2020 November Election Guide
Date: 2020-10-15 · Word Count: 5161 · Reading Time: 25 minutes
Overview and Research
This guide is ordered from most general to most specific. I’ll start with Federal and work my way down to County so you can stop reading once it’s no longer relevant to you. For those who have read my summaries before and were expecting California, I’m now living in Washington State.
Yes, I’ve read most of the details of the propositions and would recommend that you do too as the summaries often hide the important aspects of any given proposition.
Why do I make this public? Because it’s important to explicitly have values and important to vote on those values.
Here’s some of what I’m using to guide my opinions (in alphabetical order):
- Friends and Family (especially those who are extremely active in politics)
- TVW candidate statements
- Why You Should Vote No On Most Propositions
Obviously, I’m also looking at candidate websites (although Ballotpedia is generally much more useful).
Where possible, I try to avoid taking my suggestions from sources such as the Seattle Times which have a long history of only endorsing candidates from a single party
The other thing that’s, hopefully, strictly relevant to this election is that I expect any Republican candidate to have a vocal position against Trump and the damage Trump & McConnell have been doing to democracy within our country. Being pro or neutral about Trump is a failure to show courage in leadership, which is what we need out of our elected leaders.
President - Biden
WA Voter Guide:
This shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone. We have a choice between Biden, a man with a life dedicated to public service and Trump, a man with a life dedicated to enriching himself at the cost of others.
I wrote this before the 2016 election and it has, unfortunately, proven to be quite accurate:
Given the power of the president is mostly in the ability to guide the conversation through rhetoric, Trump is particularly dangerous.
Also, I have a very low tolerance for hate and fear mongering, which the Trump campaign (and Presidency) is based on.
Why not one of the others, you may ask? Well, the problem has more to do with first past the post voting than any particular candidate. Even if I really liked one of them (which, for the record, I don’t), first past the post voting means I’m potentially letting someone I really don’t want in power win. Ultimately, it’d be better if we clumped the president and vice president into a single election and used plurality voting, but I don’t see that happening any time soon (although there’s some hope that we’ll fix down ballot elections).
Congressional District 7 Representative - Jayapal
WA Voter Guide:
This is also a fairly simple choice. Jayapal has been doing a good job for Washington State and Keller seems to be of a very short sighted mindset. Jayapal is working towards medicare for all, renewable energy, election reform to reduce the impact of money and minimum wage; all reasonable goals which I can find no fault in. Keller has pushed to repeal the soda tax, the bag ban and living wages; these are all the moves of someone who doesn’t care about the environment and doesn’t understand public health or the downstream effects living wages have.
Advisory votes on taxation are a quirk of Washington State. For the most part, they are pointless placebos. They do, however, give some insight into what’s changing for those willing to do the digging. The language is, however, convoluted.
As these are advisory I’m taking a “maintained by default” stance on these.
Advisory Vote 32 - Maintained
Is this everything we should be doing? No. Is it a substantial improvement? Yes.
While this legislation is full of holes, it at least bans plastic bags. It also requires recycled content in paper bags and requires vendors to pass through the costs of paper bag. This removes a lot of useless plastic from the system as well as incentivising shoppers to bring reusable bags.
The wording of the law is also a great example of how US customary measures are bad for us. The legislation contains such vagaries as 1/8 barrel, but the type of barrel is not specified (there are multiple definitions of barrel) and we really only get a sense of what it’s talking about because they have put cubic inches next to it.
The legislation also includes useful items such as requiring the prioritisation of applications for paper mill reconfiguration necessary for the expected increase in paper bags and education. It also requires the department of commerce to create a report by the end of 2024 with recommendations about bag thicknesses and pass through charges so that the law can be updated as we learn from the effects of this law.
Plastic waste is a huge issue, both environmentally and financially. It clogs our oceans and our waste management systems. Anything we can do to reduce the amount of single use or minimal use plastic in our lives is a positive step forward.
Advisory Vote 33 - Maintained
The only part of this that concerns me is Section 1 which starts with
“(1) All heavy equipment rental property owned by a heavy equipment rental property dealer is exempt from taxation.”
Other than that, it’s a relatively straight forward 1.25% sales tax on heavy equipment rentals.
The funds are split:
- 50% to the motor vehicle fund
- 50% to the multimodal transportation fund
Advisory Vote 34 - Maintained
This change is altering an existing tax structure.
It increases the taxes collected in RCW 82.04.290 from 1.75% to 1.8%. It also reduces taxes for hospitals and sole proprietorships with under $1,000,000 in revenue to 1.5%
Removes the supplemental tax on advanced computing services (e.g. Amazon, Google, Microsoft).
This change is expected to bring in an extra $843,000,000 to make higher education more affordable.
Advisory Vote 35 - Maintained
Rolls back a tax break on aerospace to avoid WTO tariffs and could raise as much as $1,000,000,000. This is unlikely as once the WTO disagreement is settled the changes are voided in the next fiscal quarter.
Engrossed Senate Joint Resolution 8212 - Approve
This is a constitutional amendment to allow long term services care funds to be invested in public stocks. This would be, as are other such investments, managed by the state investment board.
The change is supported by the AARP and other groups representing the affected population. A cursory glance through the investment board annual reports suggests that their return on investment is around 7%, which is much better than bonds and ahead of inflation. Of course, it’s not without risk, 2008 saw a $14,000,000,000 unrealised loss. However, looking through the diversification and that the investment position has been doing well, it seems well enough managed to me to approve.
Referendum 90 - Approve
This requires schools to provide age appropriate, scientifically backed sexual health education (education about abstinence is also required, but can not replace other aspects of the education). Parents continue to be permitted to exclude their parents from this education if they so desire.
This is an obvious yes. Everything here requires the education to be age appropriate and also scientifically backed. For instance K-3 requires the education to be about social and emotional learning, which is not directly sexual but is critical in the path to becoming healthy adults with positive attitudes towards sex and relationships.
Governor - Jay Inslee
Inslee has been doing a good job as governor, I have few complaints and much praise. For example, ensuring that WA residents are still protected by ACA provisions that the Repubilcan party want to gut, such as pre-existing conditions and reproductive care). Another good example of how our values align is that he has moratorium on the death penalty. While I’d prefer to see it abolished as it is incredibly unjust, giving people the chance to have their day in court and prove their innocence is critical (and something a dead person can’t do). Our justice system isn’t perfect and, until it is, we can’t have capital punishment killing the innocent.
Culp doesn’t seem to offer anything of value and much to dislike. He is against public transit, preferring to either leave it to private business to move their workers (sucks to be you if you don’t work for a mega corp) or up to individuals. While I do agree that the Department of Ecology should be run by scientists rather than lawyers, I find the rulemaking powers to be necessary in these times of climate change. Culp also has a naive and, quite frankly, dangerous view of how the government should handle COVID-19. His lack of understanding of human self interest and the requirements to have strong government level enforcement of measures to overcome those interests is, as I said, naive.
Lt. Governor - Liias
- Heck: Update the current system to make it suck less
- Liias: Replace the current system with single payer
- Heck: No explicit plan, does mention building more housing near existing transit
- Liias: Mass transit advocate
- Heck: Clean fuel standard, unionised green job training, improve Puget Sound
- Liias: Clean fuel standard, cap and invest, carbon tax. Takes a “do it all” approach, understands that climate is an existential problem.
- Heck: Close corporate tax loopholes, remove state level pre-emptions on local taxes, working families tax credit, capital gains increases while decreasing property and sales taxes.
- Liias: Progressive tax reform, increase taxes on corporations, remove loophole around capital gains tax, double estate tax. Avoid austerity budgets.
- Police Reform:
- Heck: Hire mental health response teams, limit funding on military grade equipment, require independent investigations of officer involved deaths, ban specific techniques, ban tear gas.
- Liias: Ban the use of surplus military equipment, ban specific techniques and require reporting, require body cameras, prohibit officers from covering badges, redirect funding from incarceration to community alternatives.
Both candidates have an impressive record of public service.
I am picking Liias as his plans are more progressive and, as a state senator, he’s already well plugged into the local legislature. In particular, Liias explicitly calls for single payer healthcare, mass transit and not merely progressive tax reform but also avoiding austerity budgets.
Washington State, Secretary of State - Tarleton
This is a tough one. Wyman has been doing a truly admirable job and I see little reason to replace her. Both she and Tarleton have strong backgrounds and have worked towards making Washington state elections enviable at the national level.
Having said that, Tarleton has a deep defense and intelligence background. Given the direct threats to our democracy from foreign intelligence services, I think that this experience is invaluable at this time and we will be well served by electing her as our secretary of state. Generally, I agree with her position that Washington has come a long way, but there’s a lot more to do and it has a high urgency. This is not the time to be resting on our laurels, which is Wyman’s position.
Washington State, State Treasurer - Pellicciotti
While Davidson seems to have been doing an acceptable job, the opportunity to put in someone who is actively against corporate money and a strong advocate of financial transparency seems too good to pass up. My only major concern here is that Pellicciotti seems to be against public transit.
Washington State, State Auditor - McCarthy
McCarthy has served one term in office and has made a significant number of improvements, including cleaning up the mess left by Kelley and putting a critical eye on many public books which have not been examined recently. She’s also cleaned up the auditors website so it’s actually functional.
Layba has an interesting criminal background but his sales pitch seems to be entirely about “lean business practices”, an attitude that simply isn’t sensible for a government office. I’m also not seeing anything in his campaign about concrete change or improvement and his claim about having the most hands on experience with government auditing/process is dubious at best.
Washington State, Attorney General - Ferguson
Ferguson has been doing a lot to push back against the Trump administration and has been successful at it. He’s also been very active in consumer protection and environmental protection, which are also areas I care deeply about. In general, I think he’s doing a good job.
Larkin is right in that there’s a fairly significant homelessness issue and we need to do something about drug abuse. However, I strongly disagree with law enforcement as approaches to these problems. Rather than law enforcement, we need to be working on the systemic causes or looking at solutions which are known to be effective at long term rehabilitation. I am also a very strong believer in the separation of church and state. Larkin championed faith based initiatives under the Bush administration, which is antithetical to this value.
Washington State, Commissioner of Public Lands - Franz
Both candidates have excellent experience in natural resource management and seem eminently qualified for the job. I found this article to be informative.
Franz has been active in improving the situation around forest fires, securing extra funding for both firefighting and fire prevention. She’s also looking at big picture, this is a long term problem and setting out 10 & 20 year plans shows admirable foresight. I am very worried that her plans only increase the amount of dead forest removal to 283 km² per year, but that’s certainly a significant improvement over 121 km² and we have to start somewhere. Unfortunately, even at that rate it’ll take 39 years to clear the 10,927 km² of forest that’s of concern.
Kuehl Pederson’s platform seems to be mostly about increasing logging in order to better fund schools. While she suggests that she wants a sensible plan, there’s nothing concrete to that which I could find and those details are key to making her electable in my mind. Maybe she just wants to bring in loggers for the dead and dying forest areas, but it’s not clear that that’s commercially viable or what she plans. She would also like to push firefighting down to the private sector and generally give more latitude to land owners to aid in firefighting. I couldn’t find details on what that actually meant though.
Generally, looking through the details of each persons platform, I found Franz to be detailed in a way that showed a strong understanding of the problems. Kuehl Pederson’s positions seem to be very thin on detail and the detail that is provided doesn’t inspire me (for example, moving from federal aid in fire prevention efforts to shoving the problem down to the private sector).
Washington State, Superintendent of Public Instruction - Reykdal
Reykdal has been a proponent of many changes which I strongly agree with, from increases in teacher pay to, dual language education and comprehensive sex education.
Espinoza has an “interesting” platform that both pushes for laudable goals such as teaching day to day life skills, including financial literacy and healthy relationship tools, and at the same time is strongly opposed to sex ed, which is how those relationship tools are taught. The lack of understanding of the link between these two things is a show stopper for me, as is her complete miss characterisation of the system she desires to change. It seems Espinoza also claims her organisation is a 501(c)(3) (which it is not) and that she has never claimed donations are tax deductible. She completely misses the fact that mentioning 501(c)(3) on a site heavily implies to readers that donations are tax deductible and that her wording is tantamount to lying. This is not the kind of person I want anywhere near my schools.
As an aside, our country has a massive problem with puritanical approaches to sex and sexuality, which leave our children vulnerable to life changing mistakes from unwanted pregnancy to abusive relationships. I’m very, very, glad that Washington State is instituting mandatory comprehensive sex education that is targeted at an age appropriate level. Comprehensive sex education isn’t just about the physical aspects, it’s the way we teach our children to have inspiring relationships that are good for both them and their partners. While contraception and the like are important, it’s also extremely important to have a healthy view of our bodies and the ability to discuss potentially uncomfortable topics with our loved ones. Really, I think it should have been called “Relationship Skills” rather than “Sex Ed”.
Washington State, Insurance Commissioner - Kreidler
- Patel - No site, redirects to an NY Times article
Patel’s formal statement is almost unreadable with its self aggrandizing (compares himself to Regan and Jefferson) and lack of detail. Also, his official website redirects to a New York Times article written by someone else (it is a good article though and you can read it here. As such, I’m considering him to not be a serious candidate and that Kreidler is running unopposed.
Legislative District 34, State Representative Pos. 1 - Cody
Cody is running unopposed.
Legislative District 34, State Representative Pos. 2 - Fitzgibbon
Fitzgibbon is running unopposed.
Why are we electing supreme court justices?!?!?
I found Voting For Judges to be a useful resource as it summarised the positions the various bar associations have taken on the qualifications of the judges.
I would also like to note that there’s a site called “Judge Voter Guide” (not linked to avoid sending them traffic). If you look at the About Us page, it doesn’t describe who they are at all, the Questionnaire page does show that it’s run by Craig Huey. I recommend against using his guide as he’s an authoritarian leaning Republican who is trying to use the “voter guide” for partisan advantage. He also favors textualism/originalism, a problem which I will address below.
Justice Position No. 3 - Montoya-Lewis
Larson’s website is not working (and has not been for several days), which makes researching his positions a little bit more challenging. Having said that, there’s a key phrase which stands out to me in his candidate statement:
protect our civic rights and uphold the law and constitution as written
The phrase as written typically denotes that the judge has a textualist or originalist approach. Textualism and originalism are both relatively new concepts, started by the Federalist society in the 1980’s and 1990’s. They typically hold an anti-civil rights and liberties approach to the constitution, which I find abhorrent. It is this kind of judge who brought us both the citizens united and striking down section 4b of the voting rights act, which has allowed more authoritarian state and local governments to disenfranchise many of our fellow citizens. For a quick introduction to the key problems NY Mag has a nice write up, for a detailed legal analysis NY University Law Review.
Justice Position No. 4 - Johnson
Johnson is running unopposed.
Justice Position No. 6 - Whitener
Serns has a diverse background and a significant amount of book knowledge. He’s clearly well educated and has a broad history of public service but no experience as a judge. I think he could be an excellent supreme court justice, once he gets some actual judicial experience. As the King County Bar says, he’s simply not qualified at this time.
Whitener is the acting judge for this seat (appointed in April) and is endorsed by all the current supreme court justices. She also has a broad history of public service and, crucially, many years as both a judge and attorney. I see no reason not to let her serve a full term.
Justice Position No. 7 - Stephens
Stephens is running unopposed.
Charter Amendment No. 1, Inquests - Approve
This proposition greatly increases the number of mandatory inquests, requiring one whenever anyone involved in law enforcement is involved in a death. It also provides for legal council for the family of the deceased so they are not locked out of the process for financial reasons.
To me, this is a very straight forward and obvious yes. Our goal with law enforcement should be zero deaths and there are probably few ways better to achieve that than to regularly hold a post mortem. This is how both the medical and computer technical industries reduce the incidence of error. It helps to identify causes and then allows for an informed discussion about the potential policy changes required.
Charter Amendment No. 2, Disposition of Real Property for Affordable Housing - Approve
- Affordable Housing Task Force publication describing the need for affordable housing
- Affordable Housing HUD page HOME program
- Crosscut article on affordable housing in Seattle, which discusses affordable housing being setup by non-profits
- Housing Consortium
My concerns here are that this kind of thing can be abused by large housing companies to make the rich much richer. From what I can tell, Affordable Housing is well defined and controlled, locked in for between 5 and 20 years depending on the type and funding. While I’m still concerned about it being used for making the rich richer rather than building public housing (which, given the needs we have, would be my preferred option), I’m less concerned than I was when I started my research.
While I still believe that a more active role by the government is preferable, I’m not willing to vote against better for best. I was also unable to find any arguments against this measure.
Charter Amendment No. 3, References to Citizens - Approve
This measure replaces “citizen” with “public”, “member of the public” etc. This is a minor change, but one which will hopefully increase participation by residents. Importantly, the Office of Citizen Complaints will be the Office of Public Complaints. Citizenship should not be used to discriminate on how we can make our county a better place for all.
Charter Amendment No. 4, Office of Law Enforcement Oversight - Subpoena Authority - Approve
This gives the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight subpoena power, so that their requests for information can no longer be ignored. We can’t have effective oversight if the group being overseen can simply ignore requests for information, so this is an easy approval.
Charter Amendment No. 5, Making the King County Sheriff an Appointed Position - Approve
There are things I want to vote for and things that don’t make sense to vote for from my perspective. Sheriff definitely falls into the latter category. What I want to happen is to elect a representative who will then appoint a technocrat as sheriff.
This has many advantages:
- The sheriff can be replaced quickly if they are not performing, instead of having to go through the hassle of a recall election. Recall elections are extremely expensive, slow and difficult to initiate.
- Sheriffs don’t have to go through the election dance. So, it opens the job up to people who are not currently living in the area and to those who don’t want to put up with the mess that is running a campaign. We will gain a lot of qualified candidates who simply don’t want to put up with the cost and time involved in electioneering.
- The sheriff can concentrate on doing what’s right rather than managing a political campaign. Political campaigns take a lot of time and exposes the position to corruption through campaign donations. All of this is detrimental to the office.
In this particular case, moving to an unelected position is also more representative. The position would be appointed by representatives from the areas which are most impacted by the Sheriff position rather than from the entire county. Only 25% of the county is actually serviced by the sheriff (everyone else is serviced by their local police), which means that 75% of the people voting for the position are not affected by their vote. By making the position appointed by the representatives of the people who are serviced by the sheriff, the position becomes considerably more representative.
Charter Amendment No. 6, Structure and Duties of the Department of Public Safety - Approve
This measure allows the council to move the duties of the sheriffs department around. Also, and crucially, it moves negotiating collective bargaining agreements from the sheriff to county executive.
The advantages I see here are:
- The council can move duties to other departments which may be better suited. For example, having mental health professionals rather than deputies responding to mental health issues which do not endanger others.
- The sheriff is not put into the awkward position of negotiating with the
unions. This is extremely important as there is a conflict of interest
between leading the police (and thus being part of the police union) and
negotiating with the police unions.
- Crucially, this removes the incentive for the acceptance of union contracts which have large loopholes around police accountability.
I read through the arguments against and didn’t come away with anything that was, to me, substantiated concern. The basic gist of the argument is “less money means less service”, without acknowledging that moving money to other services (for example, mental health services) can substantially increase the service provided to the public for those calls.
Fundamentally, police should be focussed on public safety. Moving responsibility for other tasks to organisations which are more suitable is good for police and good for the public. It allows the police to focus on keeping the public safe from criminal enterprise rather than requiring them to be everything to everyone.
It should also be noted that this amendment gives the council the option to do these things. It does not require them to be done. It may be that we approve this measure and no substantive change is made by the council.
Charter Amendment No. 7, Prohibiting Discrimination on the Basis of Family Caregiver, Military or Veteran Status - Approve
This is fairly straight forward. Add a list of common sense items to the non-discrimination requirements. It’s not surprising that there’s no statement against this.
Proposition No. 1, Harborview Medical Center Health and Safety Improvement Bonds - Approve
Let me start with this: I detest using bonds for maintenance and basic upgrades. About half of what’s listed in here should be paid for with general taxes.
Having said that, Harborview Medical Center is critical infrastructure that’s in desperate need of retrofit for way too many reasons. That it got to this point is an indictment on using bonds, which rarely account for maintenance and upgrades, instead of taxes. But, here we are so it’s time to bite the bullet and approve the bond because to reject it would cause too much damage.
Court of Appeals
Court Of Appeals, Division 1, District 1, Judge Position 5 - Mann
Mann is running unopposed
Court Of Appeals, Division 1, District 1, Judge Position 6 - Bowman
Bowman is running unopposed
According to the King County Bar Association ratings, all of our choices are Qualified or above, with only one grade average difference between the two candidates running for each position.
King Superior Court, Judge Position 13 - Robertson
Bar Association ratings (bottom of page):
This is a tough one. Both are people I would like to see on the bench, for different reasons. Madsen is very progressive and has worked extensively with advocacy groups to make the world a better place. Robertson has done a lot of public defender work and spends a lot of time teaching.
The two things that end up being the tie breakers for me are:
- Robertson has much more trial experience.
- Robertson earned Exceptionally Well Qualified from the majority of the bar associations which rated her vs a majority of Qualified for Madsen.
King Superior Court, Judge Position 30 - North
Bar Association ratings (bottom of page):
Ladd is running on a platform of equality, when may or may not be linked to the admonition due to an incident of racial bias. All of the ratings for her are Well Qualified or Exceptionally Well Qualified, although there’s an oddity I’m not sure how to weigh in that she asked for the Cardozo Society of Washington to withdraw their rating.
North is the incumbent and has been in office for 20 years. He also has Well Qualified or Exceptionally Well Qualified ratings (although more of the latter than Ladd). As noted above, he has had an admonishment. He also quickly acknowledged it and has taken unintended bias training to learn from his mistake. Given he has so obviously learned from his mistake (and we all make them), I’m not going to hold this against him.
The Progressive Voters Guide points out that they’re both excellently progressive judges and they only swing to Ladd because of the admonishment. The Stranger leans towards North. Both declare it to be an extremely difficult decision.
Ultimately, I’m going to vote North for the following reasons:
- Most of the other judges on the court are relatively new, so we actually do need the experience.
- He’s learned from his mistake and taken very public steps not only to show that he’s learned but to improve the situation in the court system.
- The court is fairly balanced sex wise (if I read right, there are actually more women), so there’s no strict benefit in electing Ladd there. None of the other equality factors are in play.
North is actively engaged in improving the racism and how bail is managed in the court system today and I think that it’s important to let him finish the work he’s started. Given that he’s doing the work, using the experience and connections he’s built up over time to do so (as well as the drive he seems to have gained in learning from his mistake), I think it would be detrimental to remove him at this juncture.
Highline School District No. 401
Proposition No. 1, Capital Levy for Educational Technology Improvements - Approve
Given the pandemic and the requirements for secure electronic provision of educational material to all students, this seems a fairly straight forward approval. Without it, many of our poorer students are going to fall even further behind. Providing poor students with internet access will help their families in other ways too, especially during the pandemic where the ability to use online services (without paying mobile per byte costs) is a significant improvement to a families ability to avoid COVID-19.