Thursday, 3 Dec 2020

California’s Role in Historic Voter Turnout

Good morning.

More than 10.5 million Californians have already cast their ballots, about 72 percent of the total turnout in 2016, according to the U.S. Elections Project.

Some 88 percent of eligible Californians — a record of more than 22 million people — were registered to vote as of the middle of last month, the secretary of state’s office reported. That’s the highest percentage heading into a general election in eight decades, and more can still register at the polls in person using the state’s same-day registration process.

More voters are registered in California than there are people living in Florida, Alex Padilla, the secretary of state, noted in a statement — with an exclamation point.

[See The Times’s full voter guide for Californians, with information about how, when and where to cast your ballot. | Leer en español.]

In other words, Californians are playing a major part in what my colleagues have reported is a historic surge in turnout across the country; the nation is on track to surpass 150 million votes for the first time.

While it’d be easy to say that opposition to the president is what’s driving Golden State voters to the polls, as The Reporter, in Vacaville, reported, Republican Party officials say their base is as energized as ever. That’s part of why President Trump’s attacks on voting by mail may backfire for California’s G.O.P., according to CalMatters.

[Read The Times’s guide to the California races to watch.]

Still, the latest Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll found that not only is Joseph R. Biden Jr. going to clean up in California, but he could also win by the largest margin since 1920, when the Republican Warren Harding defeated the Democrat James Cox by 42 percentage points.

Mr. Biden is leading by 36 percentage points, according to the poll, which — if borne out in vote totals — would be the biggest victory for a Democratic presidential candidate in the state’s history, the poll’s authors said.

In any case, election officials are gearing up for a lot more in-person voting in the days ahead.

Over the weekend, more stadiums and arenas opened as polling places. While voters in some places, like Butte County and Riverside County, encountered computer delays, for the most part, things seemed to be going smoothly.

Read more about the election:

On Sunday, Gov. Gavin Newsom went to Nevada to campaign for Mr. Biden. [The Sacramento Bee]

President Trump has called on his supporters to watch the polls. That’s something people are already assigned to do — and it’s actually pretty boring. [The New York Times]

Economists at Stanford University created a statistical model that estimated that at least 30,000 coronavirus infections and 700 deaths have been linked to 18 Trump campaign rallies. [The New York Times]

“I didn’t realize there were so many Trump supporters in California.” Hundreds of people rallied for the president in Beverly Hills. [The Los Angeles Times]

Here’s how the A’s transformed the Oakland Coliseum into Alameda County’s biggest voting center. [The San Francisco Chronicle]

Tune in to a live broadcast of The Daily on Election Day with Times reporters across the country. They’ll break down what’s happening in key battleground states from 1-5 p.m. Pacific time at nytimes.com/thedaily.

(This article is part of the California Today newsletter. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox.)

An update on the pandemic

As the picture of the pandemic becomes increasingly grim across the country, California’s progress in curbing new virus cases has stood in marked contrast.

[Track coronavirus cases by California county.]

On Friday, the governor cut the ribbon on a new lab the state built in partnership with the company PerkinElmer that will double the state’s current testing capacity, once it’s at full capacity in March — a move Mr. Newsom has said will help more schools, health care facilities and businesses operate more safely.

Still, there are troubling signs that the virus is far from under control in the state.

In recent days, some Southern California counties, including Los Angeles and Riverside, have reported worrisome increases — again. Orange County’s case loads have hampered officials’ efforts to reopen more businesses, like Disneyland. Even in San Francisco, which has been held up as a model for a measured reopening, officials said over the weekend that they’d pause reopening plans because of rising cases and hospitalizations.

[Read about a debate over reopening classrooms in San Francisco.]

And after months of mounting backlogs, which led to a hard reset of the state’s unemployment application system, the director of the California Employment Development Department, Sharon Hilliard, announced on Friday that she would retire effective at the end of the year.

Ms. Hilliard, a nearly four-decade veteran of the department, stepped in to help manage the pandemic response in February.

Her departure will make her the second major figure in California’s coronavirus response to leave in the aftermath of technology-related snafus: In August, Dr. Sonia Angell, the state’s public health director, abruptly resigned a week after a data-tracking glitch caused almost 300,000 records to disappear from the state’s system. The governor didn’t answer repeated questions at the time about whether the two were related.

[Here’s what to know about California’s tiered reopening plan.]

Taken together, the incidents underscore how much work lays ahead to overhaul what Mr. Newsom has described as catastrophically outdated information technology systems “decades in the making” and how critical that work will be for millions of out-of-work Californians.

Read more about the pandemic:

“It was Covid that really killed this kid.” The police are drawing connections between the stresses of the pandemic and a surge in homicides in cities across the country, including California. [The New York Times]

If you missed it, here’s an in-depth look, in partnership with 11 local newsrooms around the country, at what it means to be unemployed in the pandemic. One story comes from Santa Ana. [The New York Times | Voice of OC]

Kern County’s rural agricultural towns have been hit hardest by Covid-19. [The Bakersfield Californian]

Here’s why the pandemic has hammered Central Valley communities. [The New York Times]

Skeptical that masks actually work? (Still?) Here’s a graphic that shows how they protect you and the people around you — in microscopic detail. [The New York Times]

The pandemic has made this the saddest Día de los Muertos: “The dead? There are so many.” [The Los Angeles Times]

And Finally …

As Election Day — such that it will exist this year — draws ever closer, my colleagues on the Style desk have once again expanded the bounds of “public service journalism” with this mildly chaotic Election Distractor. (Disclaimer: Eligible voters are allowed to use it only if they’ve already voted.)

Click through to listen to Michael Barbaro, host of The Daily, react to things; watch a video depicting a baby star being born; and see a comedian try to guess what color of paint is being mixed. In the process, stay off social media and try to forget that we are unlikely to have definitive results on Tuesday night. In fact, we never have, anyway — and definitely not in California.

California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: [email protected]. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read every edition online here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

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