With millions of voters across California now weighing in on the issues both national and local, and scores of journalists en route to election night locales (present company included), it seems fitting to lay out some of the things worth watching for as election results start to come in sometime after 8 p.m. this evening.
Please check back here later in the evening for more; blogging through the night is dependent on the wifi gods in Los Angeles. I'll be with California Democrats tonight, while my colleague from The California Report, Sasha Khohka, will be with the Republicans in Irvine. We'll both be on the air through the evening on most public radio stations across the state for updates twice an hour alongside national coverage from NPR.
Promos aside, here's what is in store:
Turnout: No issue is more important than which voters show up, and in what numbers. Predictions are for an historic showing of Californians, perhaps close to eight of every 10 registered voters. Anecdotal evidence already is coming in about long lines at the pollls, something I saw myself this morning in my suburban Sacramento polling place. There, precinct workers cheered whenever a first-time voter showed up to cast a ballot; and while I was there, more than half a dozen cheers could be heard ringing down the hallway where voters waited in line.
For the high-profile ballot measure campaigns, the kinds of voters showing up are the whole ballgame. Young vs. old, ubran vs. rural, liberal vs. conservative, rich vs. poor, religious vs. secular... and more.
Mailed In: A record number of voters are also expected to vote by mail, though those same ballots can be dropped off today at any polling place in the county where a voter is registered. Again, only an anecdote... but elections officials in numerous counties have been working at breakneck speed over the last few days to sort and count those ballots. What this really means is that it could be a long, long night waiting for complete returns.
East Coast Spoliers: There's a real possibility that the presidential race... if the pundits are right... could be called by the networks early, long before California's polls have closed. If, say, Barack Obama is declared the winner by 5:30 p.m. here in the Golden State, do Democrats decide enough is enough? Or... do Republicans throw up their hands and keep heading towards home, and not that after-work trip to the voting booth? It probably won't impact the top race that much (does anyone really believe Obama won't win California? Good, we can move on). But those statewide ballot measures, from the fight over gay marriage to parental notification and beyond, are no doubt going to be extremely dependent on die-hard partisans on both sides.
The Democratic Tide? For state Capitol watchers, the big unknown is how the expected Democratic surge affects the makeup of the Legislature. Will the surge be a good surfung wave... or a tsunami? And if it's the latter, can the Dems get to the magic 54 seats in the Assembly, the two-thirds that would allow them to pass a budget without negotiating with Republicans? Most reasonable watchers say that really would take a tsunami... but the fact it's being talked about at all, by partisans on both sides, is worth noting.
Nail Biters: There's a very good chance that we won't get the verdict on at least two ballot measures by night's end -- the two mentioned just above. There's also the chance that the losers in both contests will: (A) be very unhappy and (B) vow to fight on, contesting either the results or reigniting the debate in the future.
All in all, it should be quite a night.