'Zombie votes': what happens to early ballots cast for Democratic dropouts?

An estimated 4 million Californians voted before Steyer, Buttigieg and Klobuchar left the race. They won’t get a do over

By Staff,
The Guardian,
March 2, 2020


The sudden retreat of Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg and Tom Steyer ahead of Super Tuesday has left many Californians who voted early grappling with loss – and regret.

“I was heartbroken,” said Andrea McNew, 44, who had been volunteering for the Buttigieg campaign in San Diego, California. “But I know it’s a tough road to the presidency,” she added. “So we’re working through it”.

McNew was one among an estimated 4 million Californians who mailed in their ballots before the South Carolina results were reported. Based on voting data and polling, about 800,000 Californians likely voted for Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Steyer, according to Paul Mitchell, whose campaign research firm, Political Data Inc, tracks ballots as they are returned. Although many Super Tuesday states allow early voting, California, which has the most delegates to award, has most enthusiastically encouraged it.

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In future elections, voters who’ve “been burned this year may vote closer to the election”, said Mindy Romero, who heads the California Civic Engagement Project at the University of Southern California. But this year’s primary is a uniquely close, crowded race. In 2008 – the last time California voted on Super Tuesday – Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were the only two viable candidates. In 2016, by the time Californians voted in June, the field of candidates had narrowed down to Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

The disappointment of early voters who pinned their hopes on short-lived candidates “is the risk you run when you have an early primary”, said Kim Alexander, the president of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation. “It’s unfortunate, but I wouldn’t say we had any wasted votes,” she said. “The votes will reflect on how candidates fare among a diverse democratic electorate – and could inform how the eventual presidential candidate will choose a vice-president,” Alexander said.

If voters still feel a bit frustrated, “I encourage them to find somebody who is not registered to vote, and would support their second choice candidate, and help them vote,” Alexander said. “There are millions of Californians who are not registered, and this is an incentive for people to go and find new voters.” (Full Story)