Speaking of going to the polls: the presidential primary on Feb. 5 may be the first in which a majority of California voters cast ballots by mail rather than at their polling places.

This trend should be good news for Democrats if our campaigns can adapt. In too many recent races in San Diego, our candidates who won the most votes on Election Day lost the election due to more Republicans voting early. That turnout gap begins to close as more of our members opt to vote by mail.

Candidates now have to run a month-long (rather than 13-hour) turnout effort. This can be daunting for a campaign that’s heavily reliant on media buys, but it’s good news for a well-run field operation that can organize canvassing resources over a longer period of time.

Election officials including our local Registrar are promoting absentee voting for their own reasons. Now that Secretary of State Debra Bowen has pulled Diebold’s disastrous touch-screen machines from regular use in San Diego and other counties, early balloting will expedite the vote count.

Incidentally, I was among the thousands of San Diegans who experienced voting problems on the last Election Day. None of the touch-screen machines in my University Heights precinct were functioning. Poll workers had run out of paper ballots and were handing out flimsy photocopies of ballots for voters to mark their choices.

Early voting increases access and promises to restore some public confidence in our election system.

I’ll mention one more thing that will work in our favor next year: the California Republican Party’s baffling decision to bar nonpartisan voters from its Presidential Primary. We are actively welcoming those voters to cast their ballots — by mail or otherwise — for one of our fine Democratic candidates.

Then, of course, we’ll be working to keep them on our side in June and November and beyond.

— JESS DURFEE

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