‘There are negative associations’: A hotly debated election tool

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, Sept. 9. I’m Justin Ray.

Last year, the debate over ballot collection got intense. Members of the GOP falsely accused Democrats of using it to help rig the election and ensure the defeat of President Trump and other Republicans in California.

Now, as the recall race enters its final stages, both parties are downplaying their use of ballot collection as a way to ensure their voters return their ballots by Tuesday’s deadline.

Under California law, voters can designate any person to collect a completed ballot and return it to elections officials on their behalf. But arguments between Democrats and Republicans about the legality of ballot collection have persisted, creating several court challenges.

Both parties have disputed the legality of collecting ballots in third-party boxes, and relatedly, what exactly constitutes an “official” ballot drop box.


Jessica Levinson, an election law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, told The Times that last year’s fight over ballot boxes “was a bad look for both parties.”

“The reason everybody is being squirrelly is because so-called ballot harvesting now has a bad name and it gives people this kind of icky response, like, ‘Is that safe? Should I have a problem with it?’” Levinson said. “There are negative associations that are enough for both sides to feel they’re going to burn their hand if they get too close.”

Reporters Robin Estrin and Sarah Parvini recently unearthed more about ballot-collecting efforts in California, including a “Ballot Drop-Off Day” organized by the Republican Party of Orange County and an “election integrity website” set up by the state GOP so volunteers can report allegations of improper voting behavior. Here are some other recent election stories you should check out:

  • Larry Elder’s hostile reception: Your old friend Julia Wick reported on Larry Elder’s short visit to homeless encampments in Venice. The leading Republican in the gubernatorial recall race hastily exited in a Chevy Suburban after being angrily confronted by a group of homeless people and advocates.
  • The VP stumps: They’ve been described as frenemies, allies and something in between. Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to California to rally for Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday. A Newsom defeat in next week’s recall election would pose a significant problem for the Biden administration.
  • Larry Elder complained we’d never reviewed his books. So we did: “Among Elder’s complaints about the mainstream media is one he repeated in a recent interview with The Times — that the paper has never reviewed his books,” writes David L. Ulin. “The underlying assumption — the talking point, if you will — is that the press isn’t open-minded enough to take conservative arguments seriously. But what if those arguments are themselves not serious? In the interest of critical discourse, I decided to find out.”

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.

Subscriber exclusive: A $400,000 land yacht to explore America? Inside the overlanding craze. Eager to escape claustrophobic pandemic life and take advantage of newly remote jobs, increasing numbers of Americans are taking to fire roads and other inaccessible places in rugged vehicles that are also homes. “At this point, we’re in the vehicle full time. We’re going all in,” said a 36-year-old enthusiast who retired after founding and selling a Los Angeles clothing manufacturing company. Los Angeles Times


House hunting? How to learn the wildfire risk of every L.A. neighborhood. There are various ways to assess the risk of wildfires in a neighborhood or an individual home — and plenty of ways to help mitigate the danger. You can use an interactive map, or contact insurance companies, among other tricks. There are also disclosures you should look for. Los Angeles Times

Sheriff Villanueva demotes a top advisor who is trying to unseat him. When Eli Vera, a high-ranking official under Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, entered the race to unseat his boss, he planned to keep his place as one of the sheriff’s top advisors. Villanueva had a different idea. In a letter last week, Villanueva notified Vera that he was being demoted from a chief to a commander. Los Angeles Times

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Democrats optimistic ahead of California recall election. The Democrats’ midsummer panic has given way to cautious confidence that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s outlook has brightened. Those sentiments are aided by a healthy turnout so far, a towering advantage in money and the emergence of an ideal foil: Larry Elder. But with less than seven days of voting to go, Newsom’s allies are working to ensure that promising signs for the governor do not lead to last-minute voter complacency. Los Angeles Times

Conservative radio talk show host Larry Elder.
Larry Elder, greeting supporters last month in Woodland Hills, is the GOP front-runner in the recall election and the ideal foil to Gov. Gavin Newsom.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Meet the ‘off-off Broadway’ candidates campaigning on the fringes of the recall. As the state careens toward its second-ever gubernatorial recall election, five or six marquee candidates have largely dominated the discourse. But they are far from the only contenders in the race. Excluded from televised debates, some of the candidates have participated in social media forums hosted by fringe groups. Los Angeles Times

New vaccine mandates falter in California Legislature as protesters gather in Sacramento. A late push by Assemblyman Evan Low (D-San Jose) to create a new workplace vaccine requirement failed to come together before a legislative deadline Tuesday evening. Another proposal by Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland), which fell apart last week, would have created sweeping new vaccine mandates in workplaces and to enter businesses. Neither proposal was ever officially placed into a bill, though drafts were leaked as Democratic lawmakers attempted to bring business and labor groups on board. Los Angeles Times


Daughter cradles her dying mother on sidewalk after couple is shot in Long Beach. Tania Turcios, 21, was studying in the apartment she shared with her mother and siblings when loud pops broke her concentration. Soon, two neighbors were banging on her door and yelling. Her mother and her mother’s partner had been shot. Juan Guizar-Gutierrez, 39, was pronounced dead at the scene by Long Beach Fire Department personnel. Maricela Honorato, 44, died later at a Long Beach hospital. Los Angeles Times

A 74-year-old woman died Sunday evening when her 8-year-old grandson struck her with a golf cart, officials say. The woman had been helping her grandson back the golf cart out of her garage at 10:35 p.m. in Discovery Bay, California Highway Patrol officers wrote on Facebook. The child “accelerated the golf cart at full speed in reverse,” hitting the woman and killing her, officers wrote. The cart crashed against a pickup truck in the driveway, according to police. Sacramento Bee

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No end in sight for California’s nursing shortage. Nurses are deciding to take new career paths, enter early retirement or find less demanding healthcare assignments. At the same time, employers have been reluctant to hire less-experienced nurses, possibly because of the difficulty of onboarding them during the pandemic. Those are some of the findings of a new report from the UC San Francisco Health Workforce Research Center on Long-Term Care, which projects the current nursing shortfall to continue for at least the next five years. LAist


Two Black developer groups are competing to purchase Oakland’s share of the Coliseum site and have laid out ambitious plans that include housing, offices and hotels as well as spaces to celebrate sports, music, arts and culture. African American Sports and Entertainment Group, led by East Oakland native Ray Bobbitt, is offering to purchase the city’s share for $92.5 million. Meanwhile, former Oakland A’s pitcher Dave Stewart and certified player agent Lonnie Murray are offering the city $115 million to transform the Coliseum site into a thriving center focused on youth and amateur sports, Oakland’s culture and job generation. San Francisco Chronicle

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Los Angeles: 89. San Diego: Feed a red panda, 82. San Francisco: 66. San Jose: 83. Fresno: 104. Sacramento: 94.


Today’s California memory is from Jill Grabowski:

Like so many Americans in the mid-1960s, my parents ventured west in search of the California dream: gainful employment, a ranch house with a pool and a permanent tan. They found it in Orange County, where they raised my brother and me on modest salaries. To supplement his income, my father worked at Disneyland, beginning a family tradition of employment at the park that spanned decades. I worked in the parking lot that is now California Adventure, spending chilly summer nights calling out “Kanga and King Louie” from the back of a tram while fireworks boomed and sizzled overhead.

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

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