On politics in the Golden State

Category: Polls

Bono Mack declines to concede, citing uncounted ballots

APphoto_California Congress[1]Republican Rep. Mary Bono Mack of Palm Springs, who is trailing
Democrat Raul Ruiz by just over 4,500 votes with all precincts reporting, on Wednesday declined to concede defeat because of a large number of ballots that have yet to be tallied.

“With more than 180,000 ballots still to be counted around
Riverside County, it is premature to consider any election results final," said Marc Troast, the congresswoman’s political director.  “Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack and her campaign will be awaiting the impact of this large number of remaining ballots before making any further statements on the 36th Congressional District race.”

The number of uncounted ballots Troast mentioned is the countywide total, not the number of uncounted ballots in the much smaller area of the 36th Congressional District. A representative of the Riverside County Registrar of Voters said the office did not have an estimate for the number of uncounted ballots in that congressional district.

It's common to have uncounted ballots remaining in the days or weeks after a major election. They include mail-in ballots that arrived on election day, plus provisional or damaged ballots that must be inspected by election officials.

Ruiz, an emergency room doctor, grew up in the Coachella Valley as the son of a farm workers and he has been an active proponent of providing greater medical care to the underserved area.

This was Ruiz's first political campaign, and he proved to be the toughest challenger Bono Mack has faced in her 14-year congressional career. Bono Mack was first elected to replace her husband, singer Sonny Bono, in Congress after his death in a skiing accident.  

Bono Mack had attacked Ruiz as a “radical” for taking part in a Native American protest of Thanksgiving when he was a Harvard medical student in the late 1990s, including reading a letter written by a Zapatista rebel leader from Chiapas, Mexico, in support of Native American activist Leonard Peltier, who was convicted of killing two FBI agents during a 1975 shootout on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

Ruiz attacked Bono Mack for supporting the budget plan of GOP vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, which he said would decimate Medicare. The Democratic Party also has aired television ads criticizing Bono Mack for benefiting from tax breaks for Florida residents.

The parties and outside political groups have spent more than $3.3 million on the race.

--Phil Willon

Photo: Rep. Mary Bono Mack. Source: Bono Mack campaign.

Mass mail-in vote could mean delays in the count

PHOTOS: California voters head to polls

With a record 9.2 million ballots mailed out for today's election, California officials expect delays in deciding the outcomes of races, especially close ones.

Following a trend set in the June primary, this is predicted to be the second time more Californians vote by mail than in person at the poll. Because the signatures on every one of those paper ballots must be checked by hand against voter registration cards, that means days and possibly weeks until all votes are counted.

Matching signatures is slow work, made even slower because would-be voters' handwriting can change over time or they write their name differently from when they registered. The rejection rate for mailed in ballots in the June primary ran as high as 10% in Kern County, but statewide averaged 2%, county data collected by the Secretary of State's office show.

PHOTOS: California voters head to polls

"We're into accuracy, not speed, in California," Nicole Winger, deputy communications director for Secretary of State Debra Bowen, said Tuesday. "It will be a couple of weeks for any really tight races."

More than 65% of votes cast in the June primary came in through the mail or were dropped off at polls on election day. No matter what the postmark, no mailed ballots are accepted after polls close.

To meet the challenge of hand-processing more than half of today's expected 12 million votes, county election officials were allowed to begin opening and validating mailed ballots last week. They have an additional 28 days from now to complete the task and post their results to the secretary of state.

Though polls close at 8 p.m., counties are not required to post their first round of results until 10 p.m. Winger said some of the more remote of the state's 24,000 polling places need the time. For instance, ballots collected on Catalina Island are sent in by helicopter.

Voters can check to see whether their mail-in ballot was received at this state site: http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/ballot-status/


California sets record for voter registration

Gov. Jerry Brown makes retail pitch for Proposition 30

Gov. Jerry Brown joins Sacramento union leaders for Proposition 30 pitch

--Paige St. John in Sacramento

Photo: Ryan Ching, a clerk, loads and sorts vote-by-mail ballots into a sorting machine at the Los Angeles County Registrar's office in Norwalk. Creidt: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Ballot measure to end death penalty faces uphill battle, poll finds

 Lt. Sam Robinson, press information officer, is reflected at the center of the window of the lethal injection chamber at San Quentin

A new poll has found that a November ballot measure to replace the death penalty with life without possibility of parole faces an uphill battle with California voters.

The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times survey found that Proposition 34, which would commute the sentences of California’s more than 725 death row inmates to life with no parole, was trailing 51% to 38%.

But the survey also showed  the gap became a statistical dead heat once respondents were told  the measure would require convicted killers to work while in prison, direct their earnings to their victims and earmark $100 million for police to solve murders and rapes.

Proposition 34 would make life without parole California’s toughest criminal punishment. Proponents have argued it would save hundreds of millions of dollars by eliminating complex death penalty trials, reducing appeals and eliminating single cells on death row. The nonpartisan legislative analyst’s office has said the measure could save the state as much as $130 million annually, an amount supporters of capital punishment dispute.

But the survey found that voters were not swayed by projected savings. Opponents of the measure outnumbered supporters by the same margin—46% to 44%--even after they learned that abolishing the death penalty might substantially reduce state spending.

Pollsters said the findings did not bode well for Proposition 34 and demonstrated that views about the death penalty remain entrenched.

Natasha Minsker, campaign manager for Proposition 34, said she remained optimistic. She noted that the election was weeks away and the survey found voters could be swayed when given more information. 

Peter DeMarco, a strategist for the opposition, said Californians have long supported the death penalty, and he predicted the measure would be defeated.

The poll was conducted for the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and The Times by two firms: the Democratic company Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Resarch and the Republican firm American Viewpoint.

More than 1,500 registered California voters participated in the survey from Sept. 17-23. The margin of error is 2.9 percentage points.


Gov. Brown vetoes bill restricting how motorists pass bicyclists

California budget stumbles as redevelopment funds prove scarce

Jerry Brown signs restrictions on Buy Here Pay Here used-car lots

--Maura Dolan

Photo: Lt. Sam Robinson, press information officer, is reflected at the center of the window of the lethal injection chamber at San Quentin. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Fewer than a third of voters approve of Legislature, poll finds

Fewer than a third of California voters approve of the job being done by the Legislature, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll
Fewer than a third of California voters approve of the job being done by the Legislature, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.

Twenty-nine percent of those surveyed said they approved of how state lawmakers conducted the people's business, compared with 51% who said they disapproved. Nineteen percent were undecided.

Still, lawmakers appear to be winning back some public confidence.

The Legislature's approval rating has risen steadily over the last 18 months, increasing 8 percentage points since April 2011, when just 21% of respondents said they approved of lawmakers' performance. Back then, 64% gave the Legislature a failing grade.

This year, legislative leaders pursued an ambitious agenda aimed at convincing voters that they are responsible stewards of Californians' money. Among the big-ticket items were an overhaul of the state's overburdened public pension system and a revamp of its costly workers' compensation scheme.

The new poll found that while an overwhelming majority of Republican respondents (72%) said they disapprove of the job being done by state lawmakers, Democrats surveyed were split on the issue: 41% saying they approve and 38% voicing disapproval.

As for independents, a plurality (47%) in the survey said they disapprove of the Legislature's performance, 29% said they approve and a quarter were undecided.

The USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times poll surveyed 1,504 registered California voters Sept. 17-23. The sampling error is 2.9 percentage points. The survey was conducted by the Democratic pollster Greenberg Quinlan Rosner in conjunction with the Republican firm American Viewpoint.

Look for more findings in coming days.

-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento

Photo: Tourists and spectators on the grounds of the Capitol in Sacramento walk through the rain. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

How will Jerry Brown's big goals impact support for tax plan?

Brown budget walk

Gov. Jerry Brown's push for higher taxes could be complicated by two of his other central goals -- pension changes for public employees and the construction of a high-speed rail line.

Two recent Field Polls suggest that each issue may have an impact on whether Californians will vote to raise taxes in November. Brown wants to raise the sales tax by a quarter cent for four years and levies on the wealthy by one to three percentage points for seven years. Without higher taxes, he said, there will be automatic cuts to public schools totaling billions of dollars.

The Field Poll released Tuesday said pension changes won't affect how 54% of likely voters view Brown's tax plan. But it also suggested that curtailing public worker benefits could shore up support -- 21% of voters who already favor Brown's tax plan said they would be even more likely to support higher taxes.

Brown's proposal would, among other changes, force public employees to contribute more toward their pensions and it would raise the retirement age for future employees.

The governor has been negotiating with Democratic lawmakers, and he said their proposal is inadequate and does not save enough money. They have promised to finish working on a plan in August when the Legislature returns from its summer break.

A Field Poll released last week on high-speed rail said voter opposition to Brown's tax plan may be hardened because the Legislature approved $8 billion in federal funding and state bonds for the bullet train and related projects.

The poll said 48% of voters already against higher taxes would be even more likely to vote no because of high-speed rail funding. When it came to those already in favor of higher taxes, 21% of voters said the funding would hurt their support, while 17% said it would increase their support.

For his part, Brown said he can't pause the rest of his goals while pursuing his tax hikes.

"I'm not going to get scared and sit in a hole because some guy took a poll," he told reporters on Monday in Oakland.

-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento



California Senate vote keeps bullet train alive

Brown's tax measure can be first on ballot, judge rules

'Thank God' for high-speed rail funding, Gov. Jerry Brown says

Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown walking in the halls of California's Capitol. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is assured a spot on fall ballot

Click for live results from the California primary

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) leaped to a commanding lead against 23 little-known challengers, according to absentee ballot returns Tuesday night.

Feinstein captured about 51% of the early balloting, assuring her a place in the general election under the state's new "top-two" primary rules.

Autism activist Susan Emken, a Republican, polled about 12% of the absentee tally, making her the early favorite to face Feinstein in the fall.

LIVE RESULTS: California primary

Feinstein, 78, was first elected in 1992 and is seeking her fourth full term.

Emken was among 14 Republicans wanting to take on Feinstein. Others included Oceanside businessman Dan Hughes and dentist/attorney Orly Taitz of Laguna Niguel, who gained name recognition for her efforts to show that President Obama was not born in the U.S.

The two top vote-getters will advance to the fall election, regardless of party affiliation. 


The political sands are shifting in California

Obama, not issues, is the draw for some L.A. voters

New rules, low turnout mark state's primary election

--Jean Merl

Photo: U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Credit: Lauren Victoria Burke / Associated Press

California polls close, and the vote counting begins

Click for live results from the California primary

If you still want to vote in Tuesday's California primary, you're too late. The polls closed at 8 p.m., and candidates are huddling around the state to watch the results trickle in.

As the votes are counted, the Los Angeles Times will be updating its interactive graphic throughout the night.

Plus, reporters will discuss the results every half hour in a video chat.

LIVE RESULTS: California primary

Political observers will be closely watching how new primary rules and redrawn legislative districts affect Tuesday's outcomes.

Although more than 17 million people were registered to vote, and a new poll predicted only 35% would actually cast ballots, a record low.

In Los Angeles County, perhaps the least suspenseful contest -- President Obama's nomination as the Democratic candidate -- was the biggest draw for some voters.


A statistical snapshot of California's primary

Voters torn in battle between Berman-Sherman

New rules, low turnout mark state's primary election

-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento

Photo: Election clerk Michael Daniels takes a vote by mail ballot from a voter at a drive up ballot collection point outside the Sacramento County Registrar of Voters office. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

State voters of two minds about legalizing online poker, poll finds

A new poll shows that voters are of mixed minds about an idea being considered to generate income for the cash-strapped state: legalization of online poker and other forms Internet gambling.

In a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times survey, about half of the respondents said the spread of web-based gambling would set a bad example for young people and make it more likely they would become addicted.

Still, 47% said they would favor legalization of online poker if, as lawmakers promise, it could raise $200 million annually for education, public safety and other government services.

Online gaming has been effectively illegal in the United States since the passage of a 2006 law that banned Internet gambling companies from performing transactions with American financial institutions. State lawmakers have been struggling to come up with a way around the law, allowing for gaming sites that are operated in state, and where only California residents would be able to play.

Stay tuned for more poll findings in the coming days.

The USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times poll was conducted jointly by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a Democratic firm, and the Republican polling company American Viewpoint.

They canvassed 1,002 registered voters from May 17 through 21. The margin of error is 3.5 percentage points.

Related links:

California offered a piece of the action from Internet poker

Internet poker battle waged in Sacramento

FBI shuts down Internet poker sites

--Anthony York in Sacramento

Photo Credit: Karen Bleier AFP/Getty Images

Web poll: Small businesses, teachers influential with voters

Small business owners and teachers are most likely to influence California voters' choices this November, more so than Gov. Jerry Brown, anti-tax groups, or unions, according to an experimental online poll released Thursday.

The USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences released the results of the online survey of Californians' opinions, conducted between March 19 and March 21. The experiment is not related to the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll released last month, though it asked many similar questions.

"There's no doubt to me that the future of public opinion research is going to be conducted over the Internet," said Dan Schnur, director of USC's Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, in a conference call with reporters. He said that although the survey of 1,874 registered voters -- who, pollsters said, received compensation worth less than $1 -- was an experiment, he was satisfied with its accuracy because its results were so similar to the USC/Times poll, which is conducted by telephone and without compensation.

The Internet survey, conducted jointly by Democratic polling firm Tulchin Research and Republican M4 Strategies, was able to include additional questions because respondents have more patience online, pollsters said.

In one series of questions, voters were asked which entities may influence their vote in November. Small businesses ranked first, affecting 56 % of respondents, followed by teachers, who would catch the attention of 48%. Next were local businesses at 47%, and Gov. Jerry Brown, whose potential November initiative to raise taxes is backed by teachers unions and opposed by some small business groups, at 42%.

Unions, the California Chamber of Commerce and the state's most prominent tax limitation group, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., all registered below 40%.

"There's no question," Schnur said, "you're going to see a lot more small business owners and teachers in ads this fall than politicians."


Senate panel keeps shelter law alive

Panel confirms Jerry Brown's new toxics chief

Rep. Brad Sherman to reveal 'missing taxpayers' owed refunds

-- Nicholas Riccardi in Sacramento

Voters don't blame workers for pension woes, new poll finds


California voters do not blame public employees for the state's pension woes and are in no hurry to make steep cuts in the system, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.

A majority agreed with the statement that public workers "didn't create the problem with the pension system" and that any solution must include adequate retirement benefits. When public workers were identified as "teachers, police and firefighters," that statement had 51% support. Even when no occupation was given, nearly half -- 47% -- of respondents agreed.

Far fewer agreed with the statement that "we can't continue to ignore this issue when our debts keep piling up" and that cuts must be made immediately. Only 38% agreed with that statement. When workers' occupations were not identified, 40% agreed.

California has one of the most troubled pension systems in the nation. This year it is spending $3 billion to help pay retirees' pensions, and its largest public pension fund recently cut its forecasted investment returns, which will increase the burden on taxpayers. A recent study by the National Assn. of State Retirement Administrators found that pension costs eat up a larger share of California's  budget than of any other state except Alaska.

But the greatest effect is at the local level, where some cities have had to spend a majority of their payroll budget on retirees. A potential ballot measure to curtail pension benefits in California was dropped last month because its backers claimed that its state-mandated language, which cited firefighters and police officers, was biased. Some cities, like San Jose, are pushing ahead with their own local ballot initiatives to cut pensions.

Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed his own 12-point pension plan, which includes raising the retirement age to 67 for new workers and enrolling them in a partial 401(k) program. But the Democrats who control the state Legislature have been cool to the proposal.

The USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles Times polled 1,500 registered California voters from March 14 through 19. The survey was conducted by the Democratic firm of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner in conjunction with the Republican firm American Viewpoint. It has a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.

Look for more findings in coming days at www.latimes.com.


GOP backs Brown's pension plan

California local pensions in trouble, report says

CALPERS report undermines Jerry Brown's pension plan

-- Nicholas Riccardi

Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown goes over points of his pension proposal in Sacramento last year. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press


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