Dems Have Already Picked Their Low-Hanging Fruit — and Have 53.7%

For Dems who are pleased at the turnout numbers so far, I have some bad news for you.

I’m not saying that Gavin Newsom is going to be recalled — a new Public Policy Institute of California poll out says that the recall is losing by 39% to 58%, so that’s good, if true, but another poll covering almost the same period had the race almost even, and the difference seems to lie in the “secret sauce” of how the determine who is a likely voter.

am saying that people who think that it’s going well because of the returned ballot statistics seem to have no idea how statistical sampling works.

Political Data, Inc. (PDI) has a daily ballot tracker.  (Try it out! It’s fun!) Today I saw Democrats online gloating about how the ballot returns were going so well!  So I looked it up.  I have the data for I believe September 1, but it’s not going to change much soon.  I’ll summarize if for you here.

  • Voters were sent a total of 22,254,210 ballots this year.
  • Of those, 4,657.495 have been returned.  That’s 21% turnout so far.
  • Do some math: you’ll see that 17,596,736 ballots remain unreturned.

Question: are there are any differences between the 4.66 million voters who have returned their ballots and the 17.6 million who haven’t?  Well, obviously, some of the latter category won’t vote at all … but given that we see 70% turnout in the 2003 recall I think it’s a fair bet that more than 30% of that 70% — that is, 21% — will vote.  Probably, quite a bit more will.

Now what got Democrats all fired up is this breakdown by party:

  • Democrats received 10,353,101 of those ballots; 2,500,798 — or 24.155% — have been returned.
  • Republicans received 5,349,192 of those ballots; 1,034,119 — or 19.332% — have been returned.
  • NPPs and third party voters received 6,551,917 of those ballots; 1,034,119 — or 15.783% — have been returned.

So: Dems are winning — right?  If you do the math, you’ll see that 53.7% of the ballots that have been turned in come from Democrats!  They can’t lose, right?

Well … I think it’s fair to say that the recall would lose if the votes were counted today — but that’s not how it works.  Lots of ballots will still arrive.  And can you think of any differences between how hard the people in the various parties have been pushed to vote already?

Democrats have been hounded by a thundering and merciless party to get in their ballots as fast as they can!  Don’t think about the election Part 2 to choose a replacement if the recall passes; don’t even fill it out!  It is (as California Democratic Party Chair Rusty Hicks actually said) a waste of people’s time and effort to fill out Part 2! “VOTE NO AND GO! YOU MUST DO IT TODAAAY!

Now, by definition, any Democrat who didn’t turn in their ballot early enough for it already to have been included in their party’s figures is someone who didn’t follow their party’s desperately urgent instructions!  (Now, maybe they had Covid or something, but most people just … didn’t, even if they knew that it was asked demanded of them.)  People who did accede to that request are “the low-hanging fruit.”  So from now on, we’re looking at mainly higher-hanging fruit, which requires more energy and cost for Democrats to reach.

Republicans and Independents (&c), on the other hand, have a reason not to have turned in their ballots yet: many of them still have to figure out whom to vote for in Part 2!  Furthermore, their parties (or lack of one, for NPPs) haven’t been pushing them to vote NOW NOW NOW!)

So … of course a lower proportion of them have voted!

But will they vote?

NPPs will probably vote at their normal rate in an election for Governor — which, with good reason, they consider to be.  (Libertarians may have already voted for their candidate, Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Hewitt, and Greens have just endorsed brilliant and somewhat quirky Hollywood attorney Dan Kapelovitz, so their party faithful may be able to vote earlier.)  But if they’ve seen the hard-squeeze tactics of the Democratic Party up close, they’ll probably be less likely to oppose the recall than otherwise, because if you’re not within the party you may not get how unappealing it is.

Republicans, on the other hand, are seriously fired up.  “Stop the Republican Steal!” (as opposed to something even truer, like “Stop the Power Grab!”) surely does appeal to the extremely motivated party faithful, but it also drives up the numbers for the Republicans, who say “My God, we can actually win this one!”  They have no reason to hurry, because they’ve got a fair enough amount of room for change among their leading candidates — Larry “Mr. Scandal” ElderJohn “Mr. Lawsuit” Cox, Kevin “The Kid” Kiley, Kevin “Mayor Moderate” Faulconer, Kevin “I’m Actually a Democrat, But…” Paffrath, Kevin “Actually, No One is Voting for Me Except by Mistake” Kaul, and Caitlin “What Do You Mean I’m Not Famous Enough?” Jenner — that they have reason to take time to make their final decisions.

In other words, the 21% of the electorate that has already of voted looks quite different from the next 21% that will come in — any even more different from the 21% (or whatever it will turn out to be) that comes in after that.

Before moving on, PRI has some demographic breakdowns of who’s voted that we should read into the record.

Age cohorts: Of voters 65 and up, 37% have voted.  Of voters 50-64, 23%.   Voters 35-49, 16%.  And voters 18-34%, 10%.

Race and ethnicity: White and other, 25%. Latino, 13%. Asian, 20%. Black, 20%.  (By the way, 20% of the registered Black vote is 144,089 people, so good job on that effort to register minorities, Democrats!  That’s almost exactly the population of Fullerton!)

I think that you can follow who’s whom in these three graphs from PRI that show trends for each of the above:

In other words, Democrats (and older voters, and whites) came out with a big lead over the first half of the race.  But now — votes for everyone in every party ID and demographic category is pretty much flat.  My guess is that the trend for Republican voters over the next two weeks will be a lot steeper — especially at the end, than it will for Democrats — because lots of Republican low-hanging fruit is still out there, while the Democrats’ low-hanging fruit is was used up by about a week ago.

Some of my Democratic friends (well, at least they’re still Facebook friends) are still putting lots of effort into GOTV (and maybe they’ll make the difference!), so maybe Newsom will win. But as a Democrat, I have to say: those who really wants to see Newsom remain in office have probably mostly already voted.  Their votes are in the bank.  If Democrats really want to electrify turnout (and blunt Republican turnout), they could do what I’ve been trying to do, and what most of them would never have the guts to do: convince Gavin Newsom to resign.  Let Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis take over (the recall would continue, only with her in the hot seat) and ride both the wave of excitement over finally having a female Governor and the wave of recrimination that she certainly doesn’t deserve to be recalled over Newsom having eaten at the French Laundry!

But while this would work — and, I think, make future recalls of Governors less likely in the future, because the recall effort would have gotten the Governor’s scalp, it would also show how easily a future recall it can be overcome — Democrats won’t try it.  They’d rather lose to Elder than risk losing esteem among the members of the party.

I think that that’s too bad — but that’s the party I know.

Update, 8/3: Republican and

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)