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Why Is California a Blue State?

Good morning.

While the country anxiously awaits the results from a handful of states that will determine the outcome of the presidential election, it has been known since Tuesday evening that California’s 55 electoral votes would go to Joe Biden.

[Follow the latest election updates from across the country here.]

It might come as a surprise then, that California was once considered a red state until the 1990s. From 1952 to 1988, the state gave rise to Republicans like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. During that period, only one Democratic candidate, Lyndon B. Johnson, took the state.

This all changed in 1994, when the backlash against the passing of Proposition 187, which prohibited undocumented immigrants from accessing public services, activated a generation of Latino voters. After the proposition passed, thousands of people marched through downtown Los Angeles protesting the measure. All over the state, students organized grass-roots movements and walked out of classrooms. In 1997, Proposition 187 was ruled unconstitutional and never adopted into law.

“California Republicans embarked on an anti-immigration agenda that alienated Latino voters and drove them into the open arms of the Democratic Party,” the public opinion group Latino Decisions said in a report, calling it the “Prop 187 Effect.”

“We are a blue state because we’ve had a growing share of Latinos and Asian-Americans since the mid ’90s and after Proposition 187 they became more Democratic,” said Mindy Romero, director of the Center for Inclusive Democracy at the University of Southern California.

And the state is only getting bluer, with the number of Democrats increasing this year to 46 percent compared with 45 percent in 2016.

Likely voters are still disproportionately white. While Latinos make up 35 percent of the state’s population they make up just 21 percent of likely voters. But that makes them the second largest group of voters in the state by a large margin.

“In terms of sheer numbers, it’s Latinos,” Ms. Romero said. “California is a lock on the electoral map for Democrats and for Biden. A big part of that story is the growth of historically underrepresented populations and the growth of Latinos in particular in California.”

While Ms. Romero says it’s too early to analyze this year’s voter turnout rates, she thinks there will be an even more representative electorate this year. “In 2016, we saw the highest share of the electorate for Latinos that we’ve ever seen,” she said. “And I think we’ll see that again in 2020.”

  • Joe Biden received one of the highest margins in the nation in California, but a look at how the state’s ballot measures were decided shows a more complex picture of the electorate. [The New York Times]

  • Voters in Placer County went solidly for Donald Trump in 2016. This week, the county went for Mr. Biden. Placer is one of California’s fastest-growing counties and no longer reliably Republican. [The Sacramento Bee]

  • Alex Lee, 25, a Democrat from San Jose, became the youngest state lawmaker to be elected in 80 years. He will also be the first California legislator to have come out as bisexual. [Los Angeles Times]

  • California voters expressed a clear appetite for criminal justice reform on election night, supporting policies that promised to hold the police more accountable and shift taxpayer funding away from law enforcement and toward social services. [Los Angeles Times]

  • Voters in San Jose and Santa Clara County approved a slew of ballot measures dealing with issues including policing, gambling, education and the environment. [Mercury News]

  • Proposition 19, which would give Californians over 55 a tax break when buying a new home and rein in a tax break on inherited properties, is still too close to call on Thursday but is maintaining its lead. [San Francisco Chronicle]

  • By asking voters to repeal or overhaul laws passed by the Democratic-controlled Legislature, corporations are asking voters to overrule lawmakers in Sacramento. Already, Uber and Lyft succeeded in their campaign to pass Proposition 22. Now, tobacco companies have started a referendum drive asking voters to overturn the state’s ban on flavored cigarettes and vaping products. [CalMatters]

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Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, went to school at U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter, @jillcowan.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

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