2020 Primary in California starts earlier than you think!

On Feb.3, 2020, less than a year from now, approximately 200,000 voters in Iowa will participate in a Democratic caucus and, simultaneously, California counties will mail out to voters over 16 million ballots, 75% of whom will be eligible to vote in the Democratic primary.

Almost a year ago, Paul Mitchell at The Capitol Weekly wrote about California’s role in the 2020 presidential primary.

On Feb.3, 2020, … approximately 200,000 voters in Iowa will participate in a Democratic caucus and, simultaneously, California counties will mail out to voters over 16 million ballots, 75% of whom will be eligible to vote in the Democratic primary.

So many California ballots, so little attention paid to California as an early primary state. Candidates have been spending much of their time in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, competing heavily for “first in the nation” primary contests.

But California. Oh, California. During the first week of February, this state has many many more  people—Vote by Mail voters— in a position to cast their votes in the California Democratic Primary than Iowa Democrats participating in that state’s Caucuses. So where are the candidates? (They’ve been making appearances but only a handful per candidate, not the close-up retail politicking that Iowa and New Hampshire are accustomed to.)

California’s total number of DNC delegates pledged from primary outcome is 415 (total 494 which includes at-large and Electeds and Party leaders— super-delegates.) Here’s how California compares to the earliest 4 states. When we all vote and how many delegates we send to the DNC to nominate the Democratic Candidate for President.

StatePrimary DatePledged DelegatesTotal Delegates
Iowa CaucusFeb 34149
New HampshireFeb 112433
Nevada CaucusFeb 223648
South CarolinaFeb 295463
CaliforniaFeb 3-8 PVBM ballots mailed to voters
Feb 22 Vote Centers
Mar 3 Election Day
415494

Source (delegates) The Green Papers IA NH SC NV CA

Vote By Mail: State-wide in California. Ballots mailed to voters Feb 3.

County Registrars begin to send ballots on Feb 3, and all ballots must be in the mail within 5 days.

County elections officials will be required to mail out the VBM ballots no later than 29 days before an election and require mailing to finish within five days. Officials also won’t be allowed to discriminate against any region or precinct in the county by choosing which ballots to mail first within the 5-day period. [source]

Voting Centers. Some Counties.

The Voting Centers replaces neighborhood precincts with County-wide voting centers. You can vote at any voting center in the county. Vote Centers open 10 days before election day, February 22. Each voting center is open at least 8 hours. In the last 3 days before the election, and election day, more Voting Centers open up.

These are (as best I can compile) the counties that are operating Voting Centers.
(from highest voter population to lowest, stats from CA SoS Nov 2018 election report):

CountyEligibleRegisteredDemsNPP
Los Angeles6230k5280k2644k1481k
Orange2000k1600k523k490k
Santa Clara1208k886k403k298k
Sacramento1013k766k325k201k
Fresno597k457k173k109k
San Mateo508k399k201k123k
Madera90k57k18k14k
Nevada79k69k25k7k
Mariposa15k11k3k2k
(Above: Voter Center Counties. Below: Statewide)
StatewideEligibleRegisteredDemsNPP
Totals25200k19696k8557k5420k

I don’t know the percentage of PVBM of California registered voters statewide, or even countywide in L.A. Co. I have personally checked voter states for an area of the San Gabriel Valley, and slightly more than half of registered voters are  PVBM— Permanent Vote By Mail. Let’s be slightly more conservative and say that roughly half of the registered voters are PVBM. I don’t know how Paul Mitchell arrived at his 16 million / 75% numbers.

But I do know that based on the numbers in the table above, 6.9 million voters (Dem + No Party Preference, as of Oct 2018 registration numbers) will be eligible to go to Vote Centers as early as Feb 22 and cast their ballots in the Democratic Primary.