California's $15 billion school bond measure could still prevail

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Don’t count California’s $15 billion statewide school bond measure out, nor any other bond measures that appear to be trailing, says a political analyst, who tracks the state’s bond and tax measures.

Early votes in the state’s March 3 primary showed Proposition 13, the state’s school bond measure, failing with 44.6% yes votes to 55.4% no votes, in early counts. San Diego’s Measure C, a hotel tax which would pay for a convention center expansion and provide money to combat homelessness, was just shy of the super majority needed with 63.55% in favor.

“It’s too early to draw any conclusions,” said Michael Coleman, principal fiscal advisor for the League of California Cities. “As much as half the vote has yet to be counted and reported, and the early vote is going to skew more conservative in most cases.”

Voters at the Echo Park community center in Los Angeles waited in line to vote during the state's March 3 Democratic primary.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla had reported there were more than one million votes outstanding, and it looks as if there could be double the amount of the votes already counted, Coleman said.

Republicans and older voters typically vote earlier, and given the uncertainty with the Democratic primary, Democrats had more motivation to hold on to mail-in ballots or vote election night, Coleman said.

Mail-in ballots have to be postmarked for election day and many of those ballots weren't expected to arrive at election offices until Friday.

In previous elections, Democrats and less conservative voters have been more likely to vote in favor of bond measures.

Some Democrats, who mailed in ballots, had voted for either Pete Buttigieg or Amy Klobuchar, both of whom dropped out just before California’s March 3 primary. Some voters who had mailed in ballots wanted to know if they could change their vote on the news. The answer from Padilla's office was: they could not.

The state saw its highest percentage of eligible citizens registered to vote heading into the primary in the past 68 years, according to Padilla’s office.

Coleman said it was too speculative to say whether the potential participation in this election by voters who had not previously participated could go against common wisdom, or alter the state’s record of approving bond measures at a high percentage.

As of Feb. 18, 2020, there were 20.7 million registered voters in California, representing an increase of 2.7 million registered voters compared to a similar point in the president election cycle in 2016. The turnout was expected to be higher as the state implemented same-day voter registration this year, Padilla said.

“State law gives county election officials up to 30 days after election day to complete vote counting, auditing and certification,” Padilla said. “I will certify the statewide results April 10.”

Provisional ballots and same-day registration ballots are typically counted after election night, because they have to be verified as coming from eligible voters, before they can be counted, he said.

Given that, Coleman said it could be 30 days before final results are reported on bond measures.

“It’s quite possible that even the statewide measure, Proposition 13, will pass once we have all the votes counted,” Coleman said.

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