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**  A second window aside called by the Studies page, entitled
“California’s Good Neighbor Fence Act of 2013  **

First Published:  16 July 2020
Revised (substantive):  19 June 2021


To view my public declaration of the principles & reasoning behind my vote in California’s 3/3/2020 Presidential Primary Election, click/tap here (A Voter’s Manifesto, part 1 of 2).

Results of the Presidential Primary Election (3 March 2020)

for California State Senator,
39th District
and State Assemblymember,
77th District


^  Title block of “Official Final Election Results” for the “March 3, 2020 Presidential Primary,” issued by the San Diego County Registrar of Voters as of “4/2/2020 05:26:28 PM” when the final count was completed. Voter turnout in San Diego County for this Presidential Primary Election was 49.7%.
     The title block of the full HTML report includes the following note: “QUALIFIED WRITE-IN CANDIDATES WITH ZERO VOTES NOT DISPLAYED.”
     I have no idea what this means. Who determines which write-in candidates are “qualified”? What criteria are used to make this determination?
     And what happens to our votes for “unqualified” write-in candidates? Are they not reported either? (There are no numbers for designated “write-in” candidates provided anywhere in this HTML listing of “Official Final Election Results.”)
     I have reported elsewhere on California’s suppression of write-in votes during general elections, but was under the impression that voters had more latitude — including the right to vote for none of the above by writing in the name of a non-establishment representative of their choosing — during primary elections.
     Joe Mathews has argued that the “March 3, 2020 Presidential Primary” was not truly a primary election in the traditional sense: “Ten years ago, California eliminated primary elections for state offices. To replace primaries, voters approved what’s called a ‘top two’ system, where the first-round election is actually a general election, when candidates from all parties appear on the ballot and voters have the most choice. The second round is a run-off for the top two finishers in the general election. Once you understand the logic of the ‘top two,’ it’s clear that the more important election is the first one [in March], when voters have lots of choices, rather than the second [in November].  ¶   Still, the state and elite media persist in calling the first round, inaccurately, a primary. This is a clear mistake, with real consequences, since California voters — especially the younger and diverse voters who are registered independents — are less likely to turn out for primary elections than general elections. But the state won’t fix the problem, and the media won’t correct the error. Outlets from the New York Times (slogan: ‘The Truth Is Worth It’) to KPCC (‘democracy needs to be heard’) continue to perpetuate the mistake.  ¶   In the March 3 elections, the mislabeling adds another dimension of confusion to an already long and confusing ballot. Because political parties still hold primaries in California for president, the presidential contest actually is a primary — and it is the rare primary in which independent voters can participate, because the California Democratic Party allows non-partisans to request a Democratic ballot in primaries. Unfortunately, while three-quarters of independents want to vote in the presidential primary, fewer than one-fifth have managed to obtain a ballot.  ¶   At the same time, all the other races on your ballot — everything from state assembly and senate to city council — will be general elections. So between the presidential primary and the state general, March 3 will be, quite literally, a tale of two elections.” (J. Mathews, “Are California Elections a Triumph of Democracy — or a Defeat? The Golden State Keeps Making It Easier to Vote, and Harder to Understand What to Vote For,” n. pag.)
     And he complains that “All that new infrastructure to get people to vote has not been accompanied by infrastructure to help people inform themselves about how they vote. To the contrary, people are more misinformed than ever.” (J. Mathews, n. pag.)
     This is certainly the case when it comes to the ins and outs of voting for write-in candidates. With more and more of us unhappy with our choices, and looking to lodge none of the above protest votes, which we want counted and publicly reported — e.g., grouped in some “Write-In (miscellaneous)” or “Write-In (other)” catchall category for write-in candidates (“qualified” or not) that don’t meet the minimum threshold of votes required in order to be separately tabulated — our civic institutions have a responsibility to explain what is now an opaque process for writing in candidates.
     It could well be that we’ll need to agitate for new, less discriminatory laws (and/or a shift in California to ranked-choice voting), but we won’t know this until our electoral officials educate us about “best practices” for casting write-in votes so that they have the consequences we intend.


^  Detail from “Official Final Election Results” for the “March 3, 2020 Presidential Primary,” showing the race for “State Senator 39th District” (605 precincts).
     This final tally on 4/2/2020 — the first official document to mention someone named “Linda Blankenship” (about whom I know absolutely nothing) — was a complete surprise!
     My ballot showed Senator Atkins running for reelection unopposed, and none of the interim counts and updates issued during the month of March 2020 by the San Diego Registrar of Voters listed results for any write-in candidates. Not until 4/2/2020 did we learn that a mystery candidate had received 18,643 write-in votes! While this is only 8.06% of the votes cast, that’s still a significant number of votes in my book, especially if these were write-in votes. (I’m assuming they were, and would argue that the tabulated report for this race should have stated this explicitly: e.g., “Linda Blankenship [write-in].” I further surmise that the use of lower-case letters to render her name is supposed to signal that Blankenship was a write-in candidate [vs. the use of all caps for the names of official candidates], but if that is indeed the code being used, at the very least there should be a note somewhere explaining this.)
     Presumably, Linda Blankenship launched a last-minute write-in candidacy, with outreach limited to a select group of supporters. This kind of orchestrated write-in campaign is a long shot, under the best of circumstances (and taking on an establishment politician of such stature as Toni Atkins in this manner is even more of a long shot).
     I learned this lesson about write-in candidacies long ago, when I enthusiastically joined the grassroots write-in campaign for Donna Frye’s San Diego mayoral bid — another idealistic exercise in direct democracy that ultimately failed: “A plurality of voters wrote in her name, but a controversy arose when she lost the election because a number of voters did not fill in the bubble next to her written name or misspelled her name (usually spelling her last name ‘Fry’). If those votes had counted, Frye would have had more votes than either of the moderate Republican candidates officially in the runoff, but still far below a majority vote. Whether Frye would have been allowed to serve as mayor in any case is uncertain, as her write-in candidacy was at odds with the San Diego City Charter.” (Wikipedia article on Donna Frye, accessed 7/14/2020)
     This year when I wrote in “Sisyphus” for “State Senator 39th District” I had no expectations that my “unqualified” candidate would win more than my single protest vote. I did, however, expect my write-in vote to be counted and recorded under some nonspecific grouping like “Write-In (miscellaneous)” or “Write-In (other).”
     But, as we see above, there is no such catchall category for write-in votes. My protest vote is nowhere recorded in the final tally; and for all I know, my ballot was never even counted.
     So much for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s assurances that absentee voting in our state is “safe and secure” (qtd. in “California Rejected 100,000 Mail-In Ballots Because of Mistakes” by Michael R. Blood of the Associated Press, n. pag.).
     Kim Alexander, president of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation promoting election reform, has it right: “The only thing worse than people not voting is people attempting to vote and having their ballot uncounted” (qtd. in “California Rejected 100,000 Mail-In Ballots Because of Mistakes” by Michael R. Blood of the Associated Press, n. pag.). See also the sidebar entry on this aside’s calling page documenting the several causes for which absentee ballots are automatically disqualified.
     At the very least, the Registrar of Voters should take more seriously those of us who support write-in candidacies, providing clear instructions as to how we do this properly so that all of our none of the above write-in protest votes will be tallied and registered.
     Given the anti-democratic electoral college system which disenfranchises so many of us at the national level, it is imperative that the egalitarian promise of one person, one vote holds at the state and local levels. The fate of our democracy depends on it.


^  Detail from “Official Final Election Results” for the “March 3, 2020 Presidential Primary,” showing the race for “State Assembly 77th District” (308 precincts).
     This “primary” race turned out to be a lot closer than I expected. The newcomer Republican challenger (June Yang Cutter) managed to capture 42.53% of the vote, in a district trending Democratic, where the incumbent has considerable name recognition (especially among long-time Republican voters, who may not realize he’s switched parties), a sizable war chest, and the backing of the Democratic party establishment.
     “Election rules dictate that the two top vote-getters move onto the November general election which means Cutter will get another chance to try to defeat Maienschein.” (Amita Sharma, “Maienschein, Cutter Heading For November Runoff,” n. pag.)