Ghost Candidates Show the Wisdom of a Second Ballot

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)

In California, it should be legal to vote twice.

But only the second ballot should be counted.

Unfortunately, you can’t vote twice—a problem exposed by the “ghost candidates” who showed up on Democratic presidential primary ballots in California. Ballots are put together months in advance, and nine candidates on the ballot had dropped out of the race by March 3.

The state is encouraging people to vote early, and many voters cast ballots for Tom Steyer or Amy Klobuchar or Pete Buttigieg before they dropped out. And the state won’t let them send in the ballot again.

It shouldn’t be that way. In other places around the world, voters can send in a second ballot that negates the first. It’s the last ballot sent in that counts.

That should be the case in California. Yes, implementation would have its challenges. But California is already in the midst of improving and remaking voting anyway. And the counties already take their time casting ballots.

Most important, allowing a second vote provides democratic accountability. Voters can react to late-breaking information about a ballot measure or a candidate, if they have a second vote. And given all the races on our ballots, and the difficulty of finding reliable information these days, people need every chance to vote they can get. Including a second chance.

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