Even though it’s a mostly blue state, there are still a few Republican strongholds in California. Orange County used to be considered one of those stronghold districts. They were still considered a Republican district until several days after the election, when thousands of votes came in, and helped the Democrats to flip red seats blue.
What should Republicans make of this 11th hour blow out of Republicans by Democrat candidates, many of them who are were virtually unknown before the midterm elections? With a massive number of Democrat votes coming in weeks after the actual election, how are Republicans going to guarantee that we never see this kind of election happen again?
In the 21st District of California (a Central Valley district carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016), incumbent congressman David Valadao was called as the winner by the Associated Press on election night; he had a solid 4,000-plus vote lead, and was never considered a likely loser during the campaign (his race was rated a noncompetitive Likely Republican by the Cook Political Report). But late ballots, mostly from votes-by-mail that met the state’s condition of having been postmarked by Election Day, steadily eroded Valadao’s lead (as it did the votes of most GOP statewide and congressional candidates in California in the days following the election), and ultimately gave Democrat TJ Cox the victory, as called today by the Los Angeles Times. It means Democrats flipped a remarkable seven House seats in California this year, and it brought the Democratic Party’s total net gains to a nice even 40 seats (they flipped 43 seats and lost three of their own). – Intelligencer
The Daily Caller reports – As the polls closed on election day last month, six California Republican House candidates, including Representatives Dana Rohrabacher, Steve Knight, and Mimi Walters, were ahead in their respective races. However, as the absentee and provisional ballots rolled in over the intervening weeks, all six lost to their Democratic opponents.
The case of Korean-American GOP candidate Young Kim was one of the most prominent examples. On election night, Kim held an 8,000 vote lead over her Democratic opponent Gil Cisneros, and even attended freshman orientation in Washington, D.C. before watching her lead, and her victory, slowly evaporate over the subsequent weeks.
“California just defies logic to me,” said Ryan at a Washington Post live event. “We were only down 26 seats the night of the election, and three weeks later, we lost basically every California contested race. This election system they have — I can’t begin to understand what ‘ballot harvesting’ is.”
The stunning turnaround in California, of all states, can be attributed to several factors, as conservative critics like The Federalist’s Bre Payton wrote, but the most significant of those seemed to be the practice of “ballot harvesting.”
Few people noticed when Gov. Jerry Brown signed the changes in AB1921 into law two years ago. In the past, California allowed only relatives or people living in the same household to drop off mail ballots for another voter. The new law allowed anyone, even a paid political campaign worker, to collect and return ballots — “harvesting” them, in political slang.
One of the lessons that the GOP needs to learn out of this election cycle is how to work within all of the new rules, same-day voter registration, motor voters,” Denham said. “There have been a lot of changes in laws that I think have caught many in the Republican Party by surprise. You can’t just run a traditional campaign as you did before.”
San Fransisco Chronicle reports – In Orange County alone, where every House seat went Democratic, “the number of Election Day vote-by-mail dropoffs was unprecedented — over 250,000,” Fred Whitaker, chairman of the county Republican Party, said in a note to supporters. “This is a direct result of ballot harvesting allowed under California law for the first time. That directly caused the switch from being ahead on election night to losing two weeks later.”
Watch what happens when a video produced by a homeowner’s ring.com service shows a Democrat operative offering to take a voter’s ballot from them to be counted.
The woman in the video, who identifies herself only as “Lulu” says it’s a “new service,” said Lulu, for “like, people who are supporting the Democratic party.”
Some Republicans have cast a skeptical eye on Democrats’ use of “ballot harvesting” to boost their support. The idea’s backers say it’s just one of several steps California has taken to enable more people to vote.
Across the state there were reports of groups collecting ballots and dropping them off at polling places and election offices.
“We certainly had that going on here, with people dropping off maybe 100 or 200 ballots,” said Neal Kelley, Orange County’s registrar of voters. “We also had voters calling and asking if it was legitimate for someone to come to their door and ask if they could take their ballot” and deliver it to the polls.
For Democrats, the ballot harvesting was all part of a greater effort to get out the vote from their supporters, particularly from occasional voters.
“We beat Republicans on the ground, fair and square,” said Katie Merrill, a Democratic consultant deeply involved in November campaigns. “Many of the field plans included (ballot harvesting) as an option to deliver voters or their ballots” to the polls.
Those efforts involved identifying voters who might support Democratic candidates and ignoring those who wouldn’t.
In one Orange County household, for example, both the husband and wife were longtime Republicans, said Dale Neugebauer, a veteran Republican consultant. Democratic volunteers came by the house four times, each time asking to speak only with their 18-year-old daughter, a no-party-preference voter, and asking if she wanted them to pick up her signed and completed ballot.
That’s a perfect example of the “thorough and disciplined” ground game the Democrats used, said Merrill.
“We were not wasting time talking to people who weren’t going to vote for Democrats,” she said.