California voters turned out en masse for the 2020 presidential election, casting a record number of votes at 17,785,151, exceeding the previous record by about 3.1 million votes.
The turnout of registered voters was 80.67%, the highest since the 1976 presidential election, which featured Democrat Jimmy Carter beating Republican Gerald Ford (Ford won California that year).
The turnout of the eligible voting-age population was also at a high for modern times, with 70.88% of such adults coming out to the polls to vote or turn in ballots. It was the highest percentage since the 1952 presidential election when Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower prevailed over Democrat Adlai Stevenson.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla praised election officials in all 58 counties around the state, saying they worked in difficult conditions given the coronavirus pandemic, but managed to process a record number of votes by mail-in ballots.
“Voting may have looked different this year, but it was important to provide Californians safe and convenient opportunities to exercise their right to vote while protecting their health,” Padilla said. “I would also like to thank the nearly 17.8 million Californians who voted in this election.”
Padilla’s name has been bandied about as a potential replacement for Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who will vacate her seat in the U.S. Senate to serve in the Biden administration.
Padilla made pointed remarks in Friday’s press release about the safety and security of mail-in balloting at a time when President Donald Trump and his Republican allies insist the practice led to widespread voter fraud.
“The overwhelming success of the General Election proves the wisdom of California’s policies to increase access to the ballot and will certainly inform future initiatives to build an even more inclusive democracy,” Padilla said.
Trump himself decried mail-in ballots for months leading up to the election, a move that some pundits say could have cost him votes in states with narrow margins like Georgia. Following his defeat to Joe Biden, Trump continued to claim the loss was based on widespread voter fraud, though no fraudulent schemes have been presented in a court of law by Trump or his allies.
Ken Paxton, Texas Attorney General, filed a lawsuit this week against Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin — all states that Trump won in 2016 but lost in 2020 — claiming that their increased use of mail-in ballots without the approval of their respective legislatures violated the U.S. Constitution.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up the case, rebuffing Paxton’s arguments while effectively ending Trump’s legal attempts to overturn the election.
In California, 15,423,301 votes were cast by vote-by-mail ballots, an all-time record number of votes. At first, the protocol was used as a means to prevent the spread of Covid-19, but California officials have entertained allowing voting by mail as a means of increasing participation.
The highest turnout rate in any county was Marin County, with 90% of registered voters. In San Francisco County, it was 86% and San Diego turned out 83% of its registered voters. Los Angeles County had one of the lowest turnout rates in the state at 74%, which is still a high mark for the county when measured against the historical record.
Biden received 11,109,764 votes in California, beating Trump by a sound 5.1 million vote margin as Trump garnered 6,005,961 votes in the state.
— By Matthew Renda, CNS