California seems to be running two elections, the one that concludes Election Day when the television ads and mailers finally stop and initial results are announced, and the second election with final results a month later that show a number of different winners. While most other states have their final election totals nearly complete election night and winners can take a bow and losers concede, in California that process takes weeks when many fewer members of the general public are paying attention. The California Target Book put some numbers on this phenomenon: an astounding 42.7% of the vote was tallied after the election, over 5 million votes.
Can’t we do better than this?
The first score came election night when Republicans were reported to still be in competition for a number of seats. At the time the Target Book reports that California’s vote count stood at 7,272,399. But in the following weeks an additional 5.4 million ballots were counted closing in on half of the yet to be certified final total. See what I mean about two elections?Of course, that second massive wave of votes sunk many Republicans. From the Target Book analysis: “Four congressional seats, three Assembly seats, and a state Senate seat saw the GOP candidate’s lead evaporate in the late count, while Gavin Newsom’s already-sizable 18.8% lead over Republican John Cox ticked up another 5% as the counting concluded.”
The Target Book examines the wave of what we might call “the second count” for subscribers here.
Why the late count swung so heavily for Democrats has been already the grounds for debate about California’s election system. Shawn Steel, former California Republican Party chairman expressed his reasons in an Orange County Register piece that is re-printed on this page today. Steel says Democrats wrote voting rules that encourage late votes that benefit Democratic leaning voters.
While some of the items seem worth examining—on the surface the ballot harvesting could result in potential mischief—the fact of the matter is that Democrats turned out voters in a much more effective way than Republicans.
But to the point of vote counts, in this age of high tech, in the home of the technology revolution, California should be able to create systems to deliver the election results more quickly. There is no need for a two-election election.