Making Your Vote Count, CA edition UPDATED
UPDATE: If you'd like to know more about the non-legacy party candidates for California governor, they'll be debating tomorrow (28 Oct). Brown and Whitman have been invited, too, but, according to the press release, neither one has responded yet.
The debate is sponsored by the Free and Equal Elections Foundation. It's scheduled for 1 to 2:30 pm. Pacific Time, and will be streamed live and archived at the Free and Equal website (link above).
Participants include Peace and Freedom Party candidate Carlos Alvarez, American Independent Party candidate Chelene Nightingale, Libertarian Party candidate Dale Ogden and Green Party candidate Laura Wells.
End of update
Bottom line first: If you're a California voter and want to let the Dems know you're not happy with them, vote Green or for another non-legacy candidate. Not because I said so*, but because it seems to be the best way to make your vote count. Undervoting (see below) might be tempting, but it just doesn't have as much impact. This isn't my opinion; it's based on a conversation with a state election official.
Here are the details:
A few weeks ago, during a NOTA discussion, I offered to find out how effective undervotes (not voting for any candidate for a specific office) are in California, where NOTA is not an option and write-ins are only allowed if there's a "qualified write-in candidate."
Let's say, for example, that you are unhappy with Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer. You want to vote, but not for the R candidate (gak!) and there's no write-in available. What to do? You could undervote by filling out the rest of the ballot and leaving the Senate race blank.
The question is, will your undervote be counted? Yes -- and no. Here's the problem, according to the official. Undervotes are counted. The system automatically tabulates votes for each candidate, as well as the number of votes that were not cast in each race.
But there are two problems with undervoting. First, there is no way to separate your purposeful undervote from those people who accidentally overlooked this race or didn't know who to vote for and opted to choose no one, or who didn't think Fiorina was borderline insane enough, etc. In other words, the message to Boxer (or Fiorina) is mixed in with and diluted by all those people who were not sending a message.
Second, no one from any party has every requested undervote information, according to this official, who has been involved in elections for more than ten years. So yes, the data is available, but no one requests it, most likely because of problem number one -- there's no way to tell if an undervote is an error, an oversight or a statement to a candidate, and if so, which one?
Unfortunately, the person I spoke with didn't know if this was true for other states. He did, however, completely understand the issue. "I get calls all the time from angry voters who want to know what they can do," he said. "I tell them what the options are and that if they're unhappy, they should write to the elected officials and the local and state party officials to tell them why they're voting the way they are."
So, fwiw, that's the CA undervote situation.
* Not trying to influence anyone's vote. It's for information purposes. If you have different information, please leave it in the comments.