My calendar lists last Tuesday as “Election Patch Day.” (We had a state primary election, which fell on Microsoft’s second-Tuesday-of-the month schedule for releasing software updates.)

I guess you could consider elections to be patches keeping the government up to date.

Edit: On the other hand, there are usually two or more competing “patches” that disagree on how to fix the problems, and even what needs to be fixed.

There are several things about Proposition 16 (on tomorrow’s California ballot) that just make me say, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

1. The ad campaign is horribly misleading. They’re promoting it as “Your Right To Vote,” but it has nothing to do with your right to vote. I guess “Making it hard for local governments to get into or expand the electricity business” isn’t snappy enough, but that’s what it actually does: it requires governments to hold additional elections (or piggyback on already-scheduled elections) if they want to get into the electricity business.

Whether it passes or not, your voting rights aren’t affected at all.

2. It’s oddly specific. If you look past the main slogan, you’ll see them talk about making sure governments don’t spend large amounts of money without voter approval.* But it only applies to the power industry. And it’s sponsored by Pacific Gas & Electric, the largest power company in the state.

That’s sort of like deciding that theft is a problem, but only making it illegal to steal from your house. If the problem is governments spending huge amounts of money, why focus only on one industry?

The whole thing comes off as being very self-serving, like Microsoft sponsoring an initiative to require a popular vote if a city wants to switch from Microsoft Office to Google Docs or

*Of course, when you think about it, we approved the people making the decision when we voted them into office.

  • Fall in SoCal = checking the weather report daily to decide between shorts or a heavy jacket.
  • I keep seeing pill spam with sensational election-related subjects. Oddly they can spell Obama correctly, but consistently write “McCane”
  • It’s time to upgrade your wireless network security to WPA2.

A few years back, some sort of registration snafu* left my name off the rolls at my polling place and I had to cast a provisional ballot. I remember being extremely unhappy that night when everyone declared the winner and I knew for a fact that my vote had not been counted. Sure, it would be eventually, but it felt like my vote didn’t matter.

Yesterday, I read that as many as 3 million mail-in and provisional ballots might remain to be counted in California. This morning, that estimate’s been revised to 1.6 million [edit: the official count is coming in at at least 2.3 million; see below]. There are a number of races, including Proposition 11, that are too close to call with that many votes still in play. It’s at least 3 times the current margin of victory for Prop 8 or margin of defeat for Prop 4. If those voters lean heavily one way or the other, it could flip the results once the final score is tallied. (It’s not likely, but it’s certainly possible.)

One thing that hasn’t been clear from the various articles I’ve read is which ballots are left, and when are they counted. Fortunately, the CA Secretary of State has a page that explains exactly that.

  • Mail-in ballots that arrive before election day are verified against the voter rolls ahead of time, then counted along with the in-person votes once the polls close.
  • Mail-in ballots that arrive on election day, or are dropped off at a polling place, are set aside until the rest are done, and are verified and counted along with provisional ballots.

This is all handled at the county level, which is why the state office doesn’t have solid numbers yet (there’s a PDF report they’ll be updating as data comes in, but all the numbers are still blank [Edit: as of Thursday evening, numbers for about 2/3 of counties are in, and they total about 2.3 million]), and they have 28 days to finish the task. I’m sure that’s a holdover from the days when it would really take that long to count everything. I imagine it won’t take nearly that long to sign off on the results.

So the lesson is this: If you want your vote counted in the first wave of votes that everyone sees, you must either:

  • Send in your mail-in ballot early enough that it arrives before election day.
  • Vote in person.

*I never did find out what caused it, but my best guess is that after I moved, my registration got lost in the mail and I was left on the rolls at my old precinct.