What's the center of power in California right now?
The legislature that is finishing up a budget? The governor's office? Maybe some poiltical consultant navigating initiatives or the top two primary?
No, no, and no.
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Right now, the power is in the LA County suburb of Norwalk. And especially in the county government offices there on Imperial Highway -- where Los Angeles' registar-recorder works.
That registar-recorder, Dean Logan, is important right now because he has two very important things to count. They are:
1. Unprocessed ballots from the June 5 primary elections.
You may have thought those elections were over, but there are still more than 400,000 unprocessed, uncounted ballots statewide -- that is, mail ballots that came in late and provisional ballots. By far, the larger number of unprocessed, uncounted ballots is in LA County -- 131,177, as of late Wednesday.
The count in Norwalk could be enough to swing the result in the still-very-narrow race over Prop 29, the cigarette tax to fund cancer research. There are also a handful of close Assembly races that could be determined by whatever comes out of Norwalk.
2. Signatures submitted on ballot initiatives whose sponsors want them qualified for November.
The registrar-recorder counts, samples and certifies signatures on ballot initiative petitions. The deadline for qualifying an initiative for the November ballot is just two weeks away -- June 28.
And a number of high-profile measures -- including Gov. Jerry Brown's temporary tax initiative -- filed their signatures very late. So late that they may not be counted until after the deadline.
Whether the initiative makes it or not depends on Norwalk -- since LA County has produced by far the most signatures for these initiatives. And so far, Norwalk hasn't done its random sample on those measures. If the work isn't done by June 28, Brown's initiative may not qualify in time for this November's ballot.
Thus, don't be surprised if you hear and see a lot of praise for Logan and the folks at Norwalk. The legislature might even find a way to squeeze some extra money into the budget.
Anything to get those powerful people in Norwalk to count faster.
Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).