SACRAMENTO — Californians will help determine which party controls the U.S. House, choose a successor for the state’s longest-serving governor, and weigh in on ballot measures to repeal a tax increase and expand rent control in this year’s midterm election.
Candidates made their final pitches Sunday as campaign volunteers furiously worked to make sure their voters show up at the polls or postmark their ballots.
It’s California’s fourth election since voters adopted a primary system that allows two candidates of the same party to face off.
That’s produced contests between two Democrats in a handful of federal and state races, showcasing the party’s dominance over Republicans in the nation’s most populous state.
Here’s what to know ahead of Tuesday:
Who votes, and when
More than 19.6 million Californians are registered to vote. That’s about 78 percent of eligible voters, the highest percentage of registered voters in a midterm election since 1950.
Most California voters — more than 13 million — received mail-in ballots and more than 3 million people had cast them as of Friday, according to county data compiled by the nonpartisan Political Data, Inc.
Republican, older and white voters are more likely to vote early. As the election gets close, though, voters younger than 50 are returning early ballots at a higher rate than they did during the primary.
That’s also true in Orange County south of Los Angeles, one of the biggest battlegrounds for the U.S. House.
That could be a good sign for Democrats hoping for a “blue wave,” said Paul Mitchell, vice president of Political Data.
How the count works
As long as California ballots are postmarked on or before Election Day and received by Friday, they will be counted.
But because so many voters cast ballots by mail, it takes weeks for every ballot to be counted.
That means the outcome of close races may not be known until well after Election Day.
Depending on how Democrats fare in the rest of the country, the nation could end up waiting on California to learn which party takes control of the U.S. House.
Battleground in OC
Orange County is experiencing an unusual amount of pre-election buzz and activity from Democrats, reflecting its importance as a national battleground for the U.S. House. U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom campaigned there Saturday.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein planned to bring her re-election bid to the city of Irvine on Sunday night alongside gun control activists from Parkland, Florida, but canceled due to a cold, her campaign manager Jeff Millman said. Her opponent, state Sen. Kevin de Leon, campaigned in Los Angeles County and San Diego.
In an upbeat Sunday morning rally, Democrats Attorney General Xavier Becerra and state Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon told volunteers that the election hinges on Orange County. Rendon said the “entire country and the entire world” would be watching the outcome.
The county registrar of voters set up pop-up mobile voting locations, including one at a community college that hosts an outdoor market popular with Vietnamese American and Latino communities. A handful of voters waited to cast ballots early in the morning, with some saying they wanted to vote early to be sure their vote counted and avoid any Election Day lines.