Proposition 33, the California ballot measure that would change the state's regulations for auto insurance, is off to a tough start tonight, according to an extremely preliminary vote total, including mostly absentee ballots, just made public.

With 1.3 percent of precincts reporting, the California Secretary of State showed the measure earning 49.5 percent of the vote — with a slightly higher percentage, 50.5 percent, opposed.

That trend continued with 10 percent of precincts reporting about 30 minutes later: The measure was losing, with 51.7 percent opposed.

George Joseph, the billionaire founder of Mercury Insurance, spent nearly $17 million to push the measure. And Mercury spent almost exactly that amount two years ago on a similar ballot measure, Prop. 17, only to lose narrowly.

Joseph has said he's pushing the measure as a way to fight to more competition in the industry, which would benefit consumers.

But critics say the 91-year-old has more selfish goals.

“This ballot measure is just the latest in a long history of efforts fo roll back consumer protections and discriminate against drivers in California,” Consumer Watchdog's Carmen Balber told the Weekly on Monday.

We'll have more as election results come in.

Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.