California voters head to the polls
After months of politicking and hundreds of millions of dollars in television ads, voters head to the polls Tuesday in what is expected to be one of the most expensive and competitive elections in California history.
Californians will cast ballots in dozens of tight races that could give Democrats veto-proof super-majorities in both houses of the Legislature and swell the party's numbers in Congress. They will also consider abolishing the death penalty, easing the state's strict "three strikes" sentencing law and approving billions of dollars in new taxes.
Polls show voters are split over Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax plan, Proposition 30, which would raise more than $6 billion annually to patch the state's budget deficit. Two other tax measures -- Proposition 38, an income tax proposal to raise money for schools, and Proposition 39, which would change the way corporate taxes are assessed, are also on the ballot.
In all, state voters will elect 53 members of the House of Representatives, one U.S. senator, 100 state legislators and weigh in on 11 ballot initiatives, in addition to hundreds of local candidates and initiative contests.
With new political maps drawn by an independent commission, state campaigns are more competitive this year than they've been in more than a decade. As a result, political spending in the state has skyrocketed, with outside groups dumping more than $53 million in congressional races alone.
Thanks to new voting rules approved by voters in 2010, some of this year's races feature contests between two members of the same party. In the San Fernando Valley, Democratic incumbent Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman conclude their bitter fight, while Democratic Assemblywoman Betsy Butler battles Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom, also a Democrat, in a Westside Assembly race.
-- Anthony York in Sacramento
Photo: Victoria Williams processes a mail-in ballot at the Sacramento County Registrar of Voters office. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press