California election officials are running out of time.

Let’s work backwards through the process: 

  • Before the state holds its primary election in 2022, it has to give candidates the opportunity to file to run;
  • Before that, it has to create district maps so that those candidates know who and what they’ll actually be running to represent;
  • And before those maps can be finalized, the public has to be given an opportunity to weigh in;
  • But first the state has to get population data from the most recent Census count.

And there’s the rub: California’s next primary election is set for June 7, 2022 and the 2020 Census data — that first step — is really, really late, partly due to the pandemic.

California can expect some preliminary information to trickle in later this month. That will let us know, for example, whether we as a state are due to lose at least one of 53 congressional seats, as is widely expected

But the more granular data needed to start mapmaking won’t arrive until around August. The data wizards hired by the state will need another month to clean it up and, among other details, figure out where to place the prison inmates

That means the state’s independent commission tasked with drawing California’s congressional and legislative maps won’t get the information they need until September — at the earliest. Nor will local elections officials, who carve up the turf for city council and water district races.

  • Matt Rexroad, a political consultant: Based on the current schedule “there’s no way they can do a June primary.”
  • Fredy Ceja, California Citizens Redistricting Commission: “If we’re still looking at a December deadline for candidate filing, that’s not going to happen.”

So what will happen? No one knows yet. Delaying the primary would require an act by the Legislature and no one has announced plans to do that. But there’s widespread agreement among redistricting experts that something has to give. 

And lest we forget, Gov. Gavin Newsom will likely face a recall election later this year. Meanwhile, nine county registrars have announced that they’re retiring since November.

  • Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation: “It is a perfect storm…Just about every election official in the state is freaking out about this.“
  • Cathy Darling-Allen, Shasta County registrar: “I think I need an election fairy.”

______________

The coronavirus bottom line: As of Wednesday, California had 3,570,660 confirmed cases (+0.1% from previous day) and 58,659 deaths (+0.2% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

California has administered 21,029,839 vaccine doses and 7,708,082 people are fully vaccinated.

Plus: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. We’re also tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county and lawsuits against COVID-19 restrictions.


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1. Passport, please

Facilty employee Domingo Comin holds his vaccination card at Carefield Assisted Living in Castro Valley on Feb. 3, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

Late last month, the Washington Post reported that the Biden administration was in talks with corporate America to develop a system to verify each person’s inoculation status. 

Thus was the term “vaccine passport” blasted into the national psyche, triggering a debate especially fierce for something that does not yet exist. 

The White House has since stressed that it does not support rolling out such a program. But it’s an idea that has caught on elsewhere, most notably in Israel, where the immunized-haves carry “green passes” to get into maskless, crowded concerts and onto airplanes.

How would these work in the United States? What are the public health pros and the Orwellian cons? Are there plans for vaccine passports in California? 

CalMatters health reporter Barbara Feder Ostrov has your pressing questions answered. Spoiler alert: No, there are no plans to introduce them in California, but that hasn’t stopped one state legislator, Republican Assemblymember Kevin Kiley of Rocklin, from calling for a preemptive ban.

Sidenote: Whether or not proof of vaccination can get you into a music festival, plenty of coastal Californians are still desperate to get that first jab. As soon as Cal State Bakersfield announced it was vaccinating all adults over the age of 16, a wave of young, healthy Angelenos began pouring over the Grapevine.  

And San Bernardino County just opened up its eligibility, so watch out for traffic on the 210.

2. All in the family

Dr. Akilah Weber is the projected winner of the open La Mesa Assembly seat. Photo via Dr. Akilah Weber for State Assembly

A new Weber is headed to the California Legislature. 

The results aren’t certified, but it looks as though La Mesa city councilmember Akilah Weber easily won her race for the San Diego Assembly seat recently vacated by Shirley Weber. (Yes, relation).

Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Shirley Weber, a Democrat, to be California’s secretary of state where she oversees, among other things, the state’s administration of elections. She’s also Akilah’s mother. 

The younger Weber ran against five other candidates, but her victory was never much in doubt. In California, it helps to have family in high places.

There are at least a dozen current legislators who are related to either current or former members. Democratic Assemblymembers Chris Holden, Joaquin Arambula and Kevin Mullin followed in their fathers’ footsteps. Democrat Autumn Burke followed in her mother’s. State Sen. Susan Rubio and Assemblymember Blanca Rubio are sisters. The Dahles — Assemblymember Megan and Senator Brian — are married. And Assemblymember Lisa Calderon comes from a small dynasty of former San Gabriel Valley lawmakers. 

Alex Vassar — legislative historian and indispensable font of California political history — said that state politics has long been a family business. The current count of 12 is “about normal for the past 50 years.” 

Another familiar name may be on the way. Newsom recently named Oakland Assemblymember Rob Bonta to be the next attorney general. Who will replace him? Word is his wife Mia is considering a run.

3. Bank of California?

Image via iStock

The latest big, bold proposal out of Sacramento to reshape the California economy: Get into banking.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, Los Angeles Democratic Assemblymember Miguel Santiago is leading a legislative effort to create BankCal, a financial services program overseen by a state board that would offer free debit cards and checking accounts to low-income Californians through private banks. 

  • Santiago: “When a poor person earns money, that money is gouged from every corner. Financial institutions make enormous profit off the backs of those who … they say they help..”

Santiago and other progressives in the Legislature have been pushing the needle on public banking for years. 

In 2019, the governor signed a bill making it easier for cities to set up their own consumer banks. A few have looked into it, but no takers so far. 

Even Gov. Newsom championed the idea of a state bank on the 2018 campaign trail. He may have been taking his cues from the likes of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a champion of using the U.S. Postal Service as a universal public banking option

But a new state-managed bank might be a tough sell in the Capitol — particularly during a busy pandemic year. But Santiago is a fan of tough sells beloved by the left. So far this year he’s also put his name on a single-payer health care proposal, a new income tax on millionaires and a wealth tax.


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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to offload the state’s heavy tax burden onto the federal government. Will Biden bite?

Time to manage our groundwater: Current law protects less than 2% of our groundwater. With warmer, drier conditions on the way, we need to manage the rest, write Jeanette Howard and Melissa M. Rohde with the Nature Conservancy and Barton H. Thompson of the Woods Institute for the Environment.

Our libraries need help: Old wiring. Lousy plumbing. Missing sprinkler systems. California’s libraries are in desperate need of an upgrade, argue Greg Lucas, California’s 25th state librarian, and Patty Wong, president-elect of the American Library Association.

Reader feedback: Jenny Skoble of Half Moon Bay writes in support of modular housing.


Other things worth your time

Sen. Feinstein open to tinkering with filibuster on voting rights // Los Angeles Times

What can Newsom do on broadband? // Sacramento Bee

More recalls: Activists target three Shasta County supervisors over COVID restrictions // Record Searchlight 

The Long Beach Convention Center as child migrant shelter, explained // LAist

Businesses rev up for June 15 opening // ABC7

Oakland’s guaranteed income pilot program at center of systemic racism debate // San Francisco Chronicle

Vax for kids? What parents are saying // EdSource

What is the recall election really about? Campaign consultants spar // Politico

President Biden prepared to roll out new gun restrictions // Wall Street Journal

San Francisco backs off controversial plan to rename public schools // San Francisco Chronicle

Former Trump campaign manager now on team Jenner in her apparently real recall bid // Daily Beast

For the record: The description of the state banking proposal has been changed to clarify it doesn’t call for creating a new bank.


See you tomorrow.

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Ben Christopher

Ben covers California politics and elections. Prior to that, he was a contributing writer for CalMatters reporting on the state's economy and budget. Based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, he has written...