The complexities of California’s early primary go beyond the schedule. The increasing prevalence of early voting has in recent years allowed pollsters to refine their use of the state’s voter file to poll voters as they submit their ballots, allowing them to release what amounts to real-time exit polls that could color perceptions of candidates weeks before election day.
In addition, the 2020 contest will be the first presidential primary in California in which campaign operatives are allowed to collect and turn in ballots for voters — a controversial practice known as “ballot harvesting” that could benefit highly organized campaigns.
“Nationally, people just aren’t aware of all the different changes and ways of California,” said Amanda Renteria, who served as national political director of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and ran briefly for California governor last year. “The big thing is where are the ballots coming from, and that will be different for every candidate … It’s just too expensive to do it everywhere, so where are your core California efforts going to be?”