Tag Archives: California

Michigan Reverses Direction
On Mail-In Ballot Oversight

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 20, 2020 — The Michigan Court of Appeals on Friday reversed a lower court ruling that allowed a post-election ballot reception period that would have lasted until Nov. 17, and granted the process known as “ballot harvesting,” where another individual or individuals can deliver unspecified numbers of ballots for voters.

The three-judge high court unanimously overturned a ruling from Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens who made the original directive in deciding an election lawsuit that the Michigan Alliance for Retired Americans, a union-funded organization, brought forth.

When the Michigan attorney general and secretary of state jointly decided not to appeal Judge Stephens’ ruling, the Republican controlled state House and Senate filed the motion and were granted standing. It is unclear now whether the Michigan Alliance will appeal to the state Supreme Court.

According to the Detroit News’s reporting, the original ruling contained the directive that the ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 3. That clerical distinction, however, will be difficult to enforce once we advance into the post-election counting and challenge stage.

The US Postal Service, themselves, according to their employee practices handbook, indicate that many mail pieces do not require postmarks. In most of the 21 states that are now allowing the post-election reception period, the ballots will fall into one of these categories thus making the postmark question moot, and that will invariably lead to further lawsuits and litigation. Below is the official language for the postmark directives:

“Postmarks are not required for mailings bearing a permit, meter, or precanceled stamp for postage, nor to pieces with an indicia applied by various postage evidencing systems.”

The Appellate Court ruling means, at least until if and when the state Supreme Court addresses the issue, that there will be no post-election ballot reception period in Michigan. Ballot harvesting pertaining to individuals who are not immediate family members of the person wanting to vote absentee or is not an election office clerk, will again be prohibited. Therefore, all ballots are required to be in the possession of election authorities throughout Michigan’s counties before the polls close on Election Day, Nov. 3.

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Pennsylvania Voting Rules

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 21, 2020 — Pennsylvania’s Democratic controlled Supreme Court changed their state election procedures late last week in a series of rulings on a lawsuit that the Pennsylvania Secretary of State and PA Democratic Party previously filed.

Under the new process, receiving votes after the election is allowed if “no evidence exists” that the ballot was mailed after Election Day, Nov. 3. The deadline for ballot acceptance now moves from 8 pm on Election Day to 5 pm, Friday, Nov. 6. Pennsylvania becomes the 17th state to allow post-election reception for this 2020 election. The ruling increases the chances that we will not have a winner declared on election night.

Additionally, three other rulings will allow drop boxes to be used as ballot receptacles in the various counties, affirmed that poll watchers can only serve in their own county of residence, and Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins’ name was removed from the ballot. The court did not grant the lawsuit motion to allow ballot harvesting, which would permit third parties to deliver ballots to the authorities or ballot drop boxes.

The drop boxes will be placed in various locations around a county and voters can deposit their ballots without using the postal service to transfer their vote to the county election authorities. Hawkins’ name was removed from the ballot because the court said he “failed to comply with the Election Code’s strict mandate” and the attempts to fix the problem “did not suffice to cure that error,” but the specifics were not addressed.

With the large number of absentee ballots expected here and in other states, the trend toward allowing post-election reception, and the laws that some states, like Pennsylvania, have to control when the mail ballots can be counted, makes it less likely that we will see a definitive presidential campaign result on Nov. 3. The same will be true for certain US Senate and House races.

Of the 17 states, now including Pennsylvania, that are allowing post-election ballot reception, seven appear competitive. The others, Alaska, California, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia will likely declare a clear winner relatively early in the counting period.

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Monitoring Mail-in Vote Turnout

By Jim Ellis

July 7, 2020 — With many states emphasizing mail voting as a way to increase voter participation in the COVID-19 era, has adoption of near universal mail voting in the states that have done so achieved its fundamental purpose, or has it caused more problems than it solved?

Voter turnout is always a definitive factor in determining election outcomes, and the push to change voting procedures has occurred in 31 state primaries. Therefore, the voting system alterations, should they continue into the general election, will most likely have a major impact upon the electoral outcomes.

Most of the states adopting change only expanded their mail absentee ballot procedures for the primaries; therefore, we can expect another round of battles over the general election processes to soon come before legislatures and courts.

Many of the states, Maryland, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and New York to name several, had administrative problems with their expanded mail programs including reports of homes receiving multiple ballots because inactive voters were forced to be mailed, some people requesting absentee ballots and not receiving them, and long post-election counting periods because of the large number of mail ballots coming into the county clerk’s offices.

New York, in fact, has still not even completed its unofficial tabulation and the primary was June 23. The Clark County (Nevada) County Clerk said publicly that the directive to mail inactive voters led to chaos in the state primary since so many ballots were being sent to individuals no longer living at the mailed address.

Largely, Democrats and voting rights organizations are attempting to persuade legislatures, governors, and/or the courts to expand the mail absentee ballot voting option to all registered voters both active and inactive, enact same-day voter registration, adopt ballot harvesting, which allows any individual to collect ballots from voters and turn them into county election authorities (this process is only legal in California, to date), and allow ballots to be post-marked on Election Day as opposed to requiring that they be received on voting day. Republicans and conservative organizations typically object to most of these ideas on verification grounds.

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Is A Budding Red Rebound Emerging?

By Jim Ellis

May 19, 2020 — Two years ago, several national political prognosticators were predicting a strong Democratic election, i.e., “a blue wave,” by using special election results, mostly from state legislative campaigns, as one of their fundamental support arguments. As we know, the forecast proved correct.

To what degree the special election totals were a precursor is difficult to say, but it is reasonable to believe that real-time results are a better voting trend indicator than publicly released polls, many of which are methodologically flawed. Therefore, it is worth analyzing similar voting patterns as we approach the 2020 election.

North Carolina Rep. Dan Bishop (R-Charlotte)

The victory of Republican Mike Garcia in California last week marked the first congressional special election of this election cycle to flip from one party to the other. Republicans have won five of the six special US House contests, including those of Garcia and Wisconsin state Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua), who easily claimed his state’s vacant 7th District, last Tuesday.

The other significant special election occurred late last year. Though Rep. Dan Bishop’s (R-Charlotte) victory in North Carolina came in a seat that historically produced Republican victories, he was certainly considered an underdog at the outset of the special election campaign. He rebounded, however, to score a two-point victory, nonetheless, which in many ways makes it as noteworthy as the Garcia win.

The NC-9 election was necessitated because voter fraud in the 2018 general election prevented the Republican candidate from being certified the winner. After almost a year of keeping the seat vacant, the state’s Board of Elections called a new election that Gov. Roy Cooper (D) scheduled for Sept. 10, 2019.

In the campaign, Bishop was outspent $7.5 million to $2.7 million and that was on top of the $6.1 million Democrat Dan McCready expended in the 2018 general election. Furthermore, Democratic strategists predicted victory in this race because the Charlotte-Fayetteville seat contains a large suburban population, the type of district where their candidates certainly excelled in 2018, and President Trump’s job approval ratings were languishing around the 40 percent mark at the time. All things considered, the Bishop victory should not be characterized as a routine Republican hold.

According to the Ballotpedia election research organization, during the 2018 voting cycle, 197 special state legislative elections were held around the country, 98 of them in 2017, and 99 in 2018. Republicans risked 110 of the seats, substantially higher than the 87 the Democrats were forced to defend. In 2017, Democrats gained a net 11 legislative seats nationally, and eight more in 2018 for a cycle total of 19 net flips (Democrats actually won 26 Republican-held seats, but the GOP took back seven Democratic districts). It was these numbers that largely led the prognosticators to point to changing trends.

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An Upset Win in California for Garcia

By Jim Ellis

California Republican Mike Garcia

May 14, 2020 — Despite thousands of ballots still to be received and tabulated, California Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Newhall) conceded the 25th Congressional District special election race to Republican Mike Garcia late yesterday, making this the first time in decades that the GOP has converted a Democratic seat in the deep blue state.

According to the California Secretary of State, the semi-official preliminary totals showed Garcia, a retired Navy fighter pilot, taking 56 percent of the vote from the 143,335 tabulated ballots. Though votes will be flowing into the election center through Friday evening, it became obvious to Smith that there would not be enough late ballots to overcome Garcia’s substantial 17,339-vote advantage.

Though the California registration figures show 420,928 individuals on the voter rolls in this congressional district, meaning a current turnout of 34.1 percent with many more ballots coming, the progression did not appear to yield the huge participation factor Smith needs to turnaround the final election result.

In the March 3 state primary, 156,550 CA-25 voters participated in the regular election, a total not far from the preliminary tabulation we saw in Tuesday’s special general, remembering that the 3/3 vote, at the time, featured a competitive Democratic presidential nomination event. Of the total, 81,994 voted in the Democratic presidential primary in a CD that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) carried over former vice president Joe Biden, 35.6 – 33.6 percent.

On the Republican side, in their non-competitive race, 64,138 individuals voted in the presidential primary with incumbent Donald Trump taking 92.3 percent of the cast ballots.

Other past races find that this special election turnout could still grow substantially. In the 2018 midterm general election that elected Rep. Katie Hill (D), who would become embroiled in a sex scandal that forced her to resign a year later, 245,022 people participated. In the 2016 presidential election year, 261,161 voters cast their ballots in the congressional race.

Therefore, these latter turnout figures imply the participation rate could still grow, but even the larger historical numbers suggest that CA-25 is a mid-level turnout district in relation to the other California congressional districts. In the presidential election year, the district ranked 24th of the state’s 53 CDs in voter participation. In 2018, with their turnout figure approaching presidential election level voting, CD 25 reached 22nd position within the California district universe.

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