Newsletter: A guide to the voter guides

A stack of "I voted" stickers
Don’t worry, your mail-in ballot comes with a sticker.
(Susan Montoya Bryan / Associated Press)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Oct. 7, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

Technically, there are 27 days until the election. But voting season is well underway, with more than 21 million ballots already in the mail to California voters.

This morning’s newsletter will take a brief break from the chaos at hand to walk you through an array of useful voter resources from The Times, along with a few links from other outlets around the state.

The nuts and bolts of voting


All registered California voters should receive ballots in the mail; counties were required to start mailing them Oct. 5. You can track your mail-in ballot through a state website called BallotTrax. And if you aren’t yet registered to vote, it’s not too late! The deadline in California is Oct. 19. You can register here and check your voter status here.

If you vote by mail, your ballot must be postmarked by Nov. 3 and received by your county elections office by Nov. 20 in order to be counted. You can also vote in person. Bring your mail-in ballot with you if you go this route.

This guide will walk you through common questions on voting by mail and in person. It also deals with special circumstances, like how to vote if you are experiencing homelessness or have been displaced by a natural disaster.

[See the guide: “How to Vote in California” from the Los Angeles Times]

This interactive map shows voting locations in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties, including ballot drop box locations. If you live elsewhere in the state, you can search for your polling place here.

What’s on the ballot

Californians will decide the fate of 12 statewide propositions this November. The propositions require a simple majority for passage. If approved, they’ll take effect once the election results are certified in December, unless otherwise specified.

Our Sacramento bureau chief John Myers explains what you should know about each of those propositions in this rundown, which includes short videos on each proposition.

[See the guide: “A look at California’s November ballot propositions” in the Los Angeles Times]

Along with your congressional race, you might be voting on state Legislature races and a slew of local offices and initiatives, depending on where you live. Here’s a look at some of the local races on the ballot in L.A. County. For a more local angle from other parts of the state, see these election guides from the San Francisco Chronicle and Sacramento Bee. Cal Matters has also profiled some of the California congressional races, state Assembly races and state Senate races to watch.

This newsletter will take a closer look at a few specific local races in the weeks to come. If there’s something particularly interesting or contentious on the ballot in your community, I’d love to hear about it.

Making your decisions

If you’d like to take endorsements into consideration, here’s the complete list of endorsements that The Times editorial board has made for the November 2020 election. (The editorial board operates separately from the newsroom. As a newsroom staffer, I had nothing to do with these endorsements.) If you like to make your choices straight down party lines, here are the official endorsement pages from the California GOP and the California Democratic Party. There are countless other endorsement guides out there, from local political clubs to advocacy and special interest groups.

Judicial races tend to garner less attention and often leave voters feeling unprepared. This guide from LAist has some tips on how to evaluate candidates in judicial races. It’s Los Angeles-centric, but the principles carry over to other counties.

And finally, if you do vote by mail, don’t forget to sign your name and write the date in the correct spots on the back of the prepaid postage envelope provided with your ballot.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

In a first since the state launched its tiered system, two counties moved backward in the state’s reopening plan on Tuesday. After an increase in cases, Tehama County moved back to Tier 1, the most restrictive category, and Shasta County moved back to Tier 2. The setbacks will affect business sectors that had been given the green light to reopen or expand capacity in those areas. A handful of counties moved forward on Tuesday, including Ventura County. Los Angeles Times

California colleges tried to prepare for COVID-19 outbreaks. It didn’t work. Newly reopened colleges weren’t prepared for the influx of students residing off-campus that have contributed to COVID-19 outbreaks. Los Angeles Times

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.


The Lakers defeated the Miami Heat in Game 4 of the NBA Finals. With their current 3-1 lead, the Lakers could capture their first NBA title in a decade Friday with a win in Game 5. Los Angeles Times

The Dodgers took Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Padres. Game 2 is Wednesday. Los Angeles Times

Hollywood has gobbled up book rights during the pandemic. With film and TV productions stalled, studios have acquired the rights to hundreds of novels and nonfiction tomes that they hope will underpin future hits. Los Angeles Times

A giant Trump sign appeared — and was swiftly taken down — in the Sepulveda Pass. Los Angeles Times

A sign in the style of the Hollywood sign that says "Trump"
A massive “Trump” sign popped up Tuesday morning on the hills along the 405 Freeway in the Sepulveda Pass. The white lettering appears to be 10 feet tall and mimics the style of the landmark Hollywood sign.

Eddie Van Halen has died at age 65. With his namesake hard-rock band, Van Halen redefined the sound and possibilities of the electric guitar in the 1970s and ’80s. Los Angeles Times

Two Angelenos won MacArthur “Genius” grants: Larissa FastHorse, a playwright of Indigenous stories, and Natalia Molina, a professor of American studies and ethnicity at USC, were both awarded the prestigious prize. Los Angeles Times / Los Angeles Times

UCLA astrophysicist Andrea Ghez and two other scientists have been awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for their pioneering work on black holes, including the supermassive one that resides at the center of our galaxy. Los Angeles Times

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The Trump administration announced plans Tuesday to sharply limit visas for skilled workers, a move officials said was a priority amid job losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Associated Press


President Trump abandoned COVID-19 relief talks on Tuesday, saying they won’t resume until after the election. The move came as the chairman of the Federal Reserve said that further fiscal intervention is needed to prevent the economy from spiraling downward. Trump tweeted that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was “not negotiating in good faith” and said he’s asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to direct all his focus before the election into confirming his U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett. Associated Press

Stephen Miller, President Trump’s senior advisor and speechwriter, tested positive for the coronavirus Tuesday. Los Angeles Times

Who is Susan Page? Meet the moderator for tonight’s vice presidential debate. Los Angeles Times


A transgender woman was targeted and stabbed Sunday night in L.A.'s MacArthur Park after being surrounded by a group of men who suggested hatred for “gays,” according to the LAPD. Though gender identity and sexual orientation are completely different, LGBTQ rights activists say people who show hatred for one or the other often conflate the two. Los Angeles Times


The frightening implications of California’s first million-acre fire: The August Complex fire has earned “gigafire” status, offering a terrifying glimpse into how climate change and other factors are worsening California’s fire danger. Los Angeles Times


UC Berkeley biochemist Jennifer A. Doudna and one other scientist won the Nobel Prize for chemistry for their work on the so-called CRISPR tool for gene editing, a discovery that holds out the possibility of curing genetic diseases. Los Angeles Times

Facebook instituted a sweeping ban on QAnon. Will it work? Los Angeles Times

She decided her magazine had to proclaim that Black lives matter — in Spanish. Ivette Zamora Cruz’s Spanish-language magazine La Revista covers Latinos in the Coachella Valley. Los Angeles Times

Where to eat in Orange County in 2020: This is O.C. critic Brad A. Johnson’s sixth edition of this guide. Orange County Register

A poem to start your Wednesday: “Rumination” by Jim Harrison. Words for the Year

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Los Angeles: sunny, 82. San Diego: partly sunny, 77. San Francisco: fog, 62. San Jose: partly sunny, 79. Fresno: sunny, 90. Sacramento: partly sunny, 88. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Marilyn Cole Shatz:

I remember biking on the freeway being constructed by my home on Alexandria Avenue near Melrose Avenue in the 1950s, when I was 16 years old. It was exhilarating biking along an unfinished road, knowing cars would be speeding on this road within a few months when completed. I often think of that special time as I drive on that very site, this time at speeds of 65 miles per hour!

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.