By John Kalil, Chief Political Correspondent
// When former California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill in 2017 to move up the Golden State’s 2020 presidential primaries to Super Tuesday, he had in mind a greater role for Californian voters in the presidential selection process.
Whereas Acalanes’ first mock election focused more closely on the local House race and California’s 2018 Senate race, yesterday, the presidential primaries took center stage on campus.
Students of all beliefs shared their opinions through a ballot box in the library, while adults and older seniors participated in the real thing in the Performing Arts Center (PAC, not to be confused with a Political Action Committee).
And yet, when asked by Blueprint exit pollster regarding their ballots, multiple student voters could not recall who they selected on down-ballot races for state assembly and state senate, or even which Democratic presidential candidate they voted for.
Furthermore, keeping with trends of young voters in California, only 400 Acalanes students participated in the mock election, despite the process being easier and more accessible. For reference, that’s less than a third of Acalanes students. Similarly, only 11% of California’s voter turnout was comprised of those under the age of 30.
“I didn’t really go out of my way to go fill that out and it wasn’t required in my history class,” junior Sabrina Alesna said, explaining why she didn’t turn out to vote.
Trump Train Rolls Through
Unsurprisingly, the New York Times declared the California Republican primary for incumbent President Donald Trump with less than 1% of precincts reporting.
In Contra Costa County, President Trump received 35,464 votes, nearly cracking 90% support. The Donald’s competitors, former Rep Joe Walsh (Ill.) and former Gov. Bill Weld (Mass.), could not mount a serious challenge to the incumbent.
Statewide results looked even better for Trump, as he garnered almost 93% support from Republicans.
The 63 declared Acalanes Republicans voted similarly to their Contra Costa counterparts, as only six defected from the Donald to select Weld, the other option on the ballot.
Trump often touts impressive economic numbers regarding unemployment and the stock market as his major re-election credentials. Most Acalanes Republican voters agreed with this evaluation.
“I got to be honest, I didn’t really look at anything except the presidential election, because I’m not that keyed into politics, but I did vote for Trump because the economy is doing well. I really just went with my party,” junior Harry Mannering said.
Despite the popular perception of California being the crown jewel of the “Left Coast,” there seems to exist a strong contingent of conservative voters on campus.
“I voted with the Republican Party because I feel their morals best line up with my personal beliefs,” sophomore Joe McCauley said.
We Love Joe
In a national race decidedly more fluid and exciting than the Republican primary, Contra Costa Democrats were almost evenly split between Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and former VP Joe Biden (Del.).
Under the surface, however, Contra Costa County looks much better for Biden than for Sanders. In a state known for early voting, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg (South Bend, Ind.) and Senator Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) received a combined 12,000 early votes before both dropped out over the weekend and endorsed Biden.
Former Mayor Mike Bloomberg (N.Y.) earned 19% of Contra Costa County, before suspending his campaign this morning and throwing his financial and organizational support behind Biden.
Compared to the rest of California, Contra Costa voted more moderately, as Sanders won a resounding victory with 33% of the state as a whole. This skew towards Biden and Bloomberg is likely the result of the socioeconomic makeup of the county — Contra Costa encompasses the wealthier areas of Lamorinda, Danville, San Ramon, and Walnut Creek.
Of the 317 Democrats at Acalanes, 102 bucked California and selected Joe Biden as their man, mirroring Uncle Joe’s surprise victories in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Texas.
Sanders trailed with 77 votes, as Acalanes voters took cues from the more moderate adults living in their county.
“I voted for Biden because I feel like realistically the two major choices are Biden and Sanders, and Sanders is a teeny tiny bit too progressive for me,” junior Amanda Todhunter said.
Free from the weighty concerns of electability and the popular fear that Sanders may be too radical to win a general election, mock voters were able to take stances based on ideology alone.
“I voted for Bernie because he was my gut choice in my heart, although if this were a real election, I probably would not have voted for him because I don’t want Trump to win again. But I also feel like it’s important to vote for a person whose policies you agree with,” senior Isabella Gonzalez said. Gonzalez is in the strong majority of youth voters in California who turned out for Sanders.
The Biden surge, which sprung from late suspensions and endorsements, also trickled down to the mock election.
“I would have voted for Buttigieg because I agreed with a lot of his policies, and I probably know the most about Buttigieg, but he dropped as of a couple of days ago and endorsed Biden, so I went along with that,” senior Brady Sugrue said.
When he cast his mock vote, senior Yicheng Yao believed he would be alone in his support for Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (H.I.). Gabbard, despite having not qualified for a debate since November, finished second in the American Samoa primary and earned a single delegate.
“I voted for Tulsi Gabbard. I’m probably the only person who did that. I first learned about Tulsi Gabbard in Mr. Schottland’s Comp Gov class when we were doing a project on presidential candidates. I did a bit of research. So she was my candidate. I did a lot of research on her, and I really liked her for various reasons, so I ended up voting for her in the mock elections,” senior Yicheng Yao said.
Yao was wrong, as six other mock voters joined him to put Gabbard ahead of drop-outs Klobuchar and businessman Tom Steyer (Ca.).
Similarly to Yao, many Acalanes students learned about the candidates from history and English class assignments.
“I voted for Joe Biden because I had done lots of research about him for an English project, and I believe he will make a good president,” freshman Ashley Donner said.
Dons Love Options
Thumbing their noses at the two-party system, nine mock voters cast ballots for Green Party candidates, and a whopping 11 voted in the Libertarian race.
Green mock voters picked Dario Hunter, the first Muslim-born man to be ordained as a rabbi by a margin of 7-2 over Howie Hawkins, an SF native and founder of the Green Party. Hunter, a Princeton graduate, is running on a platform of creating a new Bill of Rights for People of Color (POC) to eliminate police brutality and mass incarceration. Hunter, true to the name of his party, believes in extensive action to reverse the ill effects of climate change.
Real Green Californians, however, gave Hawkins the nod.
Dr. Jo Jorgensen (S.C.), a philosophy lecturer at Clemson University, overwhelmingly won the mock Libertarian primary with seven votes despite coming in fourth in California in the real thing.
Performance artist and serial candidate Vermin Supreme (Mass.) came in third in the real thing but was conspicuously not featured on the Acalanes mock ballot. Supreme ran for the Democratic nomination in 2016, promising to give every American a free pony. He is best known for his long white beard and for wearing a rainboot as a hat.
Finishing at 8% in the real deal but failing to secure a single mock vote, activist Adam Kokesh ran on the promise of a “peaceful, responsible dissolution of the entire federal government,” according to his campaign website.
Voting Blue No Matter Who
For the House and State Assembly races, mock voters fell in line with the real results, sending Rep. Mark Desaulnier and Asm. Rebecca Bauer-Kahan into the general election as frontrunners. Both incumbents, the two ran unopposed within their own parties, likely benefitting from the “D” next to their names.
“For the less major races that I’m less informed about, I’m going to admit, I voted for who’s a Democrat,” junior Jonas Buchel said.
Senior Emma Fox echoed this sentiment.
“For most of them, I just chose the Democrat one,” Fox said.
In sharp contrast, in the State Senate race, Acalanes students voted Democratic challenger and health care provider Marisol Rubio past both incumbent Steve Glazer and Republican Julie Mobley.
The Representation For Taxation
Lafayette voters, and by extension Acalanes voters, wrangled with three separate ballot propositions regarding extra taxation and spending.
Proposition 13, which failed on a statewide level, would have authorized millions in bond purchases to fund upgrades and renovations to public schools and universities.
Mock voters passed the proposition with 70% approval, but Contra Costa County as a whole voted it down.
Mock voters and real voters sunk Measure J, which would have increased the sales tax by half a cent to pay for transportation improvement projects.
Only Measure L received the thumbs up on the ballots of Lafayette voters. The Lafayette specific parcel tax to give more funding to the Lafayette School District earned 70% support in both the real and mock elections.
Measure L received a tremendous push from Lafayette community organizers who spread the word in support.
“On the measures, I believe I voted “yes” on L just because of how many ads I’ve seen around the school and all the posters. I just feel like if I voted “no”, I would feel sorry for their efforts, so I voted “yes” on L,” Yao said.
On all the ballot measures and even Measure L, mock voters fretted over a hit to their bottom line by extra taxation and bond sales.
“I’m going to be honest, the more that I look at it, the more that it’s a selfish view, I guess, but I look at the amount of funding we get from LPIE, and it just seems as if we don’t really need taxation. Other schools definitely do. So, it was a little bit selfish, but that’s why. I just didn’t think we needed it,” junior Nicholas Emtage said.