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Newsletter: Essential California: It’s not over till it’s over

High school poll worker Sarah Jauregui, 16.
“It’s our future, even though we can’t vote yet,” said 16-year-old poll worker Sarah Jauregui of Downey. She was one of many high-school-age volunteers working Tuesday at voting centers across the Los Angeles area.
(Julia Wick / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Nov. 4, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

Well, we all knew we might wake up on Wednesday morning with no clear winner in the most contested presidential race in modern American history. And here we are.

President Trump and challenger Joe Biden battled into Tuesday night with no clear victor, as major contests remained too close to call and prospects grew that a decision in the presidential race would await a prolonged count of votes cast before election day. In a major battleground win, President Trump took Florida, keeping a state crucial for his reelection hopes.

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Meanwhile, as my colleague Mark Z. Barabak writes, Biden won in Arizona, and Trump was leading in many of the hardest-fought states. But millions of early votes — which are likely to favor Biden — remained to be tabulated. In short, it won’t be over until it’s over.

[Read the story: “With battlegrounds undecided, presidential race appears headed to prolonged count” in the Los Angeles Times]

But as midnight approached on the West Coast, President Trump took the stage in the White House East Room to address a crowd of mask-less supporters.

In a startling and unprecedented address, the president made unsubstantiated claims of fraud in the election, falsely claimed that “we have already won” and threatened to go to the Supreme Court. To be clear, a number of key battleground states remain too close to call.

The election is far from decided. And that’s not a partisan statement: Even Fox News framed the president’s declaration with the context that it “remained unclear who had the votes to win.”

However, despite the ambient panic going into election day, voting generally proceeded smoothly across California, save for a few small glitches. Here in Los Angeles County — where almost 3 million Angelenos had cast their ballots ahead of time — lines were few and far between. It was a decidedly different experience from that of the March primary, when the rollout of L.A.'s first fully redesigned election system in more than half a century was marred by hours-long lines and operational difficulties.

As Americans streamed to the polls across the country, “the most remarkable thing may have been how unremarkable it was,” as my colleagues in Washington, D.C., wrote. Worst-case fears of widespread voter intimidation, or militias blocking polling places, largely failed to materialize.

One common thread I noticed while stopping by polling places around the Los Angeles area were the young volunteers — and lots of them — at vote centers.

Wearing black Converse and a high school track-and-field jacket with her name embroidered on it, Sarah Jauregui, 16, said she felt motivated to take on election-day duties because of the pandemic and the fact that it has put older people at higher risk. The high school junior, who had been encouraged to volunteer by her history teacher, spent the morning answering questions and helping voters work the machines at a voting center in Bell Gardens.

But back to the results. The first thing to remember is that little is final in California the morning after an election. As you probably know, a long wait for election results is commonplace in the Golden State. For most of the last decade, the wait for final results has lasted close to a month as new election laws have expanded voter access and the number of ballots cast has increased, as our Sacramento bureau chief John Myers explained in a recent story.

With that said, scroll on down for the latest on major L.A. County races, as well as highlights from across the state.

Our data desk will also be continually updating live election results as they come in over the next few days. Here are their pages for California election results (including state propositions, House and state Assembly races), Los Angeles County results, Orange County results, Ventura County results and San Diego County results.

And for the latest from the Bay Area, KQED will be updating this page with results (including city and county ballot measures and local mayoral races) from Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma counties.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.

L.A. STORIES

Below are some early results out of Los Angeles, according to what had been released as of late Tuesday night. All of this could change as more votes are counted. Live L.A. County results can be found here.

In a nationally watched referendum on criminal justice reform, challenger George Gascón surges to an early lead. The former San Francisco district attorney mounted a well-funded battle to unseat veteran L.A. County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey by challenging her from the left. Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey and challenger George Gascón.
Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey and challenger George Gascón.
(Allen J. Schaben / Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

In the race for a powerful seat on the County Board of Supervisors, State Sen. Holly Mitchell had a strong early lead over termed-out L.A. City Councilman Herb Wesson as of Tuesday night. The two veteran politicians had scrambled to gain ground in a close race for the seat held by termed-out Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Los Angeles Times

Meanwhile, in a bit of city-county musical chairs, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas had been vying to fill Wesson’s seat on the City Council. As of Tuesday night, Ridley-Thomas appeared to have a strong lead over Grace Woo in the race to represent a Koreatown-to-Crenshaw district. Los Angeles Times

Urban planner Nithya Raman held a smaller but still significant lead over incumbent City Councilman David Ryu in a contest that has drawn nationwide attention from progressives looking to pull City Hall further to the left, initial results showed. Los Angeles Times

Early tallies showed a split between union- and charter-backed L.A. school board candidates: The early returns in two crucial Los Angeles Board of Education contests showed a charter-school-backed candidate leading in one race and a teachers-union-backed candidate leading in another. If those results were to hold, school board members supported by charter advocates would hold a 4-3 board majority in the nation’s second-largest school system. Los Angeles Times

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IMMIGRATION AND THE BORDER

Braving the coronavirus and long waits, U.S. citizens living in Tijuana crossed the Mexican border to vote. Political participation works the other way, too: Mexicans living in California and other U.S. states regularly go home to vote in Mexico’s elections. Los Angeles Times

POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Nail-biter state races leave U.S. Senate control too close to call: The battle for control of the Senate could go into overtime, as Republicans defended their majority in close races that reached from Maine to Georgia to Arizona. Democrats had headed into election day favored to win a slight majority in the Senate, but early returns were mixed. Los Angeles Times

Republicans were hoping Tuesday to win four California congressional seats lost to Democrats in 2018 and turn around their party’s diminished influence in the state. As of Tuesday night, incumbent Democratic Reps. Harley Rouda and Gil Cisneros had retained slight leads in their Southern California races. Democratic challenger Christy Smith also had a slight lead over incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Garcia, who won a May special election to fill former Rep. Katie Hill’s seat in the suburbs north of Los Angeles. In the Central Valley, Democratic Rep. T.J. Cox was being challenged by the politician he narrowly unseated in 2018, former Republican Rep. David Valadao. But as of Tuesday night, Valadao had a not-insignificant lead over Cox. Los Angeles Times

A surprisingly close race in the Central Valley: Early returns showed a thin margin between Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of Tulare and Democratic challenger Phil Arballo. Fresno Bee

California’s most expensive ballot measure campaign season ended Tuesday with a split decision on the year’s most high-profile proposals, with voters granting companies such as Uber and Lyft the right to keep their drivers as independent contractors but rejecting a plan to expand rent control to more homes and communities. Los Angeles Times

CRIME AND COURTS

A federal judge ordered U.S. Postal Service inspectors to sweep postal facilities on Tuesday in several locations — including in six battleground states — to ensure that any mail-in ballots left behind were immediately sent out for delivery. Los Angeles Times

Orange County officials are investigating reports that someone established a fake voting center at the headquarters of a City Council candidate in Westminster and accepted ballots and handed out “I Voted” stickers. Los Angeles Times

Police say riot gear was stolen from a National Guard Armory in the Inland Empire. “It’s obviously such a weird time for this stuff, but we don’t have any further information at this time,” an Ontario police spokesperson said of the election-day burglary. Los Angeles Times

HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

The Bay Area is weighing a two-week quarantine for residents who travel over the holidays: A group of public health officers from across the Bay Area — including the cities of San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland — is considering implementing the coronavirus quarantine as pandemic fatigue continues to drive travel outside the area. Los Angeles Times

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

The San Francisco symphony’s new world: The virtual premiere of Nico Muhly’s “Throughline,” Esa-Pekka Salonen’s first presentation as music director, is testing the limits of pandemic music-making. New York Times

Can seeing old L.A. restaurants and shops up close stir us to fight to help them survive COVID-19? Kieran Wright is creating miniature versions of some city favorites. Los Angeles Times

A poem to start your Wednesday: “I Hear America Singing” by Walt Whitman. Poets.org (For further post-election poetry reading, see this guide from Capital & Main.)

Free online games

Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our new game center at latimes.com/games.

CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: sunny, 84. San Diego: sunny, 75. San Francisco: partly sunny, 72. San Jose: sunny, 75. Fresno: sunny, 81. Sacramento: sunny, 81. More weather is here.

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory comes from Jim Voight:

I was 12 years old in the summer of 1968, living in Pico Rivera. My mother took my brother and me to Whittier Boulevard to see Robert Kennedy driving to Los Angeles. The crowd was huge, lining both sides of the street. Men had to hold him by the waist to keep him from being pulled from the car as he leaned down to shake hands with people who cheered him. What a thrill to see JFK’s brother and possibly our next president! Days later I awoke to the sound of my mother crying; Bobby had been assassinated.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.


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