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How 'Orphans' Could Decide Who Wins Elections In California

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- If polls are to be believed, Tuesday's election will be decided by a small group of people. But if it is a low turnout election, entire races can be won or lost on just a few votes.

And one thing that can reduce votes is the dilemma of orphan voters. Thanks to California's top two primary system, there are now 26 races that are Democrat versus Democrat or Republican versus Republican. That means that thousands of voters will look down on the ballot and not see any candidate who is a member of the voter's party.

So, let's say you're an orphan voter, a Republican in Silicon Valley where there are only two Democrats to choose from in the congressional race. Do you hold your nose and vote for a Democrat, or fill out everything else on your ballot and skip that one because you just can't stomach it. Whether orphan voters vote or skip can dramatically impact a low turnout election.

According to San Francisco State University Professor Corey Cook, about 50 percent of orphan voters have skipped in past elections. But we've only had a top two primary since 2012, so we still don't exactly know what they will do.

And without absentee balloting, we'd be in bigger trouble. But one problem with absentee ballots is voter mistakes. This year, even a small number of mistakes will have big consequences.

Here's a tip: If you have an absentee ballot and you have not mailed it, you probably shouldn't. Instead, drop it off at a poll site or elections office Tuesday.

Absentee ballots have to be received by Election Day, regardless of when it was postmarked. If a ballot is put it in the mail Monday, there's a chance that it won't arrive by Election Day. If that happens, it will not be counted.

Thousands of absentee ballots are thrown in the trash every election and the number one reason is because they arrive too late.

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