Confusion, Contradictions Swirl in Lead-Up to California Primary

California’s primary election is here at last — and with it a jumble of contradictions and confusing communication.

First up: Erratic emails. Californians searching for information on how to cast their ballots (which you can find in CalMatters’ Voter Guide) may have been baffled by a series of Monday emails from the secretary of state’s office, which oversees statewide elections.

  • At 11:13 a.m., the office sent an email alerting voters in certain counties that they could begin casting their ballots in person on May 28 — a date that passed about a week and a half ago.
  • Then, at 2:03 p.m., the office sent another email with the subject line: “Please disregard previous email — Election Day is Tomorrow, Tuesday, June 7th — Early in-person voting options available now!!”
  • The secretary of state’s office did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

Whether the email’s double exclamation point will motivate voters to head to the polls remains to be seen — but what is clear is that California is on track to potentially break its low-turnout record, despite more ways than ever to vote.

  • Kimela Ezechukwu, a Los Angeles County Democrat, told the Los Angeles Times that she hasn’t voted yet because she’s lost trust in elected officials.
  • Ezechukwu: “They’re all the same. They say what they need to say to get you to vote.”
  • Voter trust in the Los Angeles Police Department has also dropped steeply, with just 38% of the city’s registered voters saying they approve of the department’s overall performance, down from 77% in 2009, according to a new poll from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies and the Los Angeles Times. Nevertheless, 47% of voters said the next mayor should increase the size of the police force.
  • Eric Schickler, co-director of the Institute of Governmental StudiesThe findings highlight the “ambivalence and complication in how the public thinks about policing.”

Californians’ complex — and at times contradictory — opinions on criminal justice, public safety and homelessness will also be on display in two high-profile, high-dollar races on today’s ballot:

  • The race for Los Angeles mayor, into which billionaire Rick Caruso has dumped an unprecedented $37.5 million of his own money — resulting in an almost comical level of airwave domination. To wit: Although Caruso didn’t participate in a May 20 mayoral forum on homelessness, his campaign “paid to run banner advertising, which appeared over the top of the streaming video of the debate on The Times’ website,” a Los Angeles Times article ruefully read. “That meant that, as the debating candidates discussed priorities for the unhoused, Caruso’s smiling face loomed above them, with the messages ‘Caruso Can Clean up L.A.’ and ‘Vote for Rick.’”
  • The recall of progressive San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, reflecting a rapid and sharp shift in voter concerns from “criminal justice reform, over-incarceration, police conduct” to “this feeling that things are just not going well,” Jason McDaniel, a San Francisco State associate professor of political science, told the Washington Post.

The coronavirus bottom line: As of Thursday, California had 8,989,279 confirmed cases (+0.4% from previous day) and 90,815 deaths (+0.1% from previous day), according to state data now updated just twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

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California Primary Today: Voters to Decide Shape of 2018 Midterm Elections

VotedVoters will head to the polls Tuesday in the California primary, which will not only determine the final matchups in several key statewide races, including the race for governor, but will also set the framework for the overall battle for the U.S. House nationwide.

Democrats are targeting at least seven, and as many as ten, congressional districts in the Golden State, hoping that widespread opposition to the Trump administration will draw their voters to the polls. However, Republicans have seen a surge in voter enthusiasm lately, thanks to the conservative pushback against California’s “sanctuary state” laws. In addition, a glut of Democratic candidates in otherwise winnable districts has given Republicans new hope.

California’s primary is a “top two” or “jungle” primary, in which all of the voters may choose from all of the candidates, regardless of party. The top two finishers qualify for the general election ballot — again, regardless of party. In 2016, that meant an all-Democrat final for the U.S. Senate election between eventual winner Kamala Harris and then-Rep. Loretta Sanchez. But in 2018, it could mean that Democrats fail to qualify for the November ballot in some districts, simply because they are splitting their vote among too many independently viable choices.

Voters will also be determining the fate of State Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton), who voted to raise the gas tax last year by 12 cents per gallon and now faces a recall election. While many other legislators also voted for the gas tax hike, Newman is from a swing district where Republicans believe they can mount a successful challenge.

Typically, more than two-thirds of California voters submit their ballots by mail, but for the rest, polls will open at 7 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time and close at 8 p.m. Turnout is expected to be low, though that may not be the case in November.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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Early California presidential primary could backfire and help Republicans

As reported by the Washington Examiner:

California has done it again: rescheduled its presidential primary so that it will vote earlier in the presidential selection process. Instead of voting in early June, at the end (or just about the end: Utah voted later last time) of the primary and caucus system, California will now vote in March. Of course that may not be early enough to make California the central focus of presidential politics. In the 2008 cycle it voted in February, and even then 33 states voted earlier or on the same day.

Which is not to say that California has not made a difference in selecting presidential nominees. Voting in June, it provided narrow but decisive victories for Barry Goldwater over Nelson Rockefeller in the 1964 Republican primary and for George McGovern over Hubert Humphrey in the 1972 Democratic primary. From those results, and from Ronald Reagan’s success in the 1966 Republican gubernatorial primary and the 1966 and 1970 general elections for governor, some (including me, at the time) drew the conclusion that California was partial to the (arguably) extreme candidates of both parties, and would tend to tilt their nominations in that direction.

There was a certain tension between that idea — that California was somehow at the leading edge of both conservative and liberal politics — and that it was a reasonable bellwether of national opinion. In support of the latter view, however, you could cite data that showed California voting very much like the nation as a whole in presidential general elections, generally not varying as much as 5 percent off the national Democratic and Republican percentages (more in 1968, when George Wallace took 14 percent of the national vote but won only 7 percent in California).

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