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Simpich writes: "We can win, if we are smart about what we can do, humble about the confusion factor, and nimble throughout the battle. We are looking at a sea change in how American elections are run."

A Bernie Sanders campaign rally in Chicago, Illinois. (photo: Scott Olson/Getty)
A Bernie Sanders campaign rally in Chicago, Illinois. (photo: Scott Olson/Getty)

Bernie Organizers: Increase Election Night Turnout & Decrease Voter Suppression

By Bill Simpich, Reader Supported News

23 January 20

An open letter to all Bernie organizers in California and across the USA

n all presidential primaries, the most important count happens on Election Night.

That’s where momentum is created – and cascades nationwide.

After Election Night, the media and everyone else moves on to the next battle.

In 2016, Bernie voters were buried in provisional ballots. When I turned in my vote-by-mail ballot to vote at the polls, it took me three hours to convince a very earnest poll-worker not to give me a provisional ballot.

Provisional ballots may get counted someday, but these ballots certainly don’t get counted on Election Night.

The number of delegates Bernie gets after all the votes are counted (which takes a month in California) is unimportant in comparison to the media bounce he gets on Election Night. All people care about on Election Night is whether or not Bernie is “winning” that night. That controls the narrative.

For a comparison, look at the Iowa caucus. There are only a handful of delegates involved. The important thing on Election Night is not the delegate count. It is simply this: Who won Iowa? That will be the question in California on March 3 – Who won California?

Right now, the Los Angeles Times editorial board is asking, “Is the California Presidential Primary a Disaster Waiting to Happen?

Not yet. We can win, if we are smart about what we can do, humble about the confusion factor, and nimble throughout the battle. We are looking at a sea change in how American elections are run

Here are six big ways to maximize turnout, minimize provisional ballots, and avoid having one’s ballot counted after Election Night. Lee Camp explains it with great humor on his show Redacted Tonight in his opening segment – make sure to start at the very beginning of the video.

1.  The majority of California voters vote by mail (VBM). They should vote by February 18 to ensure their vote is counted by Election Day.   

Vote-by-mail voters (or VBM voters, or “absentee voters”) are the majority on the West Coast, 65% in California. These voters need to get their VBM ballots mailed EARLY to get them counted by election night, March 3. It can take up to a week for them to be delivered by mail, and up to another week to get them counted.

Everything I have seen gives me no confidence that voters who send VBM ballots after February 18 can be certain that their ballots will be counted by Election Night. The counting doesn’t start until late February, and the counties know they have until early April to finish. The count is easy for officials to manipulate.

Voters want to have their vote counted by Election Night should vote as soon as possible.

After February 18, the best way to make sure one’s vote is counted by Election Night is to vote in person at the county’s vote center, which is most commonly the office of the county elections official. These vote centers open before March 3, and the votes cast here are among the first counted. (The contact list of these county election officials is here.)

2.  Independent voters (known as NPP voters in California for “no party preference”) are roughly 30% of California voters and 40% nationwide. Bernie defeated Hillary by 40% among independent voters in California. NPP VBM voters should vote by February 18 to ensure their vote is counted by Election Day.

Bernie organizers are urging the “NPP voters” to re-register as Democrats. That’s good ... but it is not enough. You need a Plan B.

Most independent voters simply won’t change their registration. That’s why they registered as NPP in the first place. Bernie is the champion of the independent voters, in California and nationwide! Bernie is an Independent, and has been his whole life. For strategic reasons, he is running in the Democratic Party primary and is committed to working with the members of the Democratic Party.

When NPP voters go to the polls, they are supposed to be told of their right to receive a “crossover ballot” that will allow them to vote for a Democratic, American Independent, or Libertarian Party presidential candidate.  

Elections Code Section 13102 states that an NPP voter “shall only be furnished a nonpartisan ballot, unless he or she requests a ballot of a political party.” As recently as 2016, the burden was arguably on the voter to ask for a nonpartisan ballot. The result has been a nightmare for NPPs trying to vote for President.

The law was changed recently – Elections Code Section 14227.5 now mandates proper notification to NPP voters of their rights and training of poll workers accordingly – as we know, it’s easy for mistakes to be made in a hotly-contested election. 

As a result, Bernie NPP voters should know the magic words. Ask for a “Democratic crossover ballot so I can vote for President.”  

Many poll workers were trained in past years to not provide the ballot without these magic words.

If NPP voters at the polls re-register Democrat on Election Day “to avoid problems” – they will be forced to vote provisionally!

The terrible Election Code Section 13102 still forces the NPP VBM voters to contact their county elections official and ask for a Democratic crossover ballot so they can vote for President.  

Only 8% of these voters have taken this extra step. Elections Code Section 13102 is voter suppression, pure and simple.   

(Full disclosure: I am part of a legal team who filed suit to strike this statute and mandate the Secretary of State to issue a single presidential ballot to all independent voters. NPP voters should not be forced to take an extra step to vote in a presidential primary. Our motion for a preliminary injunction to obtain this relief was denied. Our suit continues but will take a long time to resolve.)

In the 2016 election, 45% of the NPP VBM voters said in a poll that they wanted to vote in the Democratic presidential primary but didn't get a presidential ballot.  

That’s roughly a million and a half NPP VBM voters disenfranchised in 2016, and it will probably happen again without immediate action.

The LA Times discusses the erroneous belief that it is too late to ask for a crossover ballot, because of a postcard they received from their county elections official that contained what is euphemistically called “a soft deadline.”

All of us should move heaven and earth to obtain these hundreds of thousands of NPP votes for Bernie. These NPP voters alone would have carried the election for Bernie in 2016. These votes are the “low-hanging fruit” for Bernie in this primary.

Voters can check their voter registration status and political party preference at the California Secretary of State website.

If you have received a ballot in the mail with no presidential ballot – don’t throw it away, and don’t mail it in.

Instead, request a “Democratic crossover ballot to vote for President.” Do it by phone, email, or fax to your county elections official.   

Do it online if possible. Seven counties (Alameda, Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Shasta) will let you make this request online – here's that list.

The safest way – especially after February 18 – is for NPP VBM voters to physically take their blank ballots to the county elections official (see this list) and exchange this blank ballot for a Democratic crossover ballot to vote for President.

3.  All registration or re-registration should be done by February 18. Otherwise, these voters will receive a provisional ballot.

All registration or re-registration should be done by February 18. You can register or re-register to vote online right at this site. Do it right now.

Any registration or re-registration after February 18 will result in a provisional ballot. I don’t want to blindly attack the re-registration procedure, but don’t do it after that date unless it’s literally the only way to vote for Bernie.

As things stand, the new law allowing last-minute registration is a trap to create provisional ballots. Don’t fall for it!

4.  Get the confused progressives in the American Independent Party to change their registration no later than February 18 – otherwise, these voters will receive a provisional ballot.

There are more than 500,000 voters who registered with the American Independent Party (AIP). It’s an ultra-rightwing party.

Polls show that 73% of these "American Independents" joined the party by mistake – thinking they were registering as true independent voters. Sugar Ray Leonard, Demi Moore, and Emma Stone are just a few examples of intelligent people who made this mistake.

The California State Assembly and State Senate passed a bill to force the American Independent Party to remove the word “Independent” from its name because such a description is totally misleading. Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed this bill.

Why? Because this bill would have hurt the chances of corporate Democratic candidates, who are aided by this error commonly made by progressively-minded independent voters.

Bernie organizers need to reach out to AIP registrants. Many of the AIP voters are confused Bernie voters – and even if they change their registration on election day, the result will be another provisional ballot uncounted on Election Night.

5.  First-time student voters should change their registration and vote where they go to school by February 18, to ensure they don’t receive a provisional ballot.

Not only will student votes for Bernie be concentrated in one place and aid the delegate count, but it reduces the likelihood of provisional ballots.  

For student voters who are Democrats, this enables them to use their ballots to support slates of down-ballot progressive candidates!

Here is a great “new voter ed thread.” Voter education is key among young people who are voting for the first time and traditionally vote in lower numbers than other age groups. A strong youth vote for Bernie is essential for him to win.

JPEG created by Kate Henke. Lee Camp and Redacted Tonight put this show up for free on Youtube (see minutes 0-9:06).

6.  For all the reasons above and more, vote early – by February 18!  

Vote as early as you can, wherever you live. There are just too many things that can go wrong. Here's a list of how to vote early nationwide.

Voting in person in California? Use this list of the county elections offices to call your county and find out the dates and times available. There are generally no lines when you vote early in person, and plenty of poll workers to answer any questions!

If you are a Bernie voter and need to change or update your registration, again, go to the office of the county elections official – you get good advice in a stress-free situation, and avoid having to cast a provisional ballot.

Voting by mail in California? The ballots are mailed out in early February. All VBM voters who need to obtain a Democratic crossover ballot to vote for President can still do it until February 25 – but waiting that long might mean not getting counted till Election Night!  

Mail in your ballot right when you receive it in early February – unless you are an NPP. In that case, hold onto your ballot and make sure you get a Democratic crossover ballot to vote for President – and to be safe, mail the crossover ballot no later than February 18. After that, it’s safer to bring any and all of your ballots and envelopes to the polls and exchange them for a new ballot – and don’t let an inexperienced poll worker try to give you a provisional ballot.

The state elections page states NPPs can email, text, call or personally visit their county elections official. Here is the statewide list for the county elections official for each county. San Francisco voters, for example, can vote at the county elections office as early as February 3.  

To Bernie organizers, both statewide and locally: Please make these Six Big Ways the Number One Priority in your Get-Out-the-Vote strategy. Put $$$ and serious sweat equity into it.

Please email, text, phone, and canvass the voters set forth above before February 18. Ask these voters to get their registration updated right now – you can email them this article! Again, these votes are the low-hanging fruit in this election.

The big counties are where the fight to increase Election Night turnout and decrease voter suppression will be won or lost. Every county has its own procedures, customs and folkways, and it is hard to master them all. It’s useful to think about where the registered voters live.  

The ten big counties are in this order: Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Riverside, Santa Clara, Alameda, San Bernardino, Sacramento, Contra Costa, and San Francisco. Fresno, Ventura, San Mateo, and Kern are the next tier. 

Bernie got people to re-register right during the middle of a rally in December. Let’s ask him to do it at every rally and TV appearance coming up to February 18. He could start right now in the Senate cloakroom, where Nancy Pelosi has him trapped until the Iowa caucus!

It’s great to inspire people to vote for Bernie – but it doesn’t do any good if they don’t get a ballot in time to vote for Bernie on Election Night.

Bill Simpich is a California civil rights attorney and a member of Ballots for Bernie. For more, visit Ballots for Bernie on Facebook. We will be having Valentine’s Day events to get Bernie voters to cast their ballots that day throughout California. Join us!

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner
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