The trend of voters increasingly mailing in absentee ballots rather than standing in line to vote at the polls had a major impact on the special U.S. House election in California December 6. Were then votes among those who actually went to the polls counted exclusively, the winner would have been American Independent Party candidate Jim Gilchrist rather than the actual victor, Republican John Campbell (who was sworn in as the newest member of Congress the day following his election).
According to figures release by the Orange County Registrar of Voters, Gilchrist, a founder of the border-guarding Minutemen and retired accountant, was the top vote-getter in votes actually cast at the polling places with 35% of the votes. He was followed by Democrat Steve Young with 32%. Campbell, a state senator, placed third in votes cast in the booth.
However, Campbell won a handsome 52% among those voting absentee in the Golden State’s 50th District (the election being called to fill the seat vacated by longtime Republican Rep. Christopher Cox, who had resigned to become chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission). In contrast, Young drew 25% and Gilchrist 20% in absentee ballots. Because so many 50th District voters cast absentee ballots, then, Campbell would have won the House race without getting a single vote from the polling places.
Most of the national coverage of the race to succeed Cox focused on the strong showing of Gilchrist, who campaigned almost exclusively on the issue of illegal immigration and drew 25% of the vote — just behind Young’s 28%. Campbell won the historically Republican district with 46% of the vote.