Why, Where, and How to Vote

Tilde Lowengrimm
5 min readOct 14, 2020


Democracy is neat. Its selling point is that it creates the conditions for political change without violence, and in a methodical and measured manner. Which all sounds great — but the US isn’t a democracy, at least not at the federal level.

Undemocratic institutions like the Senate, the Electoral College, and the extensively gerrymandered districts of the House of Representatives mean that one side of the political spectrum needs many many more votes on its side to achieve the same degree of political success as the other side. And unabashed voter suppression mean that those votes would have to represent many more people. It’s enragingly unfair. Right now, this means minority rule by the Republican Party in all three branches of federal government.

But you don’t just live in the US. You also live a state, and a county, and perhaps even a municipality. And the more local you look, the more impact your vote has. So if you’re going to vote, sure, vote for a president who hasn’t explicitly promised a fascist ethnostate and whose political party isn’t a death cult. But look at those local races too, that’s where the really good stuff is.

And don’t just vote. Voting is kinda neat! It can have an impact ranging from immense (voting for your local DA or school board) to basically irrelevant (voting for president in California). But voting isn’t the only way to have a political impact. It’s not even the most effective. And if you don’t have time to spend on political activities, give your money to people who do. It might not feel like much, but giving money is absolutely huge.

If you’re like me and you’re lucky enough to live in San Francisco, California, you get to vote a lot. I have twenty five things to vote one before we even get to candidates for political office. Might as well vote as much as possible since it might be the last time! Ha ha, just my little joke about one of the options in the federal election being a headlong run into a white nationalist dictatorship. Ha ha.

I read the voter information “pamphlet” and the endorsements from the DSA, my local YIMBY group, the ACLU, and the League of Pissed Off Voters. Ballolpedia is also a great too. I haven’t got it all worked out. But I have some plans. Here’s how I’m voting.

Jackie Fielder for California State Senate because she’s absolutely amazing. She’s a Democratic Socialist, and has a pretty heady state of endorsements. Weiner is pretty good, and I hope he gets to do other useful things too.

CA 14 — Stem cell funding — no. Bonds are for capital projects & investments. Since the state doesn’t even get the rights to the results of the research, this ain’t that.

CA 15 — Commercial property tax for education — yes.

CA 16 — Allowing affirmative action to support diversity in government jobs — yes.

CA 17 — Votes for felons — yes. People shouldn’t be disenfranchised while they’re in prison either, but every little helps.

CA 18 — Votes for almost-18-year olds — yes. Doesn’t go nearly far enough. Children and young adults should be allowed to vote.

CA 19 — Property tax loophole modification — yes. Not a repeal of prop 13 yet, but we’ll get there eventually.

CA 20 — Harsher sentencing — no. Carceral justice is bad.

CA 21 — Rent control expansion — yes. Ugh, this measure is not the best. But I think it just tips over into being an improvement.

CA 22–1099 companies get a free pass on employment law — HECK NO. Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash would rather set piles of money on fire with this ballot measure than actually pay their employees. These companies can get in the gosh darn sea.

CA 23 — Dialysis — undecided. It’s unclear whether these measures actually improve dialysis clinics, and what the motivation/benefit is for the union which is pushing it.

CA 24 — Really just mess up the CCPA as much as possible — no. Look. This one is just terrible. I don’t mean that it’s the worst idea on the list — that’s a tie between props 20 & 22. I mean that it’s a kid with a crayon redlining a research paper. Please stop.

CA 25 — Swap cash bail for unfair computerized risk assessments — No. This right here is why we can’t have nice things. Cash bail is the worst. But racist and otherwise biased algorithmic sentencing is also the worst. Probably worst-er. Just absolutely yuck. “Good news,” they said, “we will be removing the scorpions from your bed, and replacing them with a variety of snakes.” No. Please stop. I do not want that. You are not helping.

SF A — Health and parks and such — yes. Sounds neat.

SF B — Split up public works — yes. It’s not really about this being two departments; this is a change which allows for the creation of new rules about who gets to lead the departments, preventing the unabashed cronyism we’ve seen recently.

SF C — Non-citizen public servants — yes. Of course.

SF D — Supervise the Sheriff — yes. Doesn’t it bother you that nobody has been supervising the Sheriff’s Department up to this point?

SF E — Potentially fewer cops — yes. All cats are beautiful. File transfer protocol.

SF F — Business tax changes — yes. Not sure what’s changing, but it adds up to a tax increase.

SF G — Youth voting — yes. One of the paid arguments against asked why stop at sixteen, and I think that they have a very good point and we should keep going.

SF H — Permitting and zoning changes — no. This is one all over the place, and the planning department declined to vet it. Propositions are a bad place for mediocre regulation or unsatisfying compromises, because they’re so hard to fix.

SF I — Transfer tax increase — no. Ugh, this one is another nail-biter. On thee one hand I would absolutely love to tax mansions. But $10mm+ isn’t a mansion, it’s a real estate development. So this is really a tax on building new housing. Which: no thanks.

SF J — Parcel tax — yes. Look, parcel taxes suck because they don’t tax downtown more than the Sunset. But sure, I’m here for taxes.

SF K — Affordable housing — yes.

SF L — Fat cat exec tax — yes. I mean I guess this is one step along the road towards making executive pay disparities punishable by like permanent toe-stubbing or something. Keep up the momentum, I say!

Regional RR — Sales tax for Caltrain — yes. Sales taxes are absolutely the worst regressive taxes. But trains. Will the train gains outweigh regressive taxation pains? I hope so or else I’ll take the blame.