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San Diego Politics 101: You Cast Your Vote, Now What?

A polling place at Lopez Ridge Park in Mira Mesa, June 7, 2016.

Photo by Brooke Ruth

Above: A polling place at Lopez Ridge Park in Mira Mesa, June 7, 2016.

It’s primary election day and it’s now up to you to make your voices heard at the polling booth.

In a wrap-up segment of our series, San Diego Politics 101, political science professor Carl Luna joins Midday Edition on Tuesday to answer questions about the process of voting and vote counting.

The answers below have been edited for clarity and brevity. To hear the full interview listen to the Midday Edition podcast.

San Diego Politics 101: You Cast Your Vote, Now What?


Carl Luna, political science professor, San Diego Mesa College and University of San Diego


Q: So, first listeners may be wondering what happens to their ballot after they cast it?

A: After your mail-in ballot is received at the voter registrar's office, or you've dropped it off there or one of the library locations you're able to do that at, or you go to vote the traditional way, all the ballots eventually make it to the voter registrar's office. Here's what San Diego County Registrar of Voters Michael Vu had to say about the process: 'Once we receive it there's approximately 500 individuals in our warehouse, 160 of those individuals are scanners and everyone else are there to support those scanners, to be able to scan in every single one of those 1,444 precincts. And then what we do is upload that information to our tabulation system and because our tabulation system is in no way connected to the internet, we then what is called sneaker net it over to a computer that is connected to the internet so we can publish the results to the public.' And those numbers will eventually make it to the final report. Now with hundreds of thousands of ballots, it could take days, sometimes through the weekend before they're all counted. But your ballots will be counted.

Q: What ballots get counted first?

A: The mail-in ballots they've received by today, Election Day, that they can actually count, the ones that have been dropped off, early voting which started May 7. Those are the numbers you see five minutes after 8 p.m. when the polls close. You'll see hundreds of thousands of ballots being cast, but then they have to go through the arduous process of getting them from the precincts to the voter registrar's office, unpack them, count them and then load them into the system. It’s going to take hours or days to count all of the ballots. But you typically know who's winning within the first three, four, five, six hours.

Q: The term 'jungle primary' has come up a lot in this election cycle. Remind us what that is.

A: California's been on kind of a quest to get more people to vote and they've been trying to play with the primary system. The 'jungle primary' is another name for what used to be called the Cajun primary, a variation of what they do in Louisiana, where you have all the different candidates on the same ballot and anybody, regardless of party, can vote for anybody, regardless of party. And the top two, and they can be from the same party, go on to the finishing line in November for the runoff. In a classic closed primary, you only get to vote for a candidate of your own party, in an open primary you can vote in any one party's primary and then we used to have the blanket primary here, where you'd vote for all the different candidates, you could vote for any candidate or party, but then the top candidate from each party would go on to the general election. The point of all of these was to give independents more of a chance to vote because in a closed primary they can’t and the hope was also with our current system that if you have two candidates from the same party in November, it would force them to kind of move toward the middle, so they can attract independents and maybe voters from the other party.

Q: What are the circumstances in which a candidate can win the election outright in today's primary and not have to advance to the general election against an opponent?

A: It used to be that in all the non-partisan local races, county and cities, it was typically if you got 50 percent plus one you're done, you don't have to move on. That's still the case in the county, but city of San Diego Proposition K now has all these races being decided in November.

Q: So, which races actually could be decided today?

A: Sheriff, treasurer, Board of Supervisors, if anybody gets 50 percent plus one. District attorney, since there's only two candidates, one of them is going to win today.

Q: Isn't that confusing to voters?

A: It is confusing. It's an attempt to make democracy work better, which may get in the way actually. The high ideal is by doing it in November, you're going to have the bigger voter turnout. So you really allow voters, if you're going to do a runoff to have the maximum number of voters to legitimize the candidate. The lower ideal in California, at least, is since Democrats tend to turn out more in November, this will help Democrats in the city of San Diego and if we ever adopt this at the county level, would help them with county voting.

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