After months of delay, the U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday released the raw data that cities, counties and states need to finally start drawing their election maps for the next decade.

A few key factoids

  • California’s population grew by 2.3 million since 2010 — a 6% increase. That was slower than the nation as a whole, which is why we’re losing one of our 53 congressional seats
  • Most of the new Californians are Latinos, who now make up 39.4% of the population and are the single largest ethnic group. Hence the mad dash on both sides of the recall campaign to turn out the Latino vote.
  • The share of white Californians plummeted from 40% to 35%, a decline of 1.2 million people. 

As California goes, so goes the nation: The U.S. saw its first decline in the white population for the first time since the country’s founding

Let the gerrymandering begin? Not in California, where congressional and legislative districts are drawn up by an independent, nonpartisan commission of citizen volunteers. 

Even so, the race is on as activists push for mapmakers to prioritize certain voters over others. This week a new nationwide lobbying blitz began to ensure that LGBTQ-dense neighborhoods are well represented. California is a top target

  • Paul Mitchell, vice president of Political Data Inc: “We’re in a new era with redistricting where the public expectation is that this isn’t all backroom deals with cigars and data nerds.”
  • Mindy Romero, director of the Center for Inclusive Democracy at the University of Southern California: “Every group that’s going to be engaging with the Commission…has its own interests. And it’s the Commission’s job to sift through all that and make a fair decision. And that’s tough.”

Also tough: Getting the maps drawn on time. For months, California’s election officials have been sounding the alarm that they may not have enough time to prepare for the 2022 election. And it will be weeks of more of cleaning and processing before the 14-member Citizens Redistricting Commission can actually start working with the data.

Even more numbers: Thursday, new voter registration statistics dropped, too. Nearly 89% of the state’s eligible voters are now registered. All 22 million of them can expect to get a ballot in the mail for the Sept. 14 recall election, probably next week.

The coronavirus bottom line: As of Wednesday, California had 3,980,172 confirmed cases (+0.26% from previous day) and 64,037 deaths (+0.1% from previous day), according to state data.

California has administered 45,019,888 vaccine doses, and 64% of eligible Californians 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. Hot mandate

Image via iStock

“Vaccine card, please.”

San Francisco’s restaurant-goers, bar-hoppers and gym rats can all expect to hear that starting Aug. 20. That’s when a new citywide mandate will require proof of vaccination for many indoor activities.  

This is a first. New York introduced its own requirement last week, but it only mandates proof of at least one dose. The San Francisco rule requires full immunization. 

Surely this will be met with protest? In the Bay Area, maybe not so much. Plenty of bars and restaurants have already been asking patrons to show their vaccination cards at the door. So far, it’s gone over without much fuss, the San Francisco Chronicle reports

  • ​​Anne Le Ziblatt, owner of Warung Siska, an Indonesian restaurant in Redwood City: “Everyone is really happy we’re doing this.”

The big question is whether other California cities will follow suit. Los Angeles is mulling it over.

Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court seemed to sign off on a university’s right to impose vaccine mandates. And national polls suggest that there is growing support for tougher vaccine requirements.That might be because of the grim headlines. 

Pediatric cases of COVID are now on the rise across the state and country. Though children are still far less likely to exhibit symptoms, require hospitalization or die of COVID, the delta variant seems to have upped the threat posed to kids.

And as if delta wasn’t worrisome enough, now there’s the next variant, named for a Greek letter: Lambda.

What is lambda? Is it here in California? Do I need to start freaking out about that, too? CalMatters’ Barbara Feder Ostrov has this Q&A to set your mind at something closer to ease.

2. Minding the enthusiasm gap

Gov. Gavin Newsom holds a press conference at The Unity Council in Oakland to announce an estimated $75.7 billion surplus and in addition to stimulus checks, tax rebates and additional rent relief on May 10, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
Gov. Gavin Newsom holds a press conference at The Unity Council in Oakland to announce an estimated $75.7 billion surplus and additional stimulus checks, tax rebates and additional rent relief on May 10, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

Just as the first ballots are reaching voters’ mailboxes, Gov. Gavin Newsom is kicking off a brief anti-recall campaign tour.

This isn’t meant to be confused with the statewide circuit the governor took earlier this year promoting this year’s big spending budget, even if that sometimes looked like a campaign tour. This one is the real deal.

The weekend trip, which starts today and will hit San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, is meant to get out the “no” vote amid a series of recent polls that show recall backers are much more eager to vote than Newsom’s supporters

Team Newsom is hoping a few good words from the best known Democrat in the country might gin up some enthusiasm, too. Thursday, President Biden reiterated his support for the governor in a statement. Don’t be surprised if you see him in California as Sept. 14 approaches. 

  • Biden: “Registered California voters should vote no on the recall election by September 14 and keep California moving forward.

Also happening this morning: Newsom’s top polling rival, Larry Elder, plans to hold a press conference to discuss crime, anti-Asian violence and “critical race theory.”

3. Disinformation watch

New ballot boxes yet to be put out are seen the Sacramento County Registrar of Voters office in Sacramento, Aug. 11, 2021. Conservative websites claim the California remote access vote-by-mail system will allow fraudulent voting in the recall. Photo by Rich Pedroncelli, AP Photo
New ballot boxes yet to be put out are seen at the Sacramento County Registrar of Voters office in Sacramento on Aug. 11, 2021. Conservative websites claim the California remote access vote-by-mail system will allow fraudulent voting in the recall. Photo by Rich Pedroncelli, AP Photo

Election season has arrived, which means it’s also the season for nonsense on the internet.

The latest serving of hot baloney that’s been bouncing around the web: A program intended to make it easier for Californians with disabilities to vote is actually a way to “steal” the recall election.

That claim has made the rounds on conservative websites including the California Globe, Breitbart, The Gateway Pundit and RedState.

The program in question is the state’s Remote Accessible Vote-by-Mail system, which lets voters make their electoral choices privately on their computer, using whatever audio, visual or other assistive technology they might need. The voter’s choices are then printed out and either mailed and hard-delivered to a county election office.

A few facts, from the secretary of state’s office:

  • You have to apply to use the program after you register to vote.
  • The program is typically restricted to people with disabilities and overseas service members. 
  • Recent legislation temporarily opened it up to anyone. That came at the suggestion of county election administrators who wanted a backup voting option for people who register too late to vote by mail, but who don’t want to vote in person over COVID concerns.
  • The voter’s choices are transferred to a ballot and both documents are stored together allowing for a post-election audit.
  • Each registered voter is linked to a single address and signature so, no, you can’t print out a thousand ballots and mail them in.

Some more disinformation of late: 

  • A website claiming to offer cash rewards to people who report unvaccinated friends and family went viral. It was fake, the handiwork of David Bramante, one of the lesser-known candidates running for governor
  • Former San Francisco Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff said the state was using the delta variant as an excuse to send every registered voter a ballot, even though the decision to go vote-by-mail was made before delta was a major concern here. His Twitter account got suspended. 

Elections are confusing enough. Have questions about how the recall election actually works? Consider this trustworthy source.

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CalMatters commentary

Why reparations? I wasn’t sure what reparations had to do with me, a white woman from California, until I found a dark family artifact, writes Lois Requist, a poet and writer.

Other things worth your time

One of the world’s most popular anti-vax sites is run out of a wealthy Bay Area enclave // Vice

Coming to Silicon Valley, the four day workweek // Protocol 

The Orange County congresswoman who makes CEOs squirm // FastCompany

Kevin McCarthy sells ‘moron’ T-shirts to protest mask mandates // The Hill

Hydrogen, once considered green fuel of the future, dirtier than natural gas, says new study // New York Times

Britney Spears’ father steps down from conservatorship role // Variety

Why a Healdsburg winery posted new entry level jobs for $10,000 a month // San Francisco Chronicle

Should you really leave the second question blank on the recall ballot? // Los Angeles Magazine

The voices we make when we pretend our dogs can talk // Washington Post

Have a good weekend!

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Ben covers housing policy and previously covered California politics and elections. Prior to these roles at CalMatters, he was a contributing writer for CalMatters reporting on the state's economy and...