Analysis

CA120: Hey, why avoid the ballot photo op?

Former California Gov. Ronald Reagan and wife Nancy voting in the 1980 presidential general election. (Photo: Associated Press)

There are few more iconic images in American politics than the candidate and spouse exiting the polling booth on Election Day.  The sun is shining, the vibrant political family is in full bloom, and democracy is in the air.

But, in modern elections this is changing.  During last year’s local elections, Assemblyman Kevin Mullin instead tweeted a picture of himself, all alone in an empty parking lot, putting his ballot in a mailbox.

By-mail voting is definitely not as photogenic as the election booth, but still it is a growing trend.

Similarly, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, running for president, had a press event two weeks before the Florida primary election where he went into an early voting center, rather than doing the usual Election Day-polling place photo op.

Others post on Facebook an image of them putting a stamp on a ballot envelope and sending it off to somewhere deep in the county registrar’s office, for some basement-dwelling bureaucrat to open with tens of thousands of ballots shipped in daily.

By-mail voting is definitely not as photogenic as the election booth, but still it is a growing trend, even among the politically aspiring.

Among current legislators, 68 of the 120 are Permanent Vote by Mail (PAV).  This is a bit higher than the statewide average of 51%, and incredibly high for politicians who should know a good photo-op when they see one.

PAV Senators PAV Assembly Members
James Beall (D)
Thomas Berryhill (R)
Anthony Cannella (R)
Jeannie Fuller (R)
Edward Gaines (R)
Cathleen Galgiani (D)
Steven Glazer (D)
Loni Hancock (D)
Edward Hernandez (D)
Robert Hertzberg (D)
Gerald Hill (D)
Benjamin Hueso (D)
Stephen Knight (R)
Ricardo Lara (D)
Mark Leno (D)
Connie Leyva (D)
Carol Liu (D)
Holly Mitchell (D)
William Monning (D)
Michael Morrell (R)
James Nielsen (R)
Richard Pan (D)
Richard Roth (D)
Jeffrey Stone (R)
Robert Wieckowski (D)
Katcho Achadjian (R)
Catharine Baker (R)
Cheryl Brown (D)
Autumn Burke (D)
Nora Campos (D)
Edwin Chau (D)
Rocky Chavez (R)
Brian Dahle (R)
Thomas Daly (D)
Bill Dodd (D)
Jim Frazier (D)
Beth Gaines (R)
Eduardo Garcia (D)
Michael Gatto (D)
Jimmy Gomez (D)
Lorena Gonzalez (D)
Richard Gordon (D)
Adam Gray (D)
Shannon Grove (R)
David Hadley (R)
Jacqueline Irwin (D)
Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D)
Young Kim (R)
Marc Levine (D)
Evan Low (D)
Devon Mathis (R)
Chad Mayes (R)
Kevin Mccarty (D)
Kevin Mullin (D)
Adrin Nazarian (D)
Jay Obernolte (R)
Richard Pan (D)
Jim Patterson (R)
William Quirk (D)
Anthony Rendon (D)
Miguel Santiago (D)
Marc Steinorth (R)
Mark Stone (D)
Donald Wagner (R)
Marie Waldron (R)
Shirley Weber (D)
Das Williams (D)
James Wood (D)
Kevin Mullin3

Assemblymember Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco.

It is noteworthy that eight of the 12 members of the Elections Committees in the Assembly and Senate are PAV, and the Mullin bill to expand the use of vote-by-mail in local elections garnered significantly more votes from legislators who are, themselves, PAV.

And, finally, while both Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Gov. Jerry Brown have supported legislation to expand and improve voting by mail, neither are PAV.  However, Governor Brown voted by mail in three of the last five elections, and Secretary Padilla has voted Absentee 11 times since 1992.

Voting by mail is undeniably easier for some than going to the polling place on Election Day, but as it grows we are bidding adieu to one of the more romanticized images in American democracy.


  • Richard Lowden

    When will we see voting by mobile app? We could build in an easy selfie functionality to capture your facial expression as you contemplate candidate A vs candidate B!

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