There are some distinct peculiarities in California electoral processes. The jungle primary has long been an anomaly shared by only two other states; Washington and Louisiana. In this process, the top two candidates in the primary, with no nod to party affiliation, advance to the general election. What this has meant in California, especially in statewide elections, is that you often see two Democrats running against one another. This was the case in the 2018 Senate race where Senator Diane Feinstein(D) ran against State Senator Kevin De Leon also a Democrat.
Fast forward to election 2018. On election night it looked like Republicans would lose about 26 seats nationwide in the House of Representatives creating a small Democrat majority. This led many on the right to say the blue wave was more of a blue ripple. Three weeks later almost every contested race fell into the Democrat's column, especially in California. The election night results of six races changed in that state long after the polls closed.
Even Orange County, formerly known as Reagan Country, is now completely blue. This may have been hastened by a few long term Congressman choosing to retire. According to Ballotpedia it is likely that Republicans will only hold five of California's fifty-three congressional districts following the midterms.
Some of these Republicans held a comfortable lead on election night. Only to concede as absentee and mail in ballots were counted. Even Young Kim in CA-39, who appeared to have the lead after election night and attended the orientation for new members, watched her lead evaporate resulting in a loss.
The results were so startling, departing Speaker of the House Paul Ryan took note. According to the Washington Post:
"It defies logic to me,” Ryan said in a wide-ranging interview with Washington Post reporter Paul Kane. “We had a lot of wins that night, and three weeks later we lost basically every contested California race. This election system they have, I can’t begin to understand what ballot harvesting is.”
"Ballot harvesting"? Does that require a combine or other farm equipment? No. It requires dedicated activists who are willing to go door to door and collect mail in ballots to return to the polling locations. Because not everyone has a mailbox I guess? I can't imagine fair and Democratic California doesn't provide pre-paid envelopes to mail the ballot back. We even get those in deep red Georgia with the absentee ballot mailer.
The concept of ballot harvesting was captured in a viral video a month ago:
Assembly Bill 1921 was signed into law in September of 2016 by Governor Brown. Prior to passage, various family members and those who lived in the same house could return a mail in ballot for someone voting that way. That in and of itself seems ludicrous for a mail in ballot.
With the passage of the new bill, anyone can return the mail in ballot provided they receive no compensation to do so. Anyone. This may explain why over 250,000 such ballots were returned in Orange County alone. Not mailed in as one might expect with a mail in ballot. There were over a quarter million mail in ballots dropped off according to Orange County GOP Chairman, Fred Whitaker in a letter to supporters.
According to The San Francisco Chronicle, in updated vote totals last Tuesday Democrats up and down the ballot gained steadily as mail in ballots were tabulated, erasing wins on election night and placing additional seats in Democrat hands. While the problems in this system are obvious, the primary problem being zero chain of custody and no real accountability despite legal consequences for tampering in the law, Republican leaders are already planning a ground game for 2020. From Whitaker:
“The number of election day vote-by-mail drop-offs was unprecedented — over 250,000. This is a direct result of ballot harvesting,” Whitaker wrote. “That directly caused the switch from being ahead on election night to losing two weeks later. ... We have to develop a response to this new law that allows us to remain competitive while recognizing the realities of Republican voter attitudes towards handing over their ballot.”
I fail to see a reason that California residents should be handing over ballots to anyone if they have requested a mail in form. Put it in the mailbox as the name suggests. This law was clearly passed as a way to advantage the party who can mobilize the most volunteers to go door to door. It also helps that California requires party registration in their process so that efforts to collect ballots can be even more targeted.
Democrats and left leaning pundits are of course blaming the California losses on the Trump effect. This may have some bearing as we did notice a trend that leaned blue in various suburban areas across the country. But election results did not swing nearly as dramatically after the polls closed in other areas. Nor did campaigns in other states remark on how out of whack the results were against internal and public polling. Whether ballot harvesting turned unlikely voters into voters or not, it certainly seems to have had an outside effect. It is not just the Trump effect.
California has already been criticized for problems with its motor voter process, the registration of illegal immigrants to vote in some local elections and the management of illegal immigrant driver's licenses within the motor voter system. Add jungle primaries and ballot harvesting and it is not clear why right leaning resident of California has faith in the outcome of any election.
This shouldn't be surprising for the state that sues the administration over any immigration control measure, voted to become a "Sanctuary State" to avoid having local law enforcement cooperate with ICE, and outlaws plastic straws. California is telling us they want the rest of us to have what they have. Piles of feces on our streets like San Francisco. Overwhelming homelessness and the disease breakouts that accompany that problem like L.A. is seeing. The complete disappearance of the middle class throughout the state that has some 46% of Bay Area residents contemplating leaving the state.
At this point I am willing to advocate for California to be its own country. Their election processes are just one way they seem to be a completely different country. Their continuing spiral in health and safety in urban areas, the inability of young families and the middle class to live comfortably and rejection of federal immigration law are certainly things I don't want imposed on the rest of the country as their political power in D.C. increases.