This page contains information about local government and the mechanics of voting. For information about political activism and causes, see the Community page.
If you're a first year student, out of state student, and US citizen, you should register to vote as part of your proof of residency. You can register at the DMV or post office. Once you register you'll be (in principle) automatically removed from the voter rolls in your old place of residence. You must provide proof of residency when you register (in the form of your California driver's license number). If you do not, you may be required to present ID at your polling place the first time you vote. If there is some problem with your registration and you are denied a ballot on Election Day, you have a right to fill out a provisional ballot which will be assessed for legitimacy after Election Day.
The Bay Area is a very liberal place. In 2006, of Alameda county registered voters, 55٪ were registered Democrats, 18٪ were registered Republicans, and nearly 2٪ were registered Greens. In the recent gubernatorial recall election more Alameda county votes were cast for the Green candidate than for the Republican (Ah-nold). And in Berkeley itself there were more registered Greens (3,958) than Republicans (3,765) in 2006.
If you register as a member of a political party, you can vote in that party's and only that party's primary.
You may also “Decline to State” your party membership, in which case you will have the option of voting in the primary of any party that allows it. It varies from election to election, but for most primary elections the Democratic, Republican, and American Independent parties allow “Decline to State” voters to receive their primary ballot. If you don't actively request one of those ballots, you will receive a “nonpartisan” ballot with no candidates listed for partisan offices. Check here to see which parties are allowing “Decline to State” voters to participate in an upcoming primary.
Many people find it convenient to regularly vote absentee. You can request to have an absentee ballot mailed to you every election. You can then mail it back well before the election or, if you forget, you can always drop it off at your polling place on Election Day.
California regularly has propositions on the ballot. Citizens may collect signatures to put initiatives on the ballot to amend the state constitution or force legislation. Some acts of the legislature, especially involving new taxes or bonds, require or are easier to accomplish with a measure put to the voters. Some local or county bond measures require a 55٪ supermajority.
Many local media offer endorsements of candidates and propositions:
- The San Francisco Bay Guardian (very liberal independent weekly)
These are your elected representatives and overlords:
- U.S. Representatives:
- Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R)
- Luitenant Governor John Garamendi (D)
- State Contoller John Chiang (D)
- State Treasurer Bill Lockyer (D)
- State Attorney General Jerry Brown (D)
- State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner (R)
- California Secretary of State Debra Bowen (D)
- State Superindendent of Education Jack O'Connell
- State Assemblymembers:
- State Senators:
Your local elected government:
- San Francisco (city and county)