Title pages of the original English (left) and Spanish (right) versions of the 1849 Constitution of California.
The Big Five is an informal institution of the legislative leadership role in California's government, consisting of the governor, the Assembly speaker, the Assembly minority leader, the Senate president pro tempore, and the Senate minority leader. Members of the Big Five meet in private to discuss bills pending in the legislature. Because the party caucus leaders in California's legislature also control the party's legislative campaign funds, the leaders wield tremendous power over their caucus members. They are thus able to exert some influence in their caucus's votes in Big Five meetings.
Only the Democratic Party and Republican Party currently have representation in the State Legislature. However, for a brief period around the turn of the 21st century, one member of the Green Party was a member of the State Assembly, representing the eastern San Francisco Bay Area.
California currently uses the plurality voting system ("First-past-the-post") in its elections, but some municipalities such as San Francisco and Berkeley have opted to use a system of preferential voting, currently used in Australia and Ireland, more popularly known in the United States as instant-runoff voting or ranked choice voting.
Local elections in California at the county and city level are officially non-partisan and political party affiliations are not included on local election ballots.
The first presidential election the state participated in was 1852 in which it was carried easily by Democrat Franklin Pierce. From the Civil War onward, California was a reliably Republican stronghold for decades. Beginning with the 1932 election, the state shifted into the Democrat camp. Franklin Roosevelt carried all but one county in the state in 1932, and in 1936 all counties. Roosevelt's third and fourth presidential elections saw him win by smaller margins. The 1952 election saw California shift back to a red state as Dwight Eisenhower carried all but three counties. Aside from 1964, California was a reliably Republican state in every presidential election until 1992, when it was carried by Bill Clinton. The state has voted Democrat in every presidential election since 1992, usually by lopsided margins. Voting patterns since 1992 have remained consistent, with Democrat presidential candidates carrying the coastal counties and Republicans the inland counties.
At the state level, California has had more mixed voting tendencies. Six of the state's first seven governors were Democrats; during subsequent decades, control of the governorship frequently shifted between the two parties. From 1899 to 1939, almost all governors were Republican, but since that time the governorship has switched parties regularly.
The two major political parties in California that currently have representation in the State Legislature and U.S. Congress are the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. There are four other parties that qualify for official ballot status: the American Independent Party, Green Party, Libertarian Party, and Peace and Freedom Party.
Of the 19,696,371 California voters registered for the November 6, 2018, general election:
Many of California's governmental agencies, institutions, and programs have been established in the Constitution of California. Additionally, the state constitution establishes mandatory funding levels for some agencies, programs and institutions. This issue came to the forefront when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the California Legislature attempted to cut spending to close the state's multibillion-dollar budget deficits during the 2000s. Consequently, affected agencies with support from special interest groups, successfully pressed the California Supreme Court to order the restoration of funding to a number of agencies and programs which had been cut.
There have been several events, many dubbed "constitutional crises" by their opponents, over the last thirty-two years including:
Northern California's inland areas, the Central Valley, and Southern California outside Los Angeles County are mostly Republican areas. Coastal California, including such areas as the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles County and as well as Sacramento are mostly Democratic areas. As most of the population is in Los Angeles County and the San Francisco Bay Area, California as a whole tends to be liberal.
California was a Republican stronghold in presidential elections from 1952 until 1992. During this period, the Republicans won California in every election except the election of 1964. In these years, the GOP regularly nominated Californians as presidential candidates: Richard Nixon in 1960 and 1972, and Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984. Since then however, the Democrats have carried the electoral rich state since 1992. The immigration of Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans and migration of northern liberals, who tend to vote Democratic, and the flight of white, middle and upper-middle class suburbanites out of the state shifted the balance in favor of the Democratic Party.
Among the state's divisive issues are water and water rights, resulting in the California Water Wars. Lacking reliable dry season rainfall, water is limited and available surface sources are extensively developed through dams, canals, and pipelines. The principal water sources are mountain runoff from wet season rains and higher altitude snowpack (70%), wells (limited by salt-water incursion and overuse), and some Colorado River water supplying southern California (strictly limited by treaties with the other western states and Mexico). Waste water reclamation in California is already routine (for irrigation and industrial use). Most water is in the north of the State, while agriculture, the largest user of stored water in California, is most prevalent in the central and southern areas. Additionally, the majority of the state's population is in the south. Water viewed as excess by the south is viewed by the north as environmentally essential for agriculture, fisheries, and wildlife. While the southern electorate has a greater portion of the population it is not as unified in its viewpoint as is that of the north, so ballot propositions such as those promoting a Peripheral Canal to transport water to the south have failed.
Land use is also divisive. High land prices mean that ordinary people keep a large proportion of their net worth in land. This leads them to agitate strongly about issues that can affect the prices of their home or investments. The most vicious local political battles concern local school boards (good local schools substantially raise local housing prices) and local land-use policies. In built-up areas it is extremely difficult to site new airports, dumps, or jails. Many cities routinely employ eminent domain to make land available for development. A multi-city political battle was fought for several years in Orange County concerning the decommissioning of the huge El Toro Marine airbase. Orange County needs a new airport (pilot unions voted the existing airport, John Wayne, the least safe in the U.S.), but the noise could reduce land prices throughout the southern part of the county, including wealthy, politically powerful Irvine.
Gun control is another divisive issue, which stems at least partially from the fact that California's constitution does not explicitly guarantee the right for ordinary citizens to keep and bear arms. In the cities, California has one of the U.S.'s most serious gang problems, and in some farming regions, some of the highest murder rates. The state also contains many individuals who desire to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves, their families, and property. The legislature has passed restrictive gun control laws. Private purchase of "assault" weapons (generally, semi-automatic rifles that look like military rifles) without prior approval from the state Department of Justice (which rarely grants such approval) is a felony. The law does not, however, prohibit sales of semi-automatic hunting-style civilian weapons, leading many to question the effectiveness of the cosmetic distinction. Pistols may be purchased and kept in one's home or place of business (however, they are required to be registered to the state and must be considered a "safe" handgun (see AB 1471), but it is illegal to carry weapons or ammunition outside these areas without a concealed weapons permit, except in a locked area (car trunk) to licensed practice ranges or other legitimate uses (hunting, repair, collection, etc.) Open carry of an unloaded firearm in some areas is legal but very uncommon due to the confusing web of state and federal laws, such as the Federal Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, which makes it a felony to carry a gun within 1000 feet of a school, even without malicious intent. As of 2012, open carry of firearms is for the most part banned, with exceptions made for law enforcement, hunters, and individuals in rural areas of the state. Except in a handful of rural counties, most people find it impossible to get concealed weapons permits since they are issued at the discretion of the local law enforcement officials; California is not a "shall issue" state for concealed weapons permits. Because of the importance of local law enforcement's discretion, some counties are nevertheless virtually "shall issue" while others are de facto "no issue", leading to the peculiar situation of rural residents of one jurisdiction being able to legally carry their handguns in areas where the local residents cannot. For more see gun laws in California.
Because California is the most populous state in the United States, legislation and policies that are enacted by the government of California often have significant implications on major political issues at the national level. Throughout the twentieth century, political decisions in California have wielded substantial influence with Congress while considering legislation at the federal level. Because of the potentially nationwide implications for political decisions made in California, special-interest groups, many of which are based outside of California, play a greater role in California politics than in most other states, by contributing large amounts of money into lobbying, litigation, and producing media advertisements to influence voters and elected officials on major political issues. The California Fair Political Practices Commission regulates campaign finance and lobbying in California.
The California Supreme Court has "a reputation as perhaps the most innovative of the state judiciaries, setting precedents in areas of criminal justice, civil liberties, racial integration, and consumer protection that heavily influence other states and the federal bench."
The most populous state, California has the largest Congressional delegation of any state, with 53 representatives and two senators.
Many leading members of Congress are from California. Among the Democrats are:
Among the Republicans are:
The 2018 California State Senate elections were held on Tuesday, November 6, 2018, with the primary election being held on June 5, 2018. Voters in the 20 even-numbered districts of the California State Senate elected their representatives. The elections coincided with the elections of other offices, including for governor and the California State Assembly.
The Democratic Party gained three seats: the 12th, 14th, and 34th districts. These victories provided the Democrats with 29 seats and restored the two-thirds supermajority that they lost after the recall of Democratic state senator Josh Newman in June 2018.California Citizens Redistricting Commission
The California Citizens Redistricting Commission is the redistricting commission for the State of California responsible for determining the boundaries of districts for the State Senate, State Assembly, and Board of Equalization. The Commission was created in 2010 and consists of 14 members: five Democrats, five Republicans, and four from neither major party. The Commission was created following the passage in November 2008 of California Proposition 11, the Voters First Act. The commissioners were selected in November and December 2010 and were required to complete the new maps by August 15, 2011.Following the 2010 passage of California Proposition 20, the Voters First Act for Congress, the Commission was also assigned the responsibility of redrawing the state's U.S. congressional district boundaries following the congressional apportionment arising from the 2010 United States Census.
The Commission has been criticized by some politicians because "many safe seats in the Legislature could suddenly become competitive."California DREAM Act
The California DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act is a package of California state laws that allow children who were brought into the US under the age of 16 without proper visas/immigration documentation who have attended school on a regular basis and otherwise meet in-state tuition and GPA requirements to apply for student financial aid benefits. It and past similarly named legislation have been authored by California State Senator Gil Cedillo.
In 2011, the California Dream Act was divided into two bills, AB130 and AB131. AB130 was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on July 25, 2011, and AB131 was signed by Brown on October 8, 2011.
AB 130 allows students who meet AB 540 criteria to apply for non-state funded scholarships for colleges and universities.
AB 131 allows students who meet AB 540 criteria to apply for state-funded financial aid.California Fair Political Practices Commission
The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) of California is a five-member independent nonpartisan commission that has primary responsibility for the impartial and effective administration of the Political Reform Act of 1974. The Commission's objectives are to ensure that public officials act in a fair and unbiased manner in the governmental decision-making process, to promote transparency in government, and to foster public trust in the political system.
The Commission is similar to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in its campaign finance responsibilities. It differs from the FEC in its authority in lobbying and conflicts of interest.
It was created by California Proposition 9 in the June 1974 elections, known as the Political Reform Act of 1974, regulates campaign financing, conflicts of interest, lobbying, and governmental ethics.California ballot proposition
In California, a ballot proposition can be a referendum or an initiative measure that is submitted to the electorate for a direct decision or direct vote (or plebiscite). If passed, it can alter one or more of the articles of the Constitution of California, one or more of the 29 California Codes, or another law in the California Statutes by clarifying current or adding statute(s) or removing current statute(s).
Measures can be placed on the ballot either by the California State Legislature or via a petition signed by registered voters. The state legislature can place a state constitutional amendment or a proposed law change on the ballot as a referendum to be approved by voters. Under the state constitution, certain proposed changes to state laws may require mandatory referenda, and must be approved by voters before they can take effect. A measure placed on the ballot via petition can either be a vote to veto a law that has been adopted by the legislature (an optional referendum or "people's veto") or a new proposed law (initiative).Decline to State
Decline to State (DTS) is an affiliation designation on the California voter registration form that allows voters to register to vote without choosing a party affiliation. It is similar to what in other states would be called declaring oneself as an independent.
In February 1999, 12.89% of registered voters in California declined to state a party affiliation. That figure had risen to 18.18% by January 2006, and to 19.91% by October 15, 2008. The growth of the category Decline to State follows California's switch from the closed primary to an open primary system in 1996 following the adoption of Proposition 198. Until 1996, only voters who were registered with a political party could vote in that party's primary election. In the June 1998 and March 2000 primary elections, voters could vote for any candidate in any party's primary.
On June 26, 2000, the United States Supreme Court decided in California Democratic Party, et al. v. Jones 530 U.S. 567 (2000) that California's open primary system violated the right of free association. In January 2001, following the passage of SB28 (Ch. 898, Stats. 2000), a new modified closed system took effect in which voters registered with a particular party can only vote in that party's primary, but voters who decline to state a party affiliation can vote in one party's primary if the party agrees to allow it (California Elections Code §2151).
The Democratic and Republican parties have both allowed voters who decline to state a party affiliation to vote in all of their respective primary elections until the 2008 presidential primary election, in which the Republican party disallowed the practice.Districts in California
Districts in California geographically divide the U.S. state into overlapping regions for political and administrative purposes.Electoral reform in California
Electoral reform in California refers to efforts to change election and voting laws in the West Coast state of California.Mexican American Political Association
The Mexican American Political Association (MAPA) is an organization that promotes the interests of Mexican-Americans, Mexicans, Latinos, Chicanos, Hispanics and Latino economic refugees in the United States.Outline of California
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the U.S. state of California.
California is the most populous and the third most extensive of the 50 states of the United States of America. California is home to Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and Sacramento, respectively the 2nd, 6th, 17th, and 23rd most populous metropolitan areas of the United States. California borders the North Pacific Ocean and Baja California in the Southwestern United States. California includes both Mount Whitney, the highest (4,421 m) mountain peak in the contiguous United States, and Death Valley, the lowest (−86 m) and hottest (56.7 °C) place in North America. California joined the Union as the 31st state on September 9, 1850.Partition and secession in California
California, the most populous state in the United States and third largest in area after Alaska and Texas, has been the subject of more than 220 proposals to divide it into multiple states since its admission to the United States in 1850, including at least 27 significant proposals in the first 150 years of statehood. In addition, there have been some calls for the secession of multiple states or large regions in the American West (such as the proposal of Cascadia) which often include parts of Northern California.Peripheral Canal
The Peripheral Canal was a series of proposals starting in the 1940s to divert water from California's Sacramento River, around the periphery of the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta, to uses farther south. The canal would have attempted to resolve a problem with the quality of water pumped south. Pumps create such a powerful suction that the boundary between freshwater to saltwater has shifted inland, negatively affecting the environment. The pumps have increased by 5 to 7 million acre feet (6.2 to 8.6 km3) the amount of water exported each year to the Central Valley and Southern California. However, the peripheral canal as proposed would have reduced the overall freshwater flow into the Delta and move the freshwater-saltwater interface further inland, causing damage to Delta agriculture and ecosystems.Political party strength in California
California is largely a Democratic stronghold and one of the three largest Democratic states in presidential elections alongside New York and Illinois.
The following table indicates the party of elected officials in the U.S. state of California:
Secretary of State
California Superintendent of Public InstructionThe table also indicates the historical party composition in the:
Board of Equalization
State delegation to the U.S. Senate
State delegation to the U.S. House of RepresentativesFor years in which a presidential election was held, the table indicates which party's nominees received the state's electoral votes.
Note that ties on the Board of Equalization are broken by the vote of the State Controller.
The parties are as follows: American (A), Anti-Monopolist (AM), Constitutional Union (CU), Democratic (D), Independent (I), Nonpartisan (NP), National Union (NU), Progressive (P), Republican (R), Whig (W), and a tie or coalition within a group of elected officials.Progressive Party (United States, 1924–34)
The Progressive Party of 1924 was a new party created as a vehicle for Robert M. La Follette, Sr. to run for president in the 1924 election. It did not run candidates for other offices, and it disappeared after the election. The party advocated progressive positions such as government ownership of railroads and electric utilities, cheap credit for farmers, the outlawing of child labor, stronger laws to help labor unions, more protection of civil liberties, an end to American imperialism in Latin America, and a referendum before any president could lead the nation into war.
After winning election to the United States Senate in 1905, La Follette had emerged as a leader of progressives. He sought the Republican presidential nomination in the 1912 election, but many of his backers switched to Theodore Roosevelt after the former president entered the race. La Follette refused to join Roosevelt's Progressive Party, and that party collapsed after 1916. However, the progressives remained a potent force within both major parties. In 1924, La Follette and his followers created their own Progressive Party which challenged the conservative major party nominees, Calvin Coolidge of the Republican Party and John W. Davis of the Democratic Party.
The Progressive Party was composed of La Follette supporters, who were distinguished from the earlier Roosevelt supporters by being generally more agrarian, populist, and midwestern in perspective, as opposed to urban, elite, and eastern. The party held a national convention in July 1924 that nominated a ticket consisting of La Follette for president, and La Follete later selected Democratic Senator Burton K. Wheeler of Montana as his running mate. The ticket enjoyed support among many farmers and laborers and was endorsed by the Socialist Party of America and the American Federation of Labor.
In the 1924 election, the party carried only La Follette's home state of Wisconsin. The ticket won 16.6% of the national popular vote and carried many counties in the Midwest and West with large German American elements or strong labor union movements. The party's share of the vote represents one of the best performances by a third party in presidential election history. After the election, La Follette continued to serve as a Republican Senator until his death in 1925. After his death, La Follette's family founded the Wisconsin Progressive Party and briefly dominated Wisconsin politics.Richard Nixon's November 1962 press conference
The so-called "last press conference" of Richard Nixon took place on November 7, 1962, following his loss to Democratic incumbent Pat Brown in the 1962 California gubernatorial election. Appearing before 100 reporters at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, an embittered Nixon lashed out at the media, proclaiming that "you don't have Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference."Nixon's electoral loss in his home state, failing to capture what was then a traditionally Republican state which he had carried in the 1960 presidential election, combined with his actions at the press conference, was seen at the time as permanently damaging his chances at playing a role in national politics. While Nixon played almost no role in Barry Goldwater's resounding defeat in the 1964 presidential election, Nixon won the presidency in the 1968 election, making a political comeback that seemed nearly impossible after the "last press conference."United States congressional delegations from California
These are tables of congressional delegations from California to the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate.University of California Student Association
The University of California Student Association (UCSA) is an active 501(c)(3) unincorporated association, purposed as a student association of all University of California (UC) students. Its charter states that it "shall exist to: serve the interests of the current and future students of the University of California and promotes [sic] cooperation between various student governments of the University and student organizations concerned with higher education." The Association is not a public agency, but its leadership is composed of representatives of UC student governments, which are "official units of the University" system (with one exception). UCSA participates in various aspects of the UC system's governance, notably including the selection of the student representative on the UC Board of Regents.UCSA representatives have opposed education funding cuts and increases in student fees and supported affirmative action in enrollment policies. The association mobilizes students via voter registration campaigns; it recorded 26,000 new voter registrations in 2006, and added 12,300 new registrations in 2008 for the California Democratic and Republican primaries. In April 2016, UCSA called for the removal of then-chancellor of UC Davis, Linda Katehi. In January and October 2017, UCSA called for the removal of Norman Pattiz, a UC Regent, due to sexual harassment allegations that Pattiz has admitted to.
California political parties
|Major parties (ballot-qualified)|
|Minor parties (ballot-qualified)|
|Minor parties (not ballot-qualified)|