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Inventory of the Elections Division. California Secretary of State Records
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Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Introduction
  • Research Values of Elections Papers

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Elections Division. California Secretary of State Records
    Creator: Elections Division. California Secretary of State
    Repository: California State Archives
    Sacramento, California
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Publication Rights

    For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact the California State Archives. Permission for reproduction or publication is given on behalf of the California State Archives as the owner of the physical items. The researcher assumes all responsibility for possible infringement which may arise from reproduction or publication of materials from the California State Archives collections.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Elections Division. California Secretary of State Records, California State Archives.


    On August 1, 1849 an election was held in California for the purpose of electing delegates to a convention to form either a state constitution or a territorial government. A second election followed on November 13 to ratify or reject the convention's labors and to elect California's first Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Members of the Legislature, and two Members of Congress. Returns from the first two elections, together with the documents and papers of succeeding elections down to the present time, as filed with the Secretary of State, comprise the Elections Record Group in the State Archives. By 1972 this group consisted of 640 cubic feet of prime source materials relating to the election processes in California.
    This inventory describes the several records series and other records comprising the Elections Record Group. Within each series reference is made to statutory origins, where applicable, and to significant changes in the law(s) affecting the filing of records. Description of content is limited to the general types of information contained in the documents. Where gaps exist in the Archives' holdings appropriate notations are made. A concluding section describes related election records not a part of the Elections Record Group. The appendices provide additional information and detail on specific records series.

    Research Values of Elections Papers

    Election papers have many research values. Election returns, beyond a simple recording of votes for a candidate or issue, reflect voting patterns. Such local patterns may or may not be representative of national trends and moods. Statistical or selective sampling of precinct returns can be used to determine voting patterns of ethnic groups, economic classes, and even the party faithful. Divisions of the electorate along urban and rural lines as well as by geographical sections are also discernible. In recent years the major television networks have employed selective sampling of key precincts to develop profile analyses to predict the outcome of specific races. For the individual researcher a key to this type of voting analysis is the availability of precinct maps. Legislation passed in 1971 (ch. 1294) established in the State Archives a precinct map library, official filings commencing with the 1972 general election. Precinct maps for the entire state are thus available in one depository.
    Election returns further serve as an index to population growth and shifts and for some periods the precinct lists provide a unique register of contemporary place-names.
    An area of increasing research and political interest is the candidates' and committees' campaign statements of receipts and expenditures. Campaign statements reflect many of the costs of political campaigns and make clear, to a degree, the sources of receipts. The complexity of the operations of a large campaign is often reflected in the number and variety of committees set up to handle campaign finances. The long-term trend of federal and state laws in this area is in the direction of ever more detailed reporting.
    Ballot measures are valuable sources for study of prominent public issues at a particular time. Important to an understanding of such issues are the ballot arguments prepared in support of or in opposition to the measures and filed as part of the official record.
    The research potentials of other records in the Elections Record Group are suggested by the descriptions that follow.