It was billed as a "Still Sanders" rally, a way to shame CNN and the rest of the media for covering up the success of Bernie Sanders's campaign for president. It took over a street in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles on Sunday — coincidentally, a day that Sanders was appearing on CNN to discuss his future plans. And to the faithful, it shared new information about how Sanders, counted out in California, was gaining ground.
"It is absolutely true that San Francisco has flipped for Bernie," said organizer and emcee Cary Harrison.
This was not true. The consolidated city-county of San Francisco gave a victory to Hillary Clinton, of 116,359 votes to 99,594 for Sanders. As of June 24, there were no mail-in or provisional ballots left to count.
Yet for a small group of Sanders die-hards, California's ridiculously slow count of mail-in and provisional ballots is a source of hope and evidence of the media's failure. Since Election Day, three of the 58 California counties that at first seemed to vote for Clinton flipped to Sanders. A 12-point Clinton victory margin has shrunk to nine points. The relative lack of coverage here fuels events like the Still Sanders march, a look at a world in which the senator from Vermont remains in the hunt for the presidency.
Greg Palast, an investigative reporter who has argued that Sanders probably won California, repeated his case live from the Still Sanders stage.
"They said, with 100 percent of precincts reporting, Hillary Clinton has won by 400,000 votes," Palast said of the media. "Now, I want you to say this number with me: 1,959,900. That's the number of ballots that were not yet counted. How do you say an election's over when there are 2 million ballots left to count?"
In fact, Palast was only counting the ballots counted since Election Day. As of Monday evening, 1,954,201 ballots had been counted for Clinton, Sanders, Donald Trump, Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, or Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. According to the California secretary of state's website, which tracks ballots still being processed, there are 586,872 ballots left — 407,799 provisional ballots, 160,449 mail-in ballots and 18,624 ballots not counted initially because of various flaws.
According to Palast, those ballots had the potential to flip the election. Based on a call to the secretary of state's office, he estimated that all of the outstanding ballots were from "no party preference" voters; based on a pre-primary poll, he estimated a 40 percentage point margin for Sanders among those ballots.
"Bernie Sanders got at least 1.25 million votes from that pile," Palast said. "The good news is that Bernie won California. ... If you count every ballot, Sanders would win by 100,000."
But that was not how the ballots broke down. First, more than a half-million of the votes counted since Election Day were cast for Republicans. Since June 7, Trump has added 429,509 votes to his total; Kasich has added 68,641 votes, and Cruz has added 60,246.
Many more ballots were counted in the Democratic primary. They just did not break dramatically for Sanders. Since June 7, Clinton has added 692,629 votes, for a total of 2,633,209 statewide. Sanders has added 703,176 votes for a total of 2,205,219. On Election Day, Clinton appeared to win the state by 438,537 votes; as of today, her lead is 427,990 votes. (For comparison, Clinton defeated Barack Obama in the 2008 California primary by 421,522 votes.)
The new votes have helped Sanders slice into Clinton's delegate lead, but only marginally. On June 7, the Associated Press projected that Clinton would win 269 of California's pledged delegates, to just 206 for Sanders. As of Tuesday, Clinton can claim 259 delegates to 216 for Sanders.
Sanders himself has never said that Clinton won California; at the same time, he has stopped suggesting that he will try to win the nomination by persuading superdelegates to come over from Clinton. But some of his most fervent supporters are grappling with the election in their own way.