Conversation around the water cooler on Wednesday morning was mostly focused on how sore everyone’s fingers were from having to click refresh on their web browser the night before in hopes of getting updates on votes cast. Unlike the good old days, when a vast majority of ballots were collected at polling locations and quickly counted with the outstanding precincts telling the fortunes of votes to come, the new statewide mail-in ballot process has everyone a bit discombobulated and filled with anxiety. Instead of having a strong idea of outcomes Tuesday night, or Wednesday morning at the latest, the process of defining winners and losers can now be drawn out for days. This is leading to increased use of Xanax and consumption of adult beverages by political consultants. As of yesterday, the County of Los Angeles still had 400,000 ballots left to be counted with no idea from which precincts those ballots had been mailed. And we know L.A. County isn’t alone.
Yet, the new voting process is the least of our worries. Let’s instead focus on voter apathy. Of the 22 million ballots mailed to registered voters in California, as of Wednesday, only 3.5 million had been counted. That is a 16% turnout. Once all the votes are counted, turnout should be in the neighborhood of 30%.
30% turnout would not be the worst in recent years, but it would be near the bottom. In the 2014 Primary, turnout was 25.17%. As for the final tally, election offices have through June 14 to accept ballots postmarked by June 7, and political consultants have until November 8 to figure out how to engage what seems to be a disinterested electorate.