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In California, too much democracy could cost Democrats their November Senate seat

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California voters had cast more than 1 million ballots as of noon on Thursday, nearly 40 percent of total ballots cast in the state, according to Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

Those early votes are collected by the office of the county registrar of voters, who continue to count ballots until Election Day. The deadline to vote by mail in California is Oct. 30.

California would need to collect some 36 million ballots to reach the previous record of 4.2 million ballots cast on election day in 2008. This year, the contest for Senate, between incumbent Dianne Feinstein and challenger Kevin de Leon, is nearly evenly split, with only a tiny fraction of registered voters having actually voted.

The state’s unofficial estimates of early voters closely mirror the number of early voters nationwide, which jumped to 43.1 million by the close of registration for November’s midterms in October 2018, up from 38.6 million in early voting in October 2016.

All but a handful of states will count absentee and early voting ballots by mail or in-person before Election Day. In this way, these factors have been widely interpreted as indicators of the strength of the respective races.

As of October 9, California is evenly split between Republican and Democratic voters with about 38 percent each. That’s almost identical to the same polling in Nevada, where Democrat Jacky Rosen holds a slight lead over Republican Dean Heller, according to the RealClearPolitics average of poll numbers, with some swing state districts within reach for each. However, in other major states with similarly-mixed levels of Democratic and Republican voting power, Republican incumbents are leading by 8 percent or more.

Even if Democrat Susan Shelley’s first place vote total in Nevada is replicated in California, Democrats would lose ground if they could not close the early voting gap with California Republicans. But the potential penalty of allowing California Republicans to have a greater influence on the election would be mitigated by a party’s likely win in the state — if, that is, Democrats could avoid the effects of November’s normal post-election turnout drops, which the party is likely to maintain.

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