Election night was painful for California Republicans, but it was nothing compared to the slow torture we’ve endured ever since.
For three agonizing weeks, Republicans have watched registrars update their tallies with late absentee and provisional ballots. From Orange County to the Bay Area, it’s the same story playing out with different candidates: Democrats flipping seats with late ballots.

First, Mimi Walters. Then, Young Kim. Now, David Valadao.
It’s not unusual for late absentee and provisional ballots to break against Republicans. What is unusual is the scale of the carnage. As of this writing, Republicans lost election night leads for five members of Congress, three state Assembly races, two state Senate seats and a Board of Equalization candidate.
Even the Associated Press was caught off-guard by late ballot counting. It has called California’s 21st Congressional District for Republican incumbent David Valadao only to retract its decision three weeks later. If the independent organization “which sets the standard for calling races across the journalism industry” is getting races wrong, something’s changed in California.
Legislative Democrats have rewritten election rules in their favor to expand voter eligibility, automatically register every voter, eliminate voting integrity laws and encourage questionable campaign tactics, such as ballot harvesting.
California has entered an era of near universal suffrage with illegal immigrants, felons, inmates and minors registering to vote. San Francisco now allows “people in the country illegally and other noncitizens the right to vote in a local election,” according to the Associated Press. The city has spent at least $310,000 in tax dollars to register 49 non-citizens to vote.
State law grants voting rights to inmates in county jails as well as convicted criminals on probation, mandatory supervision, post-release community supervision, and federal supervised release. Just about the only criminals barred from voting in California are felons in prison or on parole. Even that standard is weakening. In 2015, 60,000 convicted felons officially regained their voting rights after the state refused to appeal a lower court decision that would have denied them the right to vote.
California has effectively adopted same-day voter registration with the introduction of “conditional voting.” This election cycle, voters who missed the 15-day voter registration deadline could request to cast a conditional ballot.
Under the state’s Motor Voter program, every person who interacts with the Department of Motor Vehicles is automatically registered to vote. This has predictably lead to tens of thousands cases of voter registration problems. The state’s Motor Voter program has come under fire for double registering as many as 77,000 people, including 1,500 ineligible voters.
This cycle also marked the beginning of California’s pre-voter registration program for 16- and 17-year-olds. Of course, if every voter is automatically registered through the Motor Voter program, why would anyone need to pre-register? Pre-registration is a thinly veiled effort to capture voters while they are young and more likely to identify as liberal Democrats. Of the nearly 89,000 minors that participated in the program, only 10 percent registered as Republicans.
Of course, expanding the electorate is only good if you can get those new voters to the polls. It’s hard to get voters to show up to the polls. That’s why Democrats have brought the polls to the voters. This election, five counties mailed absentee ballots to every voter — whether they requested one or not. In 2020, every county in California, except Los Angeles, will have that option. If the change was truly about empowering every voter, why disenfranchise 10 million inhabitants in the state’s most populous county?
It’s never been easier to vote by mail. Absentee ballots are counted if they arrive at the registrar of voters three days after Election Day. If ballots are sent to the wrong county, the ballot is valid for an additional four days.
Most troubling of all, California has eliminated voting integrity laws that protect voters from campaign intimidation. In 2016, state lawmakers eliminated the ballot protection law that enabled only a trusted family member to return another voter’s ballot.Assembly Bill 1921 now allows anyone to return an absentee ballot. The law has encouraged campaign operatives to engage in coercive tactics.
“How could someone come to my door and so brazenly ask me to hand over my ballot?” asked John Lieberman, a Democratic voter in Los Angeles, after an intimidation incident during a 2017 special election campaign. “What I experienced from her campaign sends chills down my spine.”
For good or bad, all of these changes are law, and California Republicans are absolutely powerless to reverse course. Our party can either eat sour grapes or adopt new campaign tactics to account for these changes.
Originally published in the Orange County Register