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.

State Primary Date Pledged Delegates Total Delegates
Iowa Caucus Feb 3 41 49
New Hampshire Feb 11 24 33
Nevada Caucus Feb 22 36 48
South Carolina Feb 29 54 63
California Feb 3-8 PVBM ballots mailed to voters
Feb 22 Vote Centers
Mar 3 Election Day
415 494

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):

County Eligible Registered Dems NPP
Los Angeles 6230k 5280k 2644k 1481k
Orange 2000k 1600k 523k 490k
Santa Clara 1208k 886k 403k 298k
Sacramento 1013k 766k 325k 201k
Fresno 597k 457k 173k 109k
San Mateo 508k 399k 201k 123k
Madera 90k 57k 18k 14k
Nevada 79k 69k 25k 7k
Mariposa 15k 11k 3k 2k
(Above: Voter Center Counties. Below: Statewide)
Statewide Eligible Registered Dems NPP
Totals 25200k 19696k 8557k 5420k

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.