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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

The California Primary

In Defying the Odds, we discuss California's place on the electoral landscape. The update looks at political and demographic trends through the 2018 midterm.

In the March 3 California presidential primary, no-party-preference voters (i.e., independents) may vote in the Democratic race but not the GOP side.  But the catch is that they must request a Democratic ballot. To vote in the Democratic primary by mail, they would have had to file the request in December.  But they can still make the request at any early voting station or a primary-day ballot station.  And they still have more than a month to change their registration to Democratic.

Kathleen Ronayne at AP:
So far, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and billionaire Michael Bloomberg have been most aggressive in pursuing independents. Sanders, the independent senator who has thrived on anti-establishment enthusiasm, is urging his California supporters to become Democrats, despite the fact that they can vote for him as independents. At a December rally, he walked the audience through changing their voter affiliation, telling them to use the secretary of state’s website.
His campaign argues that this approach ensures voters get the ballots they need, rather than having to take additional steps, as independents must. Californians can change their party registration until Feb. 18. The campaign is also adding a feature on its mobile app that will let supporters look up the party registrations of friends and family, so that they can send them instructions on how to vote for Sanders.

...
As of last week, just 8% of independents who vote by mail had asked for a ballot in the presidential primary, according to data collection by Paul Mitchell, who runs the nonpartisan Political Data Inc., which collects and sells voter data to campaigns. Not all counties had reported data.
Complicating matters is the fact that for most elections, Californians are accustomed to open primaries in which all the candidates appear on the same ballot, regardless of party. Many may not know that the presidential race runs differently. The state also moved up its primary from June to March, and the earlier voting could catch some people by surprise
...

Candidates must earn support from 15% of voters in a congressional district to gain the delegates that will determine who wins the nomination. And since California has more congressional districts than any other state, independents could make the difference between clinching much-needed delegates or leaving the state empty-handed.
“If they’re targeting certain congressional districts, they’re not having to beat their opponent by 100,000 votes,” Mitchell said. “Delegates are going to be won on the margins up and down the state.”

A larger-than-usual number of downballot races in the top-two primary could end up as Democratic-on-Democrat.  Joel Fox tells why:
Traditionally, Republican voters turn out in higher percentages relative to their registration numbers compared to Democrats in primary elections. That may not hold true when California voters go to the polls on March 3. 
With all the attention on the Democratic presidential nomination race in California and Republican voters prohibited from asking for a Democratic ballot, one wonders the effect on down ticket races if many Republicans choose to stay home.
Because of California’s unique election system, all candidates for an office other than president are listed on the same ballot and a voter can vote for any of the candidates regardless of party. Yet, party preferences of candidates are identified on the ballots. An occasional Democratic voter who is driven to vote this time because of the close presidential contest on the Democratic side will probably be looking for Democrats to vote for in other races.
Meanwhile, Republicans who see no major presidential challenger to President Trump just may sit this election out. That is the fear of state Republican officials.