinctly of the "I'm sorry if anyone was offended" non-apology variety. (""We apologize to Ms. Whitman and anyone who may have been offended."")

The effects of the Democrat's misogyny is cumulative. Venial or cardinal, it all adds up to reinforce an institutional cultural norm. No one, and certainly no politician, is perfect. But a vote signals support. The question is, is that a cultural norm you can support?

Everyone has their own breaking point, and their own final straw. The Democrats kicked women to the curb in 2008, and even those who didn't actively participate in the wilding gave us nothing but deafening silent. That's why, even assuming arguendo, that the "whore" comment reflects a mere "venial" sin on Brown's part, I wouldn't vote for him regardless. Ymmv, of course.

quixote's picture
Submitted by quixote on

in anything even pretending to be civilized. And I couldn't agree more that I've had it to "HERE" with the liberal / Dem / proggie putdowns in all their different shitfaced guises. So, as I say, people are absolutely right to call Brown on it.

At the same time, I'm pretty convinced that Whitman is a way bigger sexist than Brown is. I'm not sure that I could articulate what I base that on. Just her general, all-around bigotry, I guess.

The point I was trying to make is that when dinging someone for being a sexist, it seems relevant to make the ding proportional to the size of the problem.

I'm not trying to say that excuses it or (gag) in any way makes it "okay."

Submitted by libbyliberal on

... if NOTA wins, it doesn't go to the next candidate in line.

In my google researching, which is harder than you would think (how great you called up and followed through), on this issue for New York (glad I have Green alternative) I came across Amendment V of constitution which gives states a way to rally against corrupt national policies by holding conventions. There is a group called friends of Amendment V. Do you know anything about this? Anyone I wonder? Need to explore more and don't have time now but will get back to it.

twig's picture
Submitted by twig on

That could be useful! I don't know if CA has such a thing, but will look into it. Probably can't get anyone to talk until after the election, so next week we'll know more!

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

Patty Murray is someone I'd normally go "all in" for. But I can't vote for her this time.

Murray is good on the issues, didn't rush to Obama's BS campaign like so many other more liberal congress critters, and was one of the later to endorse him after the primary. But yet she remained silent during the rigging of the election. That is the big thing for me. All the problems of the Dems since the election stem from that, at least for me.

coyotecreek's picture
Submitted by coyotecreek on

Riverdaughter lays out her strategy - which mirrors a lot of what has been discussed here these past couple of months. RD says:

My voting strategy this year is to vote out every incumbent I can.

1.) I am not voting for any Republican. I know nice Republicans. Nice Republicans are friends of mine. Unfortunately, none of them are running for office this year. Republicans are determined to overturn the New Deal and cut social security for myself and my mother. Oh yeah, they would do it. They have no conscience.

Those of you who are planning to vote Republican because you are so angry should know what you’re getting yourselves and the rest of us into. You are obligated to not throw us in front of a speeding train. The Republican party is now composed of predators. They’ve picked off the poor, the sick and the old. Now, they are moving in for the kill. Don’t let them do it. You know what their plan is. They offer nothing but more of the same but much, much harsher. You know it will bring hardship and misery to millions of Americans and you know that Democrats are cowardly. Don’t give the Democrats an excuse to punt and sell us all out. Get tough.

2.) I am not voting for any incumbent Democrat. Fortunately, there is one Democrat running in my district who is not an incumbent who shares my values. That would be Ed Potasnak. He gets my vote. However, if any of your Democratic candidates were endorsed by Bill Clinton, I’d vote for him/her. They’re going to owe him someday if they win.

3.) I’m going to seek out an vote for every left wing alternative party candidate I can. We need new blood in Congress. I may not share all of their goals but without substantial pull from the left, the government will continue its radical slide to the right.

Strangely - this election my spousal unit and I are probably more informed and educated about candidates than we have every been before - we will actually be taking a list of acceptable candidates into the voting booth with us so we don't make any mistakes. Our strategy will definitely be to vote every bastard out. And we will write-in NOTA for any office where there is not an acceptable alternative.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

The Confluence is really not my cuppa java, but I am much in agreement with this post.

Whatever you do, please investigate the alternative left candidates as well. You wouldn't want to vote for a Ross Mirkarimi, who while a Green endorsed Obama in 2008 or a Dwayne Voeghli, who loves corporate agribusiness and hog farm manure lagoons, or one of these clowns.

Interestingly (or not), apparently Wall Street is still all for backing Obama and the Dem$, as they are afraid of the neo-populist tea-partiers.....

Card-carrying_Buddhist's picture
Submitted by Card-carrying_B... on

I seem to be drifting out of group membership here, voting-wise . . . . not sure exactly when that happened. Bummer.

coyotecreek's picture
Submitted by coyotecreek on

Tell us where your head is and why. That's what's important!