California votes on Tuesday and hopes its votes will be counted fairly
Tony Brasunas
Jun 4, 2018 · 12 min read

Like christmas trees in windows and jack o’lanterns on front porches, your mailbox swelling with political mail signifies the arrival of a particular season of the year: election season. If you’re living in California, this bizarrely inspiring time is here once again.

I’ve written very little politically since the (unfortunate) political turns of 2016 and the (fortunate) arrival of my son, so take these voting recommendations with a grain of salt and a sprinkle of curiosity. In fact, I don’t have a particularly cheerful outlook on our political situation right now, and, worse, the reasons to believe that your vote will be counted fairly are decreasing, but I’ll discuss that at the end of this piece.

First, I do recommend you vote, and here’s how I’ll be voting in Tuesday’s June Primary.

Note: It’s a long ballot again. I’ve used labels “A-Card” and “B-Card,” which should be accurate for voters who live in Alameda County (like me), but might not describe ballots accurately in Marin, San Francisco, or other counties of this large state. My San Francisco city recommendations are at the bottom.

A-CARD, Side 1

Governor. We have a stunning, overwhelming, unwieldy 27 candidates here. After much research, I think the best options are: Delaine Eastin, a corporate-free Bernie-style Democrat who has consistently supported progressive causes; and Josh Jones, a Green leader who worked tireless to build the Bernie revolution in the northern part of the state and is now working with equal vigor to build a huge network of progressives in Yolo and Siskiyou counties. I watched Gavin Newsom steal elections against progressives for years in San Francisco and can never support him; he’s as-conservative-as-he-can-get-away-with and has probably never supported any progressive issue out of actual conviction. Vote with enthusiasm for Eastin or Jones, and hopefully one finishes first or second and gets into the November race.

Lieutenant Governor. The best choice here is Gayle McLaughlin, the inspiring leader of the Richmond Progressive Alliance, a powerful and visionary group which has worked wonders taking on Chevron and corporate rule. A two-time Richmond city mayor, she is running as a no-party-preference candidate, taking no corporate donations, and has been endorsed by basically all serious progressives in the state.

A-Card, Side 2

Secretary of State. Here we have a contest between the criminal Alex Padilla, the guy who fixed the 2016 Primary against Sanders (see more, below), on the one hand, and challengers of various stripes on the other. Yes, it is the ultimate conflict of interest when one of the candidates in an election gets to count the votes for the election, so we’ll see how it goes if you chose to vote for anyone other than Padilla. And you should: there are two great options who deserve our support in this essential election — Erik Rydberg, a Green who left the Democratic Party after the fraudulent 2016 primary and who truly sees the fiasco we are up against in 2018 with our election system, and Ruben Major, a corporate-free Democrat who also speaks out about the vulnerabilities that our election systems offer to even slightly malevolent actors. Rydberg, who is Native American, uses a campaign slogan, “Defend Democracy, Protect the Vote” that shows how serious he is about this issue, the most important issue at stake in this election. “We need accurate, transparent and verifiable vote counts for all elections in California,” he says. Cast your vote for Rydberg or Major, and then pay as close attention as you can to how the votes are counted. Vigilance is the price of liberty. Remember, it isn’t Russians hacking our elections; it’s power-hungry Americans who are happy to frame whoever they can.

Controller: I happily recommend Mary Lou Finley, a genuine progressive in the Peace & Freedom Party who has retired as a councilmember of the San Diego Unified School District. As with much on the national scene, the Democrat and Republican here differ little on the substance, primarily because they fund their campaigns with money from the same corporations.

Treasurer: A great choice here, Kevin Akin, has the audacity to suggest the most obvious of ideas: We need a state bank, as North Dakota has, to fund our state objectives, rather than having to use bonds and pay interest to giant banks for every project we as a state undertake. A state bank is a no-brainer for the giant economy of California and would dramatically improve the financial health of the state. The new Bay Bridge, for instance, would have cost the state $7 billion instead of $13 billion had it been funded by a public state bank. Unfortunately, Jerry Brown vetoed a bill to authorize just a study on starting such a bank. (And of course the large banks oppose this and have managed to prevent much coverage of this idea in the media). Vote for Akin so that, if nothing else, his ideas can be part of the discussion between now and November.

Attorney General: No one I can really support here with enthusiasm. I’ll vote for Dave Jones as he’s better than Xavier Becerra and is at least opposed to the death penalty and (somewhat) to expanding mass incarceration in California.

Insurance Commissioner: San Marino medical doctor Asif Mahmood has good ideas on the health insurance mess. Nathalie Hrizi is even better on the issues, but doesn’t seem to have connected with voters. Take your pick. I’ll be voting for Hrizi.

State Board of Equalization — No endorsement here unfortunately.

__________________________________________________

B-Card, Side 1

US Senator. My, my, is it finally time to move on from Diane Feinstein? Yes, my friend, it is. The ultimate wolf-in-sheep’s clothing Democrat is running for re-election, but it actually feels like she might not win this time. I’m supporting David Hildebrand, a smart and committed progressive who has united much of the opposition and who is much better on the issues than the centrist-leaning Kevin de Leon.

US Congress 12th: There is probably no better symbol of all that is wrong with the Democratic Party than Nancy Pelosi (although Feinstein, Schumer, Reid, and several others would be in that conversation). From selling out the party’s progressive history, to opposing bold popular plans on healthcare and environmental protection, to organizing a faux “resistance” that gives Trump increasingly dictatorial powers while attacking him from the right on Syria and Russia, Pelosi’s vision has literally sold out the party and led it into a wilderness of sustained losses and a dwindling member base. Her inability to see that a party headed by Bernie Sanders would take the country by storm is possibly incompetent, but more likely simply corrupt. She’s become quite wealthy and powerful selling out the American people (and San Franciscans), so why should she want the system to change? In honor of San Francisco’s revolutionary ranked-choice system, whereby voters get to rank their choices, I’ll rank the good candidates in this race:

  1. Shahid Buttar (Watch his interview here with important truth-teller Lee Camp)
  2. Barry Hermanson
  3. Stephen Jaffe

US Congress 13th: For so many Democrats, 2016 was the year true colors shone. If you couldn’t see that Bernie Sanders was leading a revolution that this country needs, if you couldn’t see that that revolution was going to 1. Spread wealth, power, and justice; 2. Take aggressive environmental action; and 3. Rein in corruption (it terrifies the corrupt elements of both parties that someone could raise over $200 million without taking corporate contributions) — if you couldn’t see that Sanders was the right leader for the country and for the party at the right time — if you couldn’t see that while imperfect Sanders was the far stronger candidate against Trump— if you couldn’t see that there was a real opportunity for a progressive revolution in this country — I no longer trust your insight or leadership. You are either short-sighted or corrupt and part of the problem. Everyday Americans who are only exposed to biased media like NPR, FOX, and MSNBC might be forgiven for not seeing that the Sanders movement was actually uniting the country, but an elected congressperson? No, I can’t really forgive Barbara Lee, who represents this extraordinarily progressive district, for talking the talk of a progressive without walking the walk. I have no recommendation in this race.

US Congress 14th: Jackie Speier is relatively decent on the issues without really pretending to be very progressive. No endorsement here.

State Assembly, 17th: I’m happy to endorse David Chiu, a San Francisco progressive who deserves another term in Sacramento.

State Assembly, 18th: Similar to Lee, above, but less progressive, Rob Bonta is meh, not good enough for our district, and couldn’t explain to me (when I asked him in person at his sit-down hours at Wescafe) why he wasn’t supporting Sanders. So I don’t really have an endorsement here either. Further tarnishing Bonta’s name is this year’s rash of corruption here in Alameda, where apparently Bonta joined others on the City Council in attempting to bully the City Manager into hiring a Fire Chief who was unqualified but who was popular with certain local political players.

Superior Court Judge: I’ll go with my friend Dan Wood’s recommendation for the challenger here, Karen Katz.

State Superintendent: As many progressives have been saying: Anybody but Marshall Tuck. Tony Thurmond is a decent choice.

__________________________________________________

B-Card, Side 2

Alameda County Assessor. This is a non-political race, but still the winner will have much to say about how things like affordable housing and rental protections are interpreted. No great candidates here, but I’ll be voting for Phong La, who volunteered to help Alameda residents understand and mitigate the worst elements of the Great Recession and how it affected their homes.

Alameda County District Attorney: Clearly the best choice here is Pamela Price, a civil rights attorney who is solidly a part of the movement to hold police accountable and end mass incarceration. Her opponent is a typical, corrupt, conservative DA who has been in office far too long.

Alameda County Auditor-Controller: Two good candidates here. I’ll be voting for Irella Blackwood

Alameda County Sheriff. No endorsement. Ahern is awful but there isn’t any real opposition.

Alameda County Treasurer-Tax Collector: No endorsement.

__________________________________________________

C-Card, Side 1

Proposition 68, Park bonds: Solid plan to expand parks and recreation statewide, particularly in lower-income neighborhoods. YES.

Proposition 69, Transportation revenues: Require money raised for transit & transportation to be spent on transit and transportation. YES.

Proposition 70, Cap-and-trade supermajority: Make it harder to spend money raised by cap-and-trade. Effectively would require Republican approval for any spending of environmental money. NO

Proposition 71, Effective Dates: Adjust the dates new laws go into effect. Laws should go into effect after the vote is certified, not the day after election day, before all votes have been cast. YES

Proposition 72, Rain-capture reassessment: Add rain-capture to the green/environment/socially responsible things homeowners can do to improve their homes without tax assessment. YES.

Regional Measure RM3: Raise bridge tolls across the Bay Area to pay for a whole assortment of transportation projects. This one is a surprisingly tough call. There are a lot of good projects in this bundle o’bills — expand BART and ferries, Caltrain into downtown, more carpool lanes, etc. There are also some not so good things — increasing bridge tolls, which will hit poor people most, and letting rich people pay to use carpool lanes, which would defeat their original purpose. But mostly there are just a whole lot of questions about how this bill was put together since there was essentially no public input. It appears to be two dozen pet projects of various elected officials and assorted transit agencies, cobbled together into one giant pass-me-now-or-have-gridlock-forever gun-to-your-head kind of ballot measure. We absolutely need to improve transit all over the Bay Area, from BART to bridges to sidewalks, but this one has many problems despite its legitimate handful of good things. After much consideration I recommend a vote against this. There’s a good track record in our region of rejecting a transit bill once and getting a much better bill the second time. I’m sending it back for actual public input and a revision. NO.

Alameda County Measure A: Additional funding for early childcare. Despite some quibbles, this one is good. YES.

Oakland Measure D: Parcel tax for libraries. YES

__________________________________________________

San Francisco Races & Propositions

Some part of me will always be a San Franciscan. Having cut my teeth politically there, I can’t help but still pay attention to the city’s politics.

Mayor. There’s a big mayor’s race underway, presenting the city with perhaps its best chance to elect a progressive mayor since that exhilarating but ultimately infuriating and ill-fated race between Matt Gonzalez and Gavin Newsom in 2003. Thanks to a different, quite massive progressive victory I’m proud to say I played a small part in achieving, SF voters get to rank their choices in local elections, which encourages more representative and more positive politics. After two decades of Willie Brown’s machine ruling the city, there’s an opportunity for real change. Here’s how I rank the choices:

  1. Jane Kim
  2. Mark Leno
  3. Amy Weiss

Supervisor, District 8. Rafael Mandelman

Local SF Propositions

A — Yes

B — Yes

C — Yes

D — No

E — Yes

F — Yes

G — Yes

H — No

I — Yes

__________________________________________________

Whew, we did it

Thank you for your time! I hope this is of use to you.

Ok, if you’ve read this far, you’re awaiting my thoughts on the state of our elections in this state. I have to begin, unfortunately, by saying that after the 2016 fiascos in our fair State of California, there is absolutely no guarantee that your vote will be counted fairly in 2018. The central reason for this is that the corrupt Alex Padilla, our Secretary of State, has resisted and refused every attempt to install accountability in the counting of votes. Worse, as our chief state elections officer, Padilla presided over ridiculously flawed elections and outright fraud in 2016, and yet did nothing to fix any of the problems, or even speak out about them. He hasn’t even acknowledged them at all. He’s now seeking reelection. Ok, one thus has to assume the electoral system functioned exactly how he wanted it to.

You now have a chance to vote him out. Will that vote count? I cannot assure you that it will — no one can, as there is literally no way to know whether votes in our state are counted fairly. Every failsafe to prevent mischief in the vote counting, one by one, has been removed, relaxed, or made optional. The system that counts our votes now is run by private corporations who have obvious conflicts of interest in wanting to sell more machines to the winners, and our Secretary of State has a record of looking the other way and then giving more money to the vendors of the voting machines.

One of the biggest revelations, uncovered recently by the brilliant Bev Harris, is “Fractional Magic,” a method used in voting machines across the country that enables fractional counting of votes, whereby some votes are secretly counted as only fractions of a vote. Yes, this is as bad as it sounds. For instance, if you vote for Erik Rydberg, whom I above recommend as a far better option than Padilla, your vote might only count for 0.25 of a vote, or more, or less. A vote for Alex Padilla might count for 1.5 votes!

Stepping back, we need to thoroughly examine all of our elections infrastructure. Oddly, my 2016 articles on election fraud for Huffington Post, after being widely read and even referenced in a lawsuit against Attorney General Loretta Lynch, were taken down quietly by HuffPo. For unspecified reasons. And this seemingly happens to every journalist who questions the veracity of our elections, despite the fact there is no reason to assume that our elections are fair and countless reasons to suspect malfeasance. Luckily I cross-posted some of them on here on Medium: Is Democracy Dead in California? and: Exit Polls are the Thing Wherein to Catch the Conscience of Elections

I might need to write a book about this.

For now, yes, I will vote. And I recommend you do too. I encourage you to walk to the polls (don’t vote by mail) and cast your ballot in person with your eyes open.

Vote anyway, andvote progressive. No lesser-evil votes anymore for me. There’s no point. Vote for who you really want to win. Vote as if your vote was the one determining the election.

This way, if they don’t steal your vote, it will count for someone you truly want to win. If they do steal your vote, you will have provided one more piece of evidence to help the truth about our democracy emerge.

Vigilance is the price of liberty. Cast your ballot with your eyes open.

ps: Many thanks to Citizens Oversight, Bay Area election integrity groups, local Bay Area progressive groups, the aforementioned Dan Wood, and the Alameda County Green Party, all of whom provided materials I considered when putting this together.

Tony Brasunas

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