Nearly a month after the June 7 primary, California still is tallying ballots, a task that regularly dumbfounds the uninitiated with its snail-like immunity to speed.
“Yes, They’re Still Counting the Presidential Primary Votes,” The New York Times carped last week, wondering how the cradle of high tech could have such inefficient elections. A week before, The Washington Post quoted Sen. Bernie Sanders supporters speculating that Sanders actually had won the Democratic primary but no one knew because of the slow vote count.
In fact, California election results are the way they are because this state bends over backwards not to disenfranchise voters. This year, some in the Sanders camp actually worsened matters by switching parties at the last minute and casting provisional ballots, which have to be individually verified.
The tactic appears to have failed, by the way. At last count, Sanders still was trailing Clinton by a healthy margin, with the presidential tallies due Tuesday. But critics are correct in their sense that elections in this state have room for improvement. Even Californians, who have come to accept drawn-out vote counts as the price of inclusion, yearn for a better way.
SB 450 reflects the move in this state away from traditional election-day trips to polling places. Sixty percent of ballots here were cast by mail in 2014.
To that end, Senate Bill 450 last week cleared the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee, offering to add a bit more efficiency.
Sponsored by Secretary of State Alex Padilla and authored by Los Angeles-area Democratic Sens. Ben Allen and Bob Hertzberg, the bill would give every voter a mail-in ballot 28 days before an election that could be dropped at a vote center, drop-off location or mailbox on or – better yet, before – election day.
The measure reflects the move in this state away from traditional election-day trips to polling places. Sixty percent of ballots here were cast by mail in 2014.
That preference for snail mail underlies many of the delays in vote counting. Among other things, voters often forget they have signed up to vote by mail, and then show up at a polling place where they have to vote by provisional ballots that have to be hand verified.
There are, of course, downsides to SB 450. One is that it does away with traditional, election-day-only neighborhood polling places. Another is that counties would have to opt in, potentially making future election days even more confusing.
But the bill would, if nothing else, add convenience for Californians. East Coast journalists and others, meanwhile, will have to fend for themselves.