Prepared For The Worst, California’s Election Went OK

By Lewis Griswold and Michael Lozano,
Capital Public Radio,
November 5, 2020


California prepared for the worst on Election Day and most of its worries came to naught.

Businesses that boarded up windows because they feared looting and rioting instead mostly saw calm. Poll workers were trained in how to handle voters who showed up without masks, but were mostly met with people who wore their masks and socially distanced.

Californians who hand delivered ballots early for fear of late mail or lost ballots appeared to have overreacted: election officials have not seen concerning problems with missing ballots. Lines were reasonable at polling places. No glaring technology glitches shut down state voting.

That doesn’t mean Election Day in California was without hitches. Dozens were arrested in Los Angeles after a party at the Staples Center polls turned into a protest march and police said they wouldn’t disperse. And a bogus vote center in Westminster was busted by activists with social media savvy.

“I think we had a great election in California, especially in light of the challenges voters and election workers faced in conducting an election during a public health crisis,” said Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, a voter advocacy group. 

uesday’s election may well be a record for California. County officials say their numbers don’t yet reflect final vote tallies, but when they do they expect a record turnout.

In Santa Clara County, for instance, 751,000 total ballots have been received, and more are expected as the mail comes in. By contrast, ballots received in 2016 totaled 724,000, said county spokesman Ryan Aralar.

“We’re trying to break the 2008 record of 86 percent,” he said. “We’re close. We’re waiting on some more mail-in ballots.”

Other counties reported similar trends. In Sacramento County, 342,756 ballots have been counted, less than half. The county has another 359,244 ballots to count, plus provisionals and all mail ballots postmarked no later than election day that arrive within 17 days.

“This estimation puts projected voter turnout at just about 80 percent, which  is a county record,” said spokeswoman Janna Haynes.

Napa County’s Registrar of Voters, John Tuteur, said he expects similarly high vote totals. “I expect us to surpass our highest turnout in the past 50 years of 84.4 percent by at least a couple of percentage points,” he said. 

Statewide, the voter turnout was 54 percent as of the end of election night but many ballots still were not processed and counted. An updated figure will be posted late Thursday, according to the Secretary of State’s office. 

Election day vote reporting was smooth, said Secretary of State spokesman Chris Miller. Every county delivered vote tallies to the state office as required. Any delays in counting are largely due to California’s decision to mail a ballot to every voter in the state — the first time ever  — to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.  

That largely succeeded.

Of the more than 22 million ballots sent out, 11.8 million were returned by Nov. 2, according to the Secretary of State’s office. Many who wanted to vote in person had the option of voting at a vote center or polling place that opened three days before Election Day.

Voters were asked to wear masks when inside vote centers, though it was not required because people have the right to vote. Most people complied, officials said. In Sacramento County, a few people would not wear a mask, so poll workers set up a secluded location to vote. (Full Story)

“I’m especially proud of the millions of California voters who returned their mail-in ballots early,” said Alexander of the California Voter Foundation.