Wednesday, December 3, 2014




          It pays to read between the lines whenever the state Legislature or a city council makes changes to longstanding election routines. One example: almost all cities that have lately switched local elections to even years so they coincide with federal and state voting feature Democrat-dominated city councils whose members know both that higher turnouts favor Democrats and that turnout is always higher in general elections than off-year municipal votes.

          It also pays to note what’s happened just after each of the last several Election Days, with California Democrats winning every contest decided by a narrow margin, the votes counted after Election Night providing their margins. A new law now promises to make this trend even more pronounced than it has been.

          Late-counted votes decided the issue in 2010, when Democrat Kamala Harris was elected state attorney general over Republican Steve Cooley, then district attorney of Los Angeles County, by about 40,000 votes.

          It happened again this fall, with defeats for all four Republicans running in ultra-tight races for Congress that were too close to call on Election Night. The most striking turnaround came in the suburbs of Sacramento, where incumbent Democrat Ami Bera trailed former Republican Congressman Doug Ose by more than 3,000 the morning after the election, but almost a month later – after an additional 60,000-odd late-arriving absentee and provisional ballots had been counted – Bera won by 1,300.

          In the Fresno area, Republican challenger Johnny Tacherra led incumbent Democrat Jim Costa by almost 1,000 votes the day after the election, but Costa also won by just over 1,300 votes.

          In the San Diego area, incumbent Democrat Scott Peters found himself behind by about 800 votes the morning after the election, but three weeks and 55,000 votes later defeated Republican Carl DeMaio by just over 6,000. And in Ventura County, where Democratic incumbent Julia Brownley held a slim lead of barely 500 votes just after the election, she turned out to be a clear winner by about 4,400 votes.

          So while Republicans appear to have some advantage among votes counted earliest (usually absentee ballots received by county voting registrars days before the election), Democrats have a consistent edge among those counted after Election Day.

          That may be partly due to demographics. Democrats dominate among several ethnic minorities with less voting experience than the white voters who form most of the Republican base. They are sometimes unclear on how to file absentee ballots or where to cast Election Day votes. So they tend to mail in ballots later than Republicans, they tend to turn in more absentee ballots at precincts and they tend to vote more provisional ballots.

          This makes the post-Election Day results no accident. And it also means it was no accident when an obscure new law ( ) was passed earlier this year by Democrats who control the Legislature, then signed by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.

          This measure requires county voting officials to count absentee ballots postmarked by the end of Election Day, a change from past practice when no ballots were counted if received after that day. The deadline for receipt of ballots will now be moved back three days, too.

          Anyone who’s been around vote-counting on Election Night and beyond has likely seen how trays full of absentee ballots often go completely uncounted because they were received a day or two late. That will change.

          There will likely be no major effects from the new rules in 2015, when municipal elections in places like Los Angeles and San Francisco figured to be dominated by Democrats anyway.

          But this change could have major impact at every level of the next general election, when all 53 California congressional seats and 100 legislative spots will again be at stake, along with a U.S. Senate seat.

          Democrats figure the formerly invalid late-arriving votes that will now count should tend to favor them more than votes cast earlier. It’s yet another change designed to tighten their 15-year hold on California.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

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