Early-bird voters can get burned

Times Staff Writer

Virginia and Libero Daniel made up their minds more than two weeks ago on whom they'd be supporting in California's presidential primary. So they marked their absentee ballots and mailed them in early.

Both voted for Republican Rudolph W. Giuliani. And then the former New York mayor quit the race.

"I felt like hell," Virginia Daniel, 80, said Monday, her vote already somewhere in the bowels of the Los Angeles County elections office.

To the couple, today's primary feels as though they headed out to a big party and snagged a good parking spot -- only to find that they had the date wrong.

In this volatile primary season, an unknown number of people have already voted for candidates who are no longer in the race. Others find that, after voting absentee, they changed their minds about which candidate they support.

"You get a call or two saying, 'I'd like to get my ballot back,' " said Stephen Weir, president of the California Assn. of Clerks and Election Officials.

Those with the greatest remorse, it seems, are those who voted for the politically dead.

Some are angry at themselves and at their candidate. "He quit too soon," said John Edwards supporter Mildred Zollinger, 87, of Porterville in Tulare County. Some, like Virginia Daniel, are disappointed and know "a couple of other people who say the same thing."

But some like her husband are sanguine about the inadvertent decision to disenfranchise themselves.

"I would have rather been able to vote for somebody that's on the ticket," said Libero Daniel, 90, a retired engineer for the city of Los Angeles. "That's the way the game goes, I guess."

Although mail-in voting is expected to be a record high for a primary in California, the ballots haven't been arriving particularly early, said Weir, the Contra Costa County clerk-recorder.

In all, about 4.1 million mail-in ballots are expected -- nearly half of what Weir said was the state's anticipated voter turnout. More than 1 million of the outstanding absentee ballots, Weir said, probably will be dropped off at polls or arrive in the mail today.

Still, said Dean Logan, Los Angeles County's acting registrar-recorder/county clerk, some voters might have held back "waiting to see what's been happening in the earlier primary and caucus states."

He said county voters had requested slightly more than 741,500 mail-in ballots -- a record for a primary and second only to the number requested for the 2004 general election.

Lynn Struiksma, 39, of Los Angeles didn't wait to cast his vote. He liked Edwards' focus on poverty issues and mailed in his ballot the day before the former North Carolina senator withdrew. He has "absolutely" no regrets, he said, because he's working on a film production today and would have had trouble getting to the polls anyway. And he hasn't paid much attention to the race since mailing his ballot in, knowing his decision was made -- and moot.

"I don't know which way I would be persuaded if I had to go vote right now," Struiksma said.

David Goss, a retired aircraft machinist from Atascadero, said he had no second thoughts about his early vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic race, despite the drama driven by Barack Obama's rise in the polls.

"I know how my 401(k) did under her husband," Goss said of the New York senator and former first lady. "I think she'd make the best leader." Yet reflecting the Democrats' overall satisfaction with their slate of choices, Goss said: "It wouldn't be the end of the world if Obama won."

Marsha Slowinski, 49, a stay-at-home mother in Arroyo Grande, held off mailing in her ballot until the middle of last week to ensure against regrets. The dramatic moments that have marked the race since then affirmed her decision to vote for Obama, which she made after watching the Democratic debate in South Carolina.

"He just seems to me to represent a new beginning," the San Luis Obispo County resident said.

But others who have watched the campaign dynamics change by the day say they would vote differently if they still had a ballot to cast.

"I probably would vote for [Republican John] McCain," said Patricia Venti, 66, of San Gabriel, who cast a lukewarm vote in early January for Mitt Romney. But Venti's support for McCain wouldn't be much warmer.

"I don't believe in all his things either, with the war and the immigrants," she said. "I don't think any of them are worth beans."


Times staff writers Janet Hook in Washington and Stuart Silverstein in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World