As you're following returns tonight and wondering how your favorite candidate is faring, here are some things to keep in mind as the early returns come in.
First, the early returns should be more meaningful than in many elections in the past. Expect that about 60 percent, or possibly higher, of the votes in Ventura County will be mail-in ballots. Assistant Registrar of Voters Tracy Saucedo told me last week that as of midday Friday about 51,000 of the 172,591 mail-in ballots that were sent to county voters had been returned. Perhaps another 10,000 likely arrived in Saturday's mail. The goal was to have all 60,000 of those ballots verified and processed by the time the polls close tonight.
(Be advised also that the downside of all those mail-in ballots is that all those that arrived in the mail yesterday and today and are dropped off at polling places won't be counted for several days. In close races, that means there will be a high number of votes that ultimately turn around a result.)
With an expected turnout of in the neighborhood of 33 percent, that means there will be about 140,000 votes cast in the county. So about 43 percent of the total vote should be counted and results reported relatively quickly. That's a pretty fair sample; if your candidate isn't at least close after those early returns are released, that will be a very bad sign.
As for specific races:
* In the 2d District race for supervisor, the county Republican Party hit the mailboxes early and often in its attacks on incumbent Linda Parks. If that strategy was effective, the evidence will show up immediately in the mail-in ballots that were cast early. Assemblywoman Audra Strickland will need to show a significant lead among those early mail-in ballots if she's going to win. It will take about 33,300 votes to win in a district in which turnout is traditionally slightly higher than in other areas of the county.
* In the sheriff's race, which is of course countywide, keep in mind that it will take about 70,000 votes to win. Use that as your yardstick. Also, keep in mind that of the election-day ballots, the last to be counted are usually those that come from Oxnard. If the race is very tight, that could be an advantage for Geoff Dean, because one of his most active supporters has been Oxnard Police Chief John Crombach.
* In the wide-open 35th Assembly District Democratic primary between Susan Jordan and Das Williams, keep in mind that Santa Barbara County's vote-counting system is generally much quicker than Ventura County's. Williams is a two-term Santa Barbara city councilman, and that county will be his strength. He'll need an early lead, because chances are fairly good that Jordan will carry Ventura County. Keep in mind that about 46 percent of the district's registered voters live in Ventura County. Because turnout in Oxnard is typically very low in primaries, however, the percentage of actual votes from Ventura County is likely to be somewhat lower than that.
* And, finally, on the statewide ballot propositions, always remember that no close contest is ever decided until Los Angeles County comes in, and it's usually about the last county to report.