Like most such guides, this one will start out being relevant to everyone eligible to vote in the US, then quickly narrow itself to just California, then further narrow itself to Santa Clara County and then San José.
tl;dr: Californians, vote yes on 30, 34, 36 to fund education and abolish the death penalty and Three Strikes; no on 32 and 35 to stand up for labor unions and sex workers. San José people, vote yes on Measure D so we can have a decent minimum wage.
President: Barack Obama
You could argue that to vote for Obama is to vote for the killing of children, or that to vote for him is to vote for the protection for other children or even killing fewer children. Virtually all US presidents have called down death upon their fellow human beings. It is an immoral system.-- Rebecca Solnit
You don't have to participate in this system, but you do have to describe it and its complexities and contradictions accurately, and you do have to understand that when you choose not to participate, it better be for reasons more interesting than the cultivation of your own moral superiority, which is so often also the cultivation of recreational bitterness.
My tone here is different from my tone about Obama in 2008. Well, I'm four years older, but aren't we all? In retrospect, maybe I was naïve for seeing Obama as an anti-war candidate, but then again, he did end the war in Iraq. What's more, I have a lot more confidence in his willingness to end the war in Afghanistan than I do in Mittens, though it's not a sure thing.
As many people have pointed out, there's nothing particularly liberal or progressive about Obama's foreign policy. That is neither why I'm voting for him, nor enough to make me not vote for him. As many people have also pointed out, there also aren't a lot of huge differences between Obama and Romney vis-a-vis foreign policy. (Not that we know much that's specific about what Mittens' foreign policy would actually be.) We can probably count on both candidates to keep expanding the military-industrial complex, and yes, kill civilians and violate civil liberties.
On the other hand, there is a huge difference between the two candidates when it comes to women's rights and LGBT rights at home, and that matters. There is no way in hell you can say that there's no difference between Obama and Romney when it comes to reproductive choice. And since whoever gets elected will likely be able to appoint multiple Supreme Court justices, their views on abortion will matter for decades.
Likewise, as a trans person, I was able to get government-issued ID that reflects the sex that I am as a direct result of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton: in 2010, the State Department liberalized the rules for correcting sex markers on passports. I don't claim that's a huge thing, but it matters, and it wouldn't have happened under a Republican. If Obama is re-elected, maybe Social Security will fix their sex marker correction rules as well; I wouldn't hold my breath for a Romney administration to do that.
I am so, so tired of upper-middle-class white cis manarchists lecturing us all about how Obama and Romney are the same because predator drones. (I know that not everyone saying this is an upper-middle-class white cis manarchist, but I'm okay with people who have at least thought about reproductive rights still deciding they don't see a difference between the major party candidates.) The thing is, not voting, or voting third-party, won't save anyone from being killed by a predator drone. It won't prevent anyone from being tortured. All it does is display your radical cred. It's a deeply self-absorbed thing to do. What will happen if Romney wins is that women will get hurt, trans people will get hurt, queer people will get hurt. You can register that you are against that by voting for Obama.
If you're white, using concern about brown people abroad as an excuse to decline to vote for a candidate who is the better one for women, people of color, queer people, poor people, and just about any other disadvantage group in the US doesn't win you any anti-racist points. Actually, it just makes you look like a racist for holding President Obama to a higher standard than you would hold a white politician to. Did you really expect the guy to single-handedly dismantle the military-industrial complex? Do you realize how much flak he would get from Republicans for being weak on terrorism -- that a white president would never have to face -- if he had pushed harder against predator drones and torture? That's an issue not because his feelings would be hurt, but because he wouldn't have been re-elected and would have been replaced with a genuine warmonger.
I'm also guessing that the manarchists claiming that Obama and Romney are the same have never been denied health insurance because they had a pre-existing condition. I have been, and because of Obama, that will never happen to me again. This is not an abstract or theoretical concern for me.
So when I hear those privileged manarchists saying "don't vote for Obomney or Robama", I hear them saying that they don't give a fuck about women, or at least, not unless those women are so far away from them that supporting their rights won't threaten their own male privilege. I hear them saying that they don't give a fuck about poor people. And I hear them saying that they impose an unreasonably high standard of achievement for a Black president, one that is likely unachievable by anyone (much less a leader who is limited, who we've seen has already been limited, by others' willingness to destroy the entire country for the sake of stopping a Black man from leading effectively). I hear them saying that the only way in which national politics could conceivably (pun intended) affect their lives is insofar as having theoretical opinions about it affects how they feel about themselves, or how impressive others find them. Finally, I hear them saying that they actually don't care about anyone or anything outside themselves: that their priority is displaying their own supposed radicalism, reminding me that they're more radical than I am.
I am not holding my nose while voting to re-elect the President. I can criticize a group, or a person, and still support it, because my thinking isn't black-and-white. And I agree with Rebecca Solnit: "having marriage rights or discrimination protection or access to healthcare is not the lesser of two evils. If I vote for a Democrat, I do so in the hopes that fewer people will suffer, not in the belief that that option will eliminate suffering or bring us to anywhere near my goals or represent my values perfectly." I'm not voting to express myself. I'm voting to have an effect, and yes, my vote does matter even though I live in California. If you're a US voter, your vote matters no matter where you live. The popular vote matters for legitimacy as well as the electoral vote.
(If you're still voting for a third-party candidate regardless of anything I say? Please go vote for Jill Stein instead of horrible transphobic bigot Roseanne Barr.)
The rest of this is only directly relevant to you if you live in California.
US Senator: Abstain
Dianne Feinstein is a homophobic xenophobe. She's also highly likely to be re-elected, and there's no write-in option. (Any temptation I might have had to vote for her Republican opponent, Elizabeth Emken, was erased as soon as I read about her involvement with ableist movements to "help" autistic people by eliminating the.) So I'm not voting on this one.
Proposition 30: Yes
I rarely vote no on a tax increase, and this one
Proposition 31: No
This is austerity bullshit brought to you by "taxpayers'" associations. Limiting state spending arbitrarily is bad for ordinary people.
Proposition 32: No
This measure is a craven attempt to stop labor unions from participating in the political process. Corporations are people, but workers aren't, I guess. Vote no.
Proposition 33: No
Insurance-industry-sponsored crap to make life harder for people who stop owning a car for a couple years. But why would you want to discourage that? Vote no.
Proposition 34: Yes
It's too bad we can't abolish the death penalty without pulling in a bunch of extra tough-on-crime nonsense. But remember what I said above about the perfect being the enemy of the good? The state should not be putting people to death. There is no conceivable situation in which a government is trustworthy enough to have authority over who deserves to be alive. Some people have criticized Prop 34 because life imprisonment is just as bad as being executed -- I don't see it that way, because if the courts make a mistake and you're sent to prison for life, they can let you go.
Proposition 35: Hell No
This is paternalistic, anti-sex crap that's meant to protect sex workers, but sex workers don't want it. That should tell you something. And who can blame them? Nobody wants their child to have to register as a sex offender because they had to work as a sex worker to support them, and as a result (under this proposed law) your child would be classified as a pimp for receiving some of your earnings.
Make no mistake: moral panics over "human trafficking", even when supposedly focused on underage sex workers, are really about using the power of the state to control everyone's sexuality.
Proposition 36: YES
Prop 36 would
Proposition 37: Yes
I know that in my circle of friends, fetishizing science is cool, and mocking people who question something that's been stamped with the social legitimacy of science is uncool. But what it comes down to is that not labeling genetically modified foods as such is something that has no benefit to the consumer. Labeling, on the other hand, has no potential to do harm to consumers (if you don't care about whether your food is genetically modified, you can buy it anyway). So why should I be asked to accept risk, even slight risk, when that goes along with no benefit to me -- and what's more, also be asked to decline to find out whether that risk is even there or not? I'm voting yes to say that the public good matters more than agribusiness profits.
Proposition 38: No
This one is tricky: it looks good, but was set up to prevent Prop 30 from succeeding, and 30 is the better one.
Proposition 39: Yes
While the tax issues here are complicated, what's clear is that big corporations oppose it, which is a great sign that it's a good idea. Indeed, anything that increases revenue for the state by taxing out-of-state corporations is.
Proposition 40: Yes
This is just approving the redistricting plan that was already created, and there's no opposition to it.
The rest of this is only directly relevant to you if you live in Santa Clara County.
Santa Clara County Measure A: Yes
While sales taxes increases are always regressive, the money for basic social safety net stuff has to come from somewhere. And only libertarians and "taxpayers' association" wingers are opposed to this one.
Santa Clara County Measure B: Yes
Who would vote against clean water? People who care more about their property taxes going up, I guess, but I'm not one of them.
From here it gets even more specific...
US Representative, District 19
I'm not thrilled about Zoe Lofgren touting involvement with fat-shaming "anti-childhood-obesity" stuff, but see what I wrote above about the perfect being the enemy of the good. I once had the pleasure of hearing her speak at my workplace about Internet civil liberties, and at least when it comes to technology, she has a clue; that matters.
State senator, District 15
I'm not particularly thrilled about Jim Beall, but he seems to have the better set of endorsements than Joe Coto, and I'm not sure what Coto has to say besides platitudes about "partisan gridlock".
Assembly member, District 27
Nora Campos: Latina female Democrat who marched with Cesar Chavez, vs. Republican guy? Yeah, that's hard.
San Jose/Evergreen Community College District, Governing Board Member Trustee Area 7
Welp, there are two candidates and one (whose occupation is listed as "student") doesn't seem to have submitted a statement, so I hope the incumbent Mayra Cruz is good.
Santa Clara Valley Water District, Director, District 2
By elimination and the vote-for-a-woman-unless-she's-right-wing rule, Barbara Keegan; of the two other candidates, Drew Spitzer is part of a "taxpayers" group and seems to think the most important thing for a water district to do is cut rates (as opposed to, I don't know, keeping water safe?); David Ginsborg lists his qualifications as "Eagle Scout" among other things (so I guess he supports homophobia and sexual abuse).
City of San José Measure D: YES
Everyone deserves a living wage, and while $10 an hour still won't go that far in San José, it's better than the alternative.
City of San José Measure E: No
This one is tough because in principle, I'm not particularly in favor of laws restricting gambling. But when cities become reliant on it for tax revenue, that's effectively a regressive tax, which is wrong. And that's what I'm seeing here. So vote no.
San José Unified School District Measure H: Yes
While more money alone won't fix the school system, starving it of money certainly won't help. So vote yes.