Sacramento County elections officials are still counting — and counting — the votes from Tuesday’s local primary races, so there is a lot we don’t know yet. But the preliminary results offer at least one clear takeaway:
Technology matters, but not enough to save us from yet another slow slog of counting votes by hand, long after the voting is over. That's not entirely a bad thing.
This was Sacramento County's first experiment with the all-new Voter's Choice Act, which scrapped polling places in favor of vote centers in a bid to boost turnout. The turnout part appears to have worked, with at least 344,000 residents casting ballots in the primary, tens of thousands more than in 2014.
But it could take until next month to get an official tally in some races, so maybe hold the confetti. As of Wednesday evening, only about 124,000 ballots had been counted, and an unknown quantity hadn't even arrived yet, as a record number of people voted at the last minute and by mail.
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Meanwhile, early returns seem to indicate the old rules of Sacramento politics are holding. Incumbency mattered, for instance. Most local candidates who ran for another term in office appear, at least so far, to be secure.
Sacramento City Council incumbents Angelique Ashby and Rick Jennings are decisively ahead, as is county Supervisor Patrick Kennedy.
Money mattered, too, but only to a point.
In the race for Sacramento County sheriff, incumbent Scott Jones had a campaign war chest so mighty that it scared off contenders who could attract big donors. So even with an array of establishment endorsements, challenger Milo Fitch struggled and, as of Wednesday, was tied with lesser known candidate Donna Cox.
In his bid to unseat Anne Marie Schubert and become Sacramento County district attorney, deputy prosecutor Noah Phillips accepted tons of cash from billionaire activist George Soros. But Schubert, not Phillips, had the support of many local Democratic elected officials, not to mention the capture of a man suspected to be the East Area Rapist, which changed the subject from the police shooting of Stephon Clark.
Schubert has already declared victory, pointing out about an hour after the polls closed that she was leading by a 2-to-1 margin. Which proves Tuesday's most important takeaway: Marching matters but so does voting.
Even in the preliminary data, it’s troubling that the same neighborhoods that mounted the biggest protests over the Clark shooting may have perpetuated the status quo by not showing up to vote for the progressive candidates who shared their agenda. Victory shouldn't be so easy.