If you voted this fall in a neighborhood garage or the clubhouse of a park or a school auditorium, remember the experience well. It may not be repeated anytime soon. If you saw American flags flying at your precinct polling place, that sight may also disappear. A whole new election system is about to begin in California, complete with “vote centers” and a big expansion of early balloting. The new system will start phasing in 2018 in 14 counties and should be operative by 2020 everywhere in the state. One thing for sure, losing candidates and those who expect to lose will have new fodder for the “rigged election” cry taken up so vocally this fall by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. With more mail-in ballots involved than ever before, same-day voter registration and personnel in place to provide language assistance, charges of fraud will be common at least while the new system is being broken in. The hope behind the new system, pushed hard by Democratic Secretary of State Alex Padilla and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, is to increase voter turnout drastically.
After low turnout disappointed officials in 2014 and the off-year-elections of 2013 and 2015, they began casting about for changes. The new system will deliver mail-in ballots to every registered voter in the 28 days before the actual Election Day, aiming to end any need to vote in a single place on just one day.
“We’ve got to … implement a new voting model,” said Democratic state Sen. Ben Allen of Santa Monica, who sponsored the new system in the Legislature. “Our current system has failed, as our voter turnout rates continued to decline toward record lows.”
Turnout in both the 2014 primary (25 percent of registered voters) and that year’s November general election (42 percent) were at record lows, making Padilla and the Legislature a bit desperate to push numbers up.