California is governed as a republic, with three branches of government — the executive branch consisting of the Governor and the other independently elected constitutional officers; the legislative branch consisting of the Assembly and Senate; and the judicial branch consisting of the Supreme Court of California and lower courts. The state also allows direct participation of the electorate by initiative, referendum, recall, and ratification. California allows each political party to choose whether to have a closed primary or a primary where only party members and independents vote. The state's capital is Sacramento.
The Governor of California and the other state constitutional officers serve four-year terms and may be re-elected only once. The California State Legislature consists of a 40-member Senate and 80-member Assembly. Senators serve four-year terms and Assembly members two. Members of the Assembly are subject to term limits of three terms, and members of the Senate are subject to term limits of two terms.
California's legal system is explicitly based upon English common law (as is the case with all other states except Louisiana) but carries a few features from Spanish civil law, such as community property. Capital punishment is a legal form of punishment and the state has the largest "Death Row" population in the country (thoughTexas is far more active in carrying out executions). California's "Death Row" is in San Quentin State Prison situated north of San Francisco in Marin County. Executions in California are currently on hold indefinitely as human rights issues are addressed. California's prison population grew from 25,000 in 1980 to over 170,000 in 2007.
California's judiciary is the largest in the United States (with a total of 1,600 judges, while the federal system has only about 840). It is supervised by the seven Justices of the Supreme Court of California. Justices of the Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal are appointed by the Governor, but are subject to retention by the electorate every 12 years.
|2008||36.91% 5,011,781||60.94% 8,274,473|
|2004||44.36% 5,509,826||54.40% 6,745,485|
|2000||41.65% 4,567,429||53.45% 5,861,203|
|1996||38.21% 3,828,380||51.10% 5,119,835|
|1992||32.61% 3,630,574||46.01% 5,121,325|
|1988||51.13% 5,054,917||47.56% 4,702,233|
|1984||57.51% 5,467,009||41.27% 3,922,519|
|1980||52.69% 4,524,858||35.91% 3,083,661|
|1976||49.35% 3,882,244||47.57% 3,742,284|
|1972||55.01% 4,602,096||41.54% 3,475,847|
|1968||47.82% 3,467,664||44.74% 3,244,318|
|1964||40.79% 2,879,108||59.11% 4,171,877|
|1960||50.10% 3,259,722||49.55% 3,224,099|
California has an idiosyncratic political culture compared to the rest of the county, and is sometimes regarded as a trendsetter.It was the second state to recall their state governor, the second state to legalize abortion, and the only state to ban marriage for gay couples twice by voters (including Proposition 8 in 2008). Voters also passed Proposition 71 in 2004 to fund stem cell research, and Proposition 14 in 2010 to completely change the state's primary election process. California has also experienced disputes over water rights; and a tax revolt, culminating with the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, limiting state property taxes.
What has been consistent in the last few decades is that California politics has trended towards the Democratic Party and away from the Republican Party. Once very conservative, having elected Republicans, California is now a reliable liberal, Democratic state. Since 1990, California has generally elected Democratic candidates to federal, state and local offices, including current GovernorJerry Brown; however, the state has elected Republican Governors, though many of its Republican Governors, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, tend to be considered "Moderate Republicans" and more centrist than the national party.
The Democrats also hold a majority in both houses of the state legislature. There are currently 52 Democrats and 27 Republicans in the Assembly; and 25 Democrats and 15 Republicans in the Senate.
The trend towards the Democratic Party is most obvious in presidential elections; the Democratic Party candidate has won California's electoral votes in the last five elections. Additionally, both the state's current Democratic U.S. Senators, Dianne Feinstein, a native and former mayor of San Francisco, and Barbara Boxer, a former congresswoman from Marin County, have held onto their seats since they were first elected in 1992.
In the U.S. House, the Democrats have held a 34–19 edge since the seating of the 110th United States Congress in 2007. As the result of gerrymandering, the districts in California are usually dominated by one or the other party with very few districts that could be considered competitive.
In general, Democratic strength is centered in coastal regions of Los Angeles County and the San Francisco Bay Area. Republican strength is still greatest in eastern parts of the state. Orange County also remains mostly Republican. One study ranked Berkeley, Oakland, Inglewood and San Francisco in the top 10 most liberal American cities; and Bakersfield and Orange in the top 10 most conservative cities.