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.

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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.

Click here to read the full article in CALMatters

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