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Your guide to California policy and politics
BY Emily Hoeven June 9, 2022
Climate-Smart Agricultural Partnership

Why didn’t more Californians vote?

California mailed out more than 22 million ballots to registered voters ahead of Tuesday’s primary election. But as of Wednesday, just 3.5 million had been counted.

The tally is far from complete — county elections offices will accept through June 14 ballots postmarked by June 7, and the Secretary of State has until July 15 to certify the results of statewide races. 

So, although turnout stood at just 16% on Wednesday — stoking fears California could break its low-turnout record of 25.17% set in 2014 — things could change significantly in the coming weeks. Los Angeles County, for example, estimates it still has 400,000 votes left to count. 

  • Elections guru Paul Mitchell told my colleague Ben Christopher that, based on the historical gap between the initial ballot count and the certified total, “The way I think about it … you have to add 9 or 10 points. So maybe it’s 28%. But who knows! We have to be humble.” 
  • Nevertheless, “it seems safe to say that turnout in (Tuesday’s) primary will not be held up as a shining example of citizen civic engagement,” the nonpartisan California Target Book, which tracks election data, wrote in a Wednesday email.

All that makes it difficult to ascertain what, exactly, Californians are feeling. President Joe Biden suggested that San Francisco voters recalling progressive District Attorney Chesa Boudin is an indication that “both parties have to step up and do something about crime, as well as gun violence.”

  • But that may be too simplistic: As CalMatters’ Alexei Koseff reports, the message from voters was far more complicated than the national narrative that California rejected criminal justice reform outright. Although Boudin was recalled and some progressive prosecutor candidates lost in Tuesday’s primary, others won.
  • One possible takeaway: Voters “want criminal justice reform, they want thoughtful reform, but they want it in a way that doesn’t compromise their public safety,” Greg Totten, CEO of the California District Attorneys Association, told Alexei.

The San Francisco Chronicle editorial board also pushed back on the notion that voters sent a clear signal on crime.

  • In a scathing editorial, the board wrote: “It was apathy and resignation, not overt anger or a definitive vision, that ruled the day in San Francisco and across California in Tuesday’s election. And that’s simply unacceptable. Not voting because you’re tired of the state of things or because you don’t believe it will make a difference are self-fulfilling prophecies. There is no winning when the overwhelming majority of us disengage from our collective future.”

Reading that argument reminded me of one of my favorite passages from the novel “Cloud Atlas,” in which the narrator imagines his critics telling him, “Only as you gasp your dying breath shall you understand, your life amounted to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean!” 

“Yet,” the narrator reasons, “what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?” 

2022 Election

Latest coverage of the 2022 general election in California

Climate-Smart Agricultural Partnership

The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 9,058,902 confirmed cases (+0.8% from previous day) and 90,892 deaths (+0.1% from previous day), according to state data now updated just twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

California has administered 76,658,096 vaccine doses, and 75.4% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.


1 Other election tidbits

Election workers sort through ballots at the Sacramento County Registrar of Voters on June 7, 2022. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters

Here’s a look at a few other election nuggets you should know:

  • Connie Conway, a former GOP state assemblymember, won Tuesday’s special election for the U.S. House of Representatives seat vacated by Devin Nunes. Once she’s sworn into office, a record 146 women will be serving in Congress, making up a little more than 27% of the body, according to the Center for American Women and Politics. But she’ll only have about six months in office: Starting in 2023, Nunes’ seat will cease to exist in its current form due to redistricting
  • Some of California’s top-two statewide races have yet to take shape for November: We know Democrat Rob Bonta is advancing in the attorney general’s race, Republican Lanhee Chen for controller, Democrat Ricardo Lara for insurance commissioner, and Democrat Tony Thurmond for schools superintendent — but, with multiple candidates duking it out for second place in each race, it’s too soon to know who their opponents will be. Keep up with the latest on CalMatters’ live primary results page.

2022 Election

Your guide to the 2022 general election in California

2 School spending shrouded in secrecy

Illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters; iStock

Imagine your boss giving you a check worth four months of your salary and saying you only have a short time to spend it. That’s essentially the situation facing California schools, which got a whopping $33.5 billion in state and federal stimulus funds to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But the money has come with limited oversight and little transparency. There isn’t a centralized state or federal database of what schools are buying. And although districts are required to post some spending plans online, many are difficult to find and so broad as to be virtually useless in tracking the money.

To get a sense for how school districts are spending this unprecedented amount of money, CalMatters reporters Robert Lewis and Joe Hong reviewed thousands of pages of documents obtained through more than 45 public records requests. That includes spending ledgers from dozens of districts – including most of the state’s largest – and previously unreported state reviews. Check out their findings here.

  • But the reviews are limited in scope: Last fiscal year, the California Department of Education monitored stimulus spending at less than 1% of the approximately 1,700 educational agencies that received aid. 
  • Of the 15 reviews conducted, potential red flags popped up in six. This year, concerns surfaced in 19 of 37 reviews. 

Meanwhile, some California school districts simply won’t say how they’ve spent their pandemic money, courtesy of American taxpayers, Robert and Joe report.

  • Four districts — including Los Angeles Unified, the biggest in the state — didn’t provide spending ledgers nearly three months after CalMatters first asked.
  • And two districts – San Francisco Unified and Oakland Unified – refused to release records showing how they’ve spent the taxpayer money. 

3 More $$ for schools? + Capitol goings-on

A student draws flowers at San Antonio Elementary School in Lockwood on May 11, 2022. Photo by David Rodriguez, The Salinas Californian/Catchlight Local

Speaking of money for schools, an initiative that would increase funding for art and music education in public schools is eligible for California’s statewide November ballot, Secretary of State Shirley Weber announced Wednesday. That means the measure’s proponents — led by former Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner — filed enough valid signatures to land it on the ballot. If approved by voters, the measure is expected to raise between $800 million and $1 billion annually starting in 2023 by earmarking a certain percentage of the state’s general fund revenue for arts education; schools with at least 500 students would be required to spend at least 80% of the funding to employ teachers.

Other Capitol news you should know:

  • Another measure that could go before voters: one that would enshrine the right to abortion and contraception in California’s constitution. Top Democratic lawmakers unveiled the text of the proposed constitutional amendment on Wednesday, about a month after they vowed to “fight like hell” in response to a draft U.S. Supreme Court majority opinion that suggests justices are poised to strike down the federal constitutional right to an abortion. But lawmakers are facing a quickly approaching deadline: Two-thirds of legislators in both the Assembly and Senate have to pass the bill by June 30 in order for it to show up on voters’ ballots in November.
  • Also unveiled Wednesday: A more than 1,000-page bill incorporating key parts of the Legislature’s joint budget blueprint, which lawmakers must pass by June 15 or lose their paychecks. But since lawmakers and Newsom have yet to reach a budget deal for the fiscal year beginning July 1 — or hammer out specific details for spending an unprecedented surplus — expect negotiations to continue long after lawmakers pass their framework next week.
  • Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco opened up to California Healthline about how his experience living with Crohn’s disease, a chronic autoimmune condition, has informed some of his health care-related legislation.

CalMatters Commentary


CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: The deterioration of city life in San Francisco and Los Angeles motivated voters to voice their disgust in Tuesday’s election.

Other things worth your time


Some stories may require a subscription to read

How San Francisco became a failed city — and how it could recover. // The Atlantic

‘Unsafe’ and ‘unsightly’: Residents sue city over sinking streets and sidewalks. // San Francisco Chronicle

Armed California man arrested near Justice Kavanaugh’s house. // Politico

Why are Californians bankrolling national races in states where they don’t live? // Sacramento Bee

Another prosecutor defies Gascón, sues for retaliation over demotion. // Daily News

Family sues Meta, blames Instagram for daughter’s eating disorder and self-harm. // NBC News

California draft privacy rules would prohibit guilting consumers. // Bloomberg Law

Oakland signals support for tenants by sending public housing measure to November ballot. // Courthouse News

Oakland Unified orders protesters to end sit-in at closed K-8 school. // EdSource

Amid border surge, Biden admin plans to send migrants to cities deeper inside the U.S., starting with Los Angeles. // NBC News

Tacos with a Cop event is latest effort by San Diego police to foster connections with community. // San Diego Union-Tribune

A death and lawsuit bring more scrutiny to timing in LAPD shootings. // Los Angeles Times

California’s mental health ‘Warm Line’ faces uncertain future. // San Francisco Examiner

Cancer groups worried about falling funds to track cases in California. // Los Angeles Times

Automakers side with California in lawsuit over climate change, tailpipe emissions. // Sacramento Bee

PG&E pledges net-zero emissions by 2040, will keep using gas. // Associated Press

Editorial: Too many new straws in California’s groundwater milkshake. // Los Angeles Times

Joshua Tree trail closed amid drought to ensure water for bighorn sheep. // Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles appoints first Chief Heat Officer. // CBS News

Lake Tahoe must grow beyond tourism, new report insists. // San Francisco Chronicle

Long-tailed weasel spotted in San Francisco’s Presidio for the first time in a century. // Bay Nature

See you tomorrow

Tips, insight or feedback? Email emily@calmatters.org.

Follow me on Twitter: @emily_hoeven

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