President of the United States

If ever there was a reason for voters to show up at the polls, it is to rebuke Donald Trump and the vileness he has unleashed during this long national nightmare of
a presidential campaign.

Trump has proven himself a compulsive liar who spreads racism, xenophobia and misogyny; who incites political violence; who loses self-control at the slightest provocation; who appears to lack basic human empathy. He is a dangerous autocrat. To vote for Trump would be to support behavior that conflicts with core American values and has no place in contemporary society.

Hillary Clinton has struggled to capture enthusiasm outside her base, but she has been able to communicate core values that include improving health care, education and economic opportunity on a broad scale. Sure, Clinton has her problems, but she has her virtues too — chief among them the aptitude and temperament required of a president.

Make politics boring again! Vote for Hillary Clinton.

United States Senate

We didn’t get all that much of a campaign between state Attorney Gen. Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, and few voters have been interested in spending a lot of time comparing the two Democrats.

But there is a difference. Although Sanchez has shown charisma where Harris has been cautious and dry, Harris demonstrates a greater command of the facts and is more convincing that she’d represent California well in the Senate. Harris could be more outspoken, but when she speaks up — as she did against big banks on behalf of housing crisis victims, winning greater concessions and consumer protections — she makes it count. Vote for Kamala Harris.

House of Representatives

We love an underdog, but the candidates challenging local congressional incumbents are a who’s who of never heard of ‘em and have failed to make convincing cases that we should dump incumbents who’ve done well for their constituents. Depending on your district, vote for Ted Lieu, Karen Bass or Maxine Waters.

California Ballot Propositions

Somebody ought to float a state ballot proposition to limit state ballot propositions. Last year a Microsoft study found that the human attention span has fallen to just eight seconds — shorter than that of a goldfish.This year, California voters are being asked to decide 17 ballot propositions on everything from legalizing marijuana to abolishing or accelerating the death penalty.

It’s heavy stuff, and you can bet how many voters are going to give each question a full eight seconds of thoughtful consideration.

Government by referendum is out of control. Direct democracy can have its merits in some cases, but why do we elect state officeholders if every important issue is going to be decided by a popular vote?

If we still have your attention, here’s our abbreviated take on the information that filled the 224-page voter information guide nobody had time to read.

Prop 51: School Funding
The ends are worthy, but the means problematic. Voters are being asked to approve a $9-billion general obligation bond to match local dollars for construction and modernization of K-12, charter, community college and vocational school facilities. Over 35 years, it’ll cost taxpayers almost double.

A yes vote helps schools in the short-term, but also perpetuates a harmful status quo: treating school upkeep as a one-time expense and doling out matching funds in order of application rather than need. Voters should insist that our elected leaders work out a more stable and equitable funding mechanism in 2017. Vote No.

Prop 52: Hospital Fee
Voters are asked to continue an existing Medi-Cal fee for private hospitals that generates about $3 billion a year in matching federal funds while saving the state about $900 million. The only reason it’s on the ballot is that the health care establishment is afraid lawmakers won’t renew it or will try to divert the money elsewhere. We shouldn’t have to vote on this, but since you’re already voting, Vote Yes.

Prop 53: Bond Approval
A yes vote would require statewide voter approval on any project that relies on more than $2 billion in state revenue bonds. Revenue bond repayments don’t come out of the general fund, so it’s not really a tax issue. Most projects don’t cost $2 billion, either. So what’s really going on? A wealthy farmer is trying to stop Gov. Jerry Brown’s San Joaquin Delta water project. This shouldn’t be on the ballot. Vote No.

Prop 54: Legislative Transparency
This would require the state Legislature to give public notice at least three days before voting on a bill. Sunshine is good. Vote Yes.

Prop 55: Taxing the Wealthy
One of the biggest themes of the 2016 presidential campaign is that many people are hurting while the wealthiest among us reap all the gains of a rebounding economy. A yes vote would continue until 2030 the 1% to 3% state income tax increase on individuals earning more than $250,000 per year that voters approved in 2012. The winners in this economy can afford it. Call it 1% from the 1%. Vote Yes.

Prop 56: Cigarette Tax
Big tobacco complains that the proceeds of this $2-per-pack cigarette tax increase (and comparable tax on e-cigarettes) would benefit health care programs rather than education. That’s just misdirection. Smoking is a health issue with high costs to society, and this would be a user fee. Vote Yes.

Prop 57: Criminal Sentencing
There’s being soft on crime, and then there’s being smart about it. A key component of Gov. Jerry Brown’s strategy to comply with federal prison population reduction mandates, Prop 57 restores powers to judges and parole boards that voters previously took from them.

A yes vote means judges, not prosecutors, will decide on a case-by-case basis whether juveniles are tried as adults. Non-violent adult offenders who have completed their base sentences would be able to apply for (but not automatically receive) parole before completing cookie-cutter sentence enhancements.

Overcrowding and realignment mean prisoners will be serving lighter sentences one way or another, and Brown’s plan is a reasonable way to take control of the process. Vote Yes.

Prop 58: Bilingual Education
In 1998, California voters curtailed bilingual education in public schools because non-native speakers were languishing in programs that couldn’t deliver English proficiency. Times have changed, with many English-speaking parents now embracing dual-language immersion programs that combine native and non-native speakers to promote fluency in multiple languages. The shining success of the Mandarin immersion program at Broadway Elementary School in Venice is a strong argument for restoring local control. Vote Yes.

Prop 59: ‘Citizens United’
Coauthored by state Sen. Ben Allen (D- Santa Monica), this advisory vote would encourage state officials to support amending the U.S. Constitution to overturn “Citizens United,” the onerous U.S. Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate money in politics. Allen argues that “reform can only happen with a groundswell of grassroots support.” He’s right. Vote Yes.

Prop 60: Condoms in Porn
Freedom of expression appears to be at odds with worker safety in this attempt to require condom use in adult films, which would weirdly also give viewers the right to sue producers and possibly actors for violations. Performers worry it will take the industry underground, and the California Medical Association is staying neutral. Criminalizing sex work has rarely helped sex workers. Vote No.

Prop 61: Prescription Drugs
Approval would prohibit state agencies from buying prescription drugs at prices higher than the U.S. Veterans Administration pays, which has negotiated significant discounts. Opponents worry that the drug companies spending lavishly to oppose Prop 61 would respond by raising prices on other customers (including the VA) or refuse to sell certain drugs to the state if they can no longer pick taxpayers’ pockets. We agree with AARP that it’s time to stand up to price-gouging. Vote Yes.

Props 62 & 66: Death Penalty
In 2009 the nonpartisan California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice wrote a recipe for “fixing” dysfunctional administration of the death penalty, mainly by increasing resources for the courts and law enforcement. Our feckless state leaders balked. Prop 62 would end this whole costly and morally troubling mess by eliminating the death penalty in California; Prop 66 would speed up executions without addressing its flaws. We can’t trust the state to sort this out. Vote Yes on 62 to end the death penalty; No on 66.

Prop 63: Ammunition Sales
Requiring a state license to buy ammunition won’t prevent a “good guy with a gun” from getting bullets, but it may stop a bad guy from killing you with them. Vote Yes.

Prop 64: Marijuana Legalization

Since legalizing marijuana, Colorado has seen increased tax revenue and no related increase in crime. In California, the ganja genie’s already out of the bottle — pot is everywhere, with few effective controls. We agree with the ballot argument signed by local Rep. Ted Lieu (D- Torrance), a former military prosecutor. It’s better to take responsibility by taxing and regulating marijuana use than acting like we don’t see it. Vote Yes.

Props 65 & 67: Plastic Bags

Plastic bags are bad for the environment. Plastic bag makers put Prop 65 on the ballot to confuse voters and gum up the works by turning grocery store paper bag fees into an environmental tax. To support the ban, vote No on 65 and Yes on Prop 67.

Endorsements for local candidates and measures come next week. Send election-related letters to the editor to letters@argonautnews.com no later than Oct. 27.