It’s officially been a week since the California March 3rd primary, and based upon the latest results both statewide and locally, it was a much tighter election than I think most people thought it would be. Yes Bernie Sanders overwhelmingly won California, but that was pretty much expected to happen, even with the announcements of both Buttigieg and Klobuchar leaving the race days before the election (that sucks if you voted for them via mail). Though what is really interesting is how voters responded to tax measures generally (fairly negatively in comparison to other elections), and the lagging turnout and later voting.
What you can see in the above graph taken from the Sacramento based Cal Matters is that despite higher turnout overall, the number of ballots that remained to be counted as of Friday March 6th was actually higher than in previous years. This is because people waited longer than normal to turn in their mail ballots, meaning that a significant number of people were waiting right up until the end, perhaps still deciding who to vote for in the democratic primary. After all California voters lean heavily left, and more than 60 percent vote by mail. This is also why it may take a little longer to count all of these ballots, as they have to be collected by local elections offices and are only processed after poll voters and early absentee submissions.
What is perhaps most disappointing, both locally and statewide, is the response from voters on tax measures, particularly for education. Despite an overwhelming number of democratic voters in Santa Cruz County, Measure R (which was endorsed by the Business Council), failed to overcome the 55 percent threshold it needed to pass. This was a surprising result to say the least, because as it stands now that bond is actually fairing worse than the previous Cabrillo college bond, which faced much more prominent and organized opposition.
Though that may speak to the overall sentiment of primary voters over the larger pool of Presidential election ballot casters, because tax measures across the state panned in comparison to prior years. In looking at the results of the statewide Prop 13 (an unfortunate number to draw), the largest school construction bond in the State’s history, it was widely voted down across the board. And according to the the California Taxpayers Association, an anti-tax lobby, of the 237 local tax and bond measures at stake, 58 passed and 122 failed; 57 were too close to call.
So what does this mean? Well if we want to assume the role of our Cartesian voter here, this likely democratic voter, who votes by mail, was probably very much focused on the democratic presidential primary, but was either undecided, or very un-motivated to turn their ballot in early, preferring to wait to drop it off until the very last couple of days. Upon voting for a President, this voter then went down the line and voted on local measures and candidates, preferring to select female candidates generally where they had little information (locally we saw this manifest in the First District in Betsy Riker getting almost 6 percent of the vote despite having no ballot statement and not campaigning), and then offering mixed votes on tax measures. Strangely enough, the bigger the tax measure (State and County wide bonds), the less likely they were to get the support of voters. Whereas the smaller school and public safety measures were still supported by almost 2/3rds of voters in most districts/cities.
Now forget everything I just said, because none of it may hold true come November, where we can expect an even bigger turnout, across a broader political spectrum, with generally less informed voters about local issues, but perhaps a higher degree of motivation (focus) on the top of the ticket. That is unless the corona virus kills us all–so all you people with the “Giant Meteor 2020” stickers on your car, well be careful what you wish for.