Could an Early Presidential Result Hurt Calif. Turnout?

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, November 3, 2008

It would take a landslide.  But it is possible for either Barack Obama or John McCain to win 270 electoral votes before polls close on the west coast.  Even if a candidate isn’t at the 270 mark, the next president may still be obvious as early as 5pm Pacific time.  And while NPR wouldn’t declare a winner yet, TV and cable networks might – and don’t forget the Internet.
Nalder: “There’s a competition between media outlets to get the scoop and get the story first.”
Kim Nalder is an assistant professor of government at Sacramento State.
Nalder: “Most of us have remote controls at this point in time, so we’re flipping between channels and they want to keep us on their channel so there’s a good reason and a good motivation to try to call them as early as is ethically feasible.” 
And if the winner is clear early, Nalder says, turnout could suffer.  She says recent studies suggest 1-2 percent, though that number could drop since so many Californians are voting by mail this year.
Nalder: “The odds are, if the polls hold up at all, it would be depressing the vote for the Republican party, which could make a difference in some of the closer congressional and state legislative races.” 
As for those 12 California ballot measures?
Nalder: “It could push Prop 4 and Prop 8 over the line on the No side.” 
Those being parental notification of abortion and banning same-sex marriage.
Finally, Nalder says, an early call in the presidential race could trickle all the way down to local races.  For example, in the Sacramento mayor’s race, Kevin Johnson could lose some votes, since polls show him getting a lot of Republican support.
Of course, this might all become irrelevant, if the race stays close – or if voters turn out regardless.  And, lest we forget, Hawaii and Alaska face this problem every single election.