In summary

CalMatters talked to a handful of the 4.3 million Californians who chose to sit out this year’s election to find out why, given 17.8 million set a record by voting in November. Sergio Berrueta, a student at Humboldt State and a Bernie Sanders supporter, said he didn’t like President-Elect Joe Biden or President Donald Trump so chose not to vote.

Sergio Berrueta, 28, is a student at Humboldt State. Here is how he explains his decision to not vote.

I didn’t vote this year because, frankly, I didn’t like the candidates for both parties. I wasn’t going to vote for Trump, but I also wasn’t going to vote for Biden. I’ve been registered as a Democrat since the first time I could vote in an election, and this time around I didn’t think Biden was fit enough as a candidate. 

I was a Bernie Sanders supporter like many other college students. 

In the last election in 2016, I voted third party. It was the same, I didn’t like Clinton as an option and I voted third party because I was like, I believe in this other thing and I don’t think the system is really working out.

What I want to see in a politician is someone that is going to focus on the nation. It’s weird because you have one candidate saying let’s make America great again, but they’re not really doing what would make this place great. 

What I want for a candidate is someone who is fighting for us. We need universal healthcare, we need access to proper public health, that is the biggest issue for me. Someone that is pro-choice, someone that wants to actually work on gun control because that has been a problem for years. 

Sergio Berrueta, a student a Humboldt State University. Photo courtesy of Sergio Berrueta

I am tired of constantly funding the military for endless war. I just want a candidate that is going to focus on this nation because we have been so focused on everything outside and we haven’t focused on what is going on here. We have problems internally and we should be growing, we shouldn’t be going backwards.

My mom has voted Democrat in every election. My grandpa, he flip-flops. In the last election, he voted for Clinton, in the election prior he voted for Romney, and in 2008 he voted for McCain. But he voted for Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004. He also voted for Reagan in the 80s, and I’m still mad about that — even though I wasn’t alive then. 

My friend Patrick voted — or he better have, I don’t remember. Heidi, my partner, voted, she did by mail. I registered (in Humboldt County) and they mailed my ballot to an old address, but once again, I didn’t vote this election because of what I said. 

It boiled down to this: No matter what happens, things are going to kind of stay the same. You gotta vote for the lesser of two evils and honestly — I hope I don’t sound weird or anything — but it came down to morals.

This coverage is made possible through Votebeat, a nonpartisan reporting project covering local election integrity and voting access. In California, CalMatters is hosting the collaboration with the Fresno Bee, the Long Beach Post, and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

We want to hear from you

Want to submit a guest commentary or reaction to an article we wrote? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact CalMatters with any commentary questions: commentary@calmatters.org .

Freddy is a reporter at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.