Kim Alexander, President of the California Voter Foundation, joins us to navigate last-minute voting in California and the greater Sacramento area. We will also discuss new protections afforded to election day workers and monitor any news regarding irregularities or voter intimidation across the country and here at home. (Full Audio, scroll down to "Last minute voting tips")
Voters across Greater Sacramento have been turning in their ballots for the midterm elections before and on Election Day across several fronts — mail-in ballots, in-person voting and early votes — and may not be solidified for weeks.
Although California has aimed to make the voting process more accessible — most recently by passing legislation that sends every registered voter a vote-by-mail ballot in 2021 — there are still several barriers complicating participation.
Take vote-by-mail, which Kim Alexander with the California Voter Foundation says favors older homeowner voters over others, regardless of their registered party, because not everyone is comfortable using the mail and not everyone has a reliable address.
That can disproportionately affect those with unstable housing — like college students, who may move around a lot.
Millions of Californians have already voted but millions more will head to the polls today - to either vote in person or drop off their mail-in ballot. Groups that fight for clean elections want to clear up some myths about the ballot this year.
Kim Alexander, president of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation, said some people worry, mistakenly thinking they have to vote on every race.
"This is a pretty long ballot," Alexander said. "And if you don't feel comfortable making a decision on something on the ballot, you're free to skip that contest and move on to the next ballot."
Despite the rain Tuesday, election officials in the Sacramento region say early impressions of voter turnout are relatively consistent with the rates of voting in midterm elections.
Ballots will continue to be counted and tabulated over the following days and weeks, so a fuller picture of turn-out won’t be available immediately – ballots postmarked by Election Day may arrive up to a week later, meaning a more solid snapshot of turn-out won’t be available until at least Nov. 15.
Early waves of reported results will reflect vote-by-mail ballots turned in early and ballots cast in-person at election sites.
In Sacramento County, spokesperson Janna Haynes said around 6:30 p.m., roughly 11,000 people had voted in-person on Tuesday — “a drop in the bucket in comparison to our complete voter turnout.”
Celebratory confetti blanketed the Grove on primary night, as developer Rick Caruso — then sporting a multipoint lead in the Los Angeles mayor’s race — declared his to be a “victory story.”
Across town in Highland Park, an exhausted Eunisses Hernandez had already headed home from her election night party at a local bar. Her opponent, incumbent Councilmember Gil Cedillo, was leading by more than 10 percentage points. Hernandez remained hopeful, though some supporters had begun mourning what they thought to be a loss.
But fortune can be a fickle mistress on election night.
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Concerns about the rise in political violence are reverberating from the White House to state Capitols to local elections offices.
In a pre-midterm elections speech Wednesday, President Joe Biden warned about threats to democracy and referred to the recent attack against Paul Pelosi in his San Francisco home, as part of an alleged attempt to kidnap House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta also expressed caution during a Wednesday news conference in San Francisco, urging elected officials to review their safety protocols.
"So many of us are shaken by the shocking incident involving Mr. Pelosi and are reevaluating security for elected officials, given the increased threats that we're seeing," said Bonta. "The threats are going up. Violence is going up."
So just how pervasive a problem is this?
Wealthy Republican donor Robert Beadles offered two options to county commissioners when falsely accusing Nevada's Washoe County registrar of voters of counting fraudulent votes: "either fire her or lock her up."
Following the meeting, County Registrar Deanna Spikula's office was inundated with threats and harassing calls from people convinced she was part of an effort to rig the 2020 election against former President Donald Trump, according to an investigation by Reuters.
Fearing for her family's safety, Spikula submitted her resignation a few months later.
Her story highlights the nationwide efforts by Trump allies to replace county government leaders with election conspiracy theorists — one of a number of different approaches that right-wing activists have used since the 2020 presidential election to transform how U.S. elections are run.
Marin County elections officials disqualified 1,405 mail ballots in the June primary election, according to data recently released by the California Secretary of State’s office.
That accounts for 1.7% of the 82,502 ballots submitted. Most of the rejected ballots — 1,212 — arrived late. By comparison, California disqualified 1.6% of its vote-by-mail ballots, or 105,818. Of those, 70,000 were late.
“If you can get your ballot in the mail early, that’s great, but using the official drop box or voter center is probably your best bet,” said Lynda Roberts, the Marin County registrar of voters. “Waiting until the last minute can create difficulty. Just don’t wait until the last minute.”
Inside the office of the Shasta county clerk and registrar of voters, which runs elections for about 111,000 people in this part of far northern California, Cathy Darling Allen can see all the security improvements she would make if she had the budget.
“We have plexi on the counter downstairs for Covid but that won’t stop a person. It’s literally just clamped to the counters,” the county clerk and registrar said. For about $50,000, the office could secure the front, limiting access to upstairs offices, she estimated. Another county put bulletproof glass in their lobby years earlier, she knew, something officials there at one point considered removing, though not any more.
Elections offices didn’t used to think about security in this way, Allen said. Now they can’t afford not to.