Turnout for Mail-in Primaries Not So Hot in California


The June 3 stealth primary, stripped as it was of its presidential component, didn’t even attract 20 % of eligible California voters, but it did set a turnout record in one area: Vote by mail balloting. For the first time ever, more than half the voters did their civic duty by mail. See Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s announcement, in pdf, here.

There are all kinds of implications. Voting by mail means voting early, which in turn means that all the late campaign mail, letters to the editor, blogging etc. came too late for 58.71% of voters. There seem to be two schools of thought among political consultants trying to figure out how to respond: Don’t worry about it, it’s no big deal, this was an unusual election; or, Target your voters better and earlier, and rely less on late-campaign mail.

Some election reformers like the trend to more mail voting, and in fact Los Angeles voters may be asked, before too many more elections go by, to adopt a law mandating mail-only elections.

One problem. Although Los Angeles County is the nation’s most populous election jurisdiction, and although Californians seem to be leaning more and more toward voting by mail, L.A. County was a huge outlier in June. Only 38.92% of voters here went to the mailbox instead of the ballot box. You can figure that a majority of those who are going old-school — going to the polling place on voting day — are Democrats, because most of the county’s voters are Dems, and because stats generally show that the older, whiter and more conservative a voter, the more likely he or she is to vote by mail. So it stands to reason that Republicans would promote more vote-by-mail and more Democrats would resist it.

Voting-By Mail is not the panacea that a lot of Democrats have been convinced that it is. In fact, the Democrats seem to be driving the Voting-By Mail agenda nationally.

One Response

  1. I love your blog…really. Did you already hear about water on mars? 🙂

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