March 3 Is California’s Chinatown Election

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

The Americans are not going to give us credit for taking our time.

The deluge of anger against Iowa’s Democrats, for taking a full day to report the caucus results there, fills me with dread as a Californian. Because our primary results are going to take an awful long time—weeks literally–to be finalized. And that means Democrats won’t know for a while the exact delegate count from California, given their district-based, proportional system.

There are good reasons for this. California, for all its sins, is committed to making it as easy as possible for as many people to vote as possible. We allow people to vote for a month before election day, to register on election day, and to have ballots counted as long as they are postmarked by election day. And because there are so many of us and we are so open, it takes a longtime to count our ballots.

But it’s clear that a national media with short attention spans and a conspiracy-minded public won’t give California any props for such good behavior. Instead, they will question the legitimacy of elections, with Democrats adding to a false narrative pushed by President Trump.

California has all kinds of problems and makes all kinds of mistakes, but our encouragement of voters is not one of them.

What should we do? California leaders should try to break through the media madness before the election and make clear that getting final results will take a while. But the counties and the state should do everything they can get to get early results up quickly, and count ballots faster than normal. If that means extra state money for even more temporary workers, we should seize it.

This isn’t just an election. California is engaged in an information war with hostile forces in other parts of the country. And we need to do everything to defend ourselves, and our reputation.

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