By Raymond Nava
The 2020 elections saw a mixed bag of results in the propositions that were on the ballot in California.
While some progressive propositions passed, such as Proposition 17, which restored the right to vote to former felons, others such as Proposition 18, which granted the right to vote to 17-year-olds if they turned 18 before the general election, did not.
In addition, Proposition 22, which would allow driver-based app organizations to treat their employees as independent contractors and not full time workers as well as not having to provide the same benefits as if they were full time employees, also passed despite an effort from labor groups.
Prop. 22 was the proposition that received the most attention during the campaign. Despite the proposition being opposed by many prominent progressive politicians such as senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, it passed by an 18-point margin.
Prop. 22 is a major setback for worker’s rights and sets a dangerous template for these companies to try and get passed similar measures in other states.
Proposition 21 was another one of many progressive propositions that were defeated at the ballot box.
Prop. 21 would have allowed local governments to adopt rent control on housing units. The proposition was endorsed by many democratic officials, but was opposed by Governor Gavin Newsom, who is a Democrat. The proposition was defeated by a 20-point margin.
Another progressive proposition that failed to pass was Proposition 16. Prop. 16 would have repealed Proposition 209, originally passed in 1996, which had banned practices of affirmative action.
Had the proposition passed, it would have allowed more diverse hiring in workplaces as well as allowing more diversity in the education field. Prop. 16’s defeat is more problematic as some organizations had sent out mailers that encouraged voters to vote no and labeled it as “for racial equality.”
Prop. 16 was defeated by a 14-point margin.
Voters also rejected Proposition 25, which sought to replace the current cash bail system with a risk assessment system for defendants awaiting trial.
The proposition also featured endorsements from prominent democrats but was interestingly opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. Its reasons for the opposition was that while it did get rid of the cash bail system, it viewed the risk assessment system to be discriminatory. Prop. 25 was defeated by 12 points.
A progressive proposition that did pass was Proposition 17, which would restore the right to vote for former felons.
One the issue campaigns this year by reformers was felony voting rights. In 2018, a similar measure was passed in Florida which restored voting rights for felons, though the effect of the measure was greatly weakened by the Florida courts and state legislature. Prop 17 passed by 18 points.
The failure of some of these propositions is no doubt disappointing for many. Despite California having a liberal reputation, voters rejected propositions that would have solidified California as being one of the most liberal, progressive states in the country.
While the state did adopt some progressive proposition, it is apparent the state has a long road to go before it adopts more propositions.