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San Diego Mayoral Special Election Look Ahead

November 18, 2013 1:29 p.m.

GUESTS

Michael Vu, San Diego Country Registrar of Voters.

Vince Vasquez, Senior Policy Analyst for National University System Institute for Policy Research

Related Story: San Diego Mayoral Special Election Look Ahead

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Our top story on Midday Edition, voters in the city of San Diego are preparing to vote for mayor again. A new 10 News/UT San Diego poll finds Republican Kevin Faulconer at 40% and the two Democrats in a tight race for second place with Nathan Fletcher at 24% and David Alvarez with 22%. With election day tomorrow we will hear from the San Diego County registrar of voters and later predictions about the race based on which parts of the city the absentee ballots have been coming from. Right now I'd like to welcome Michael Vu, San Diego County registrar of voters. Michael welcome to the program.

MICHAEL VU: Thanks for having me.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Tell us about some of the last-minute preparations you will be doing for election day.

MICHAEL VU: One of the things we're doing is processing when if that many ballots we have there are always generally the poll workers that drop out at the last minute we are filling us respective positions and making sure who has the respective supplies for pulled a.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Do you have enough poll workers?

MICHAEL VU: We do. We have proximately 2300 poll workers that will serve tomorrow and we've recruited 2500 poll workers in total. So yes, we are ready for tomorrow's election.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Even though this is a special election will it be conducted in the same manner the same precinct locations as last year?

MICHAEL VU: Actually it will not be. Last year during the 2012 presidential election we had over 650 precincts the city but this election we will have 572 precincts on election day we will have little bit less of course there will be be one contest and 11 candidates on there, so certainly not the turnout that we saw in 2012.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Any calls from people saying it doesn't say the same address on my voter guide?

MICHAEL VU: It does. Polling locations change from election to election and that of course occurs because we use everything from homes, churches, public facilities and in certain cases a public facility could be renovated and we are unable to use them. A polling at a house may not allow us to use it so it does change from election to election. What we do prior to each election send a sample ballot and voter information pamphlet and back we list the following information that voters will need to go to on election if they cast their ballots at the location. And also the website is a great wealth of information at (inaudible).com where voters at the city San Diego will find out where they need to go exactly to cast their ballot.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Have you seen, Michael, many voters taking advantage of early voting?

MICHAEL VU: They have. It comes of course in different forms. The city is, approximately 52% of the entire electorate within the city has received their ballots by mail. So that is a form of early voting and of the number we have approximately 3500 ballots that have been turned back in. Of course that means there are few circulating and some might be dropped off at the polls on election day or will be received through the U.S. Postal Service by 8 PM tomorrow. In terms of individuals coming into the office it's been relatively light. I would say the highest the we had anyone individual coming into the office are voters coming to the office is around 300. We anticipated number of individuals coming in today as of coming to today's speaking we have approximately 70 individuals that had dropped off the mail ballots as that at the drop off box right to of the building and that was at 10 o'clock. So I expect a couple hundred will be dropped off by the end of the day today.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Can you go over that again for us, Michael about the mail-in ballots. It can either go to a precinct, polling place and drop them off, or it doesn't have to reach your office by tomorrow it just needs to be postmarked?

MICHAEL VU: Actually the that is incorrect. In terms of the postmark, if you are a vote by mail voter the Mail ballots to be in our possession by 8 PM election day. They can';t be postmark. If they're postmarkeed and received afterwards we are not allowed to (inaudible) so if you have your yellow envelope in hand, your ballot in hand the best thing to do at this point is not to but again the U.S. Postal Service, the best thing to do is either drop it off at our facility which is a 52 1 Ruffin Rd., or better yet drop it with one of the 572 precincts we have out there on election day.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Got it okay. How much is the special election going to cost?

MICHAEL VU: This is being election being called we did not even know at the time whether it was going to be a recall, resignation, what form we initially thought it was going to be about six dollars. When the election was called we found out how many polling places we would have how many poll workers we needed to recruit the timelines we needed to have it was important in terms of preparation for we believe it's going about $4.7 million is what the election is going to cost us. At the end of the day once all the invoices come in to election funds we are able to compile all of that we will find that the actual cost is going to be but $4.7 million.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So the price has gone down. That's pretty good. Especially here in California, Michael, voters are used to looking at ballots with lots of candidates and races, propositions, this ballot is very different the only race, the Mayor's race, is that right?

MICHAEL VU: That's right. There will be be one contest with 11 candidates and history has a tendency of repeating itself back in 2005we had a mayoral election two primaries and there were 11 candidates

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: 11 candidates is there one write-in as well.

MICHAEL VU: There is one write-in, yes.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That is the question usually you see this long line of people and you choose which one you want for that particular election.

MICHAEL VU: I think it's going to take longer to get to the table, sign in and by the time you are in the voting booth I'm sure voters will have their minds set. It's only one bubble they need to fill in once they are done but that they could give it back to the poll workers or deposit it in the ballot box.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Remind us when the polls open and close.

MICHAEL VU: Polls open at 7 AM sharp and close at 8 PM.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: When will we get the first results?

MICHAEL VU: The first results will be in shortly after eight p.m. We will be reviewing the ballots processed after the election these will be the first results and I anticipate half by 11 o'clock we will have the majority of the ballots into account and be able to release that to the public.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Are you making predictions about turnout? The registers office sometimes does that.

MICHAEL VU: Predictions vary little bit different from election to election and you know initially I was thinking we would see a higher turnout. Particularly with when we released the mail ballots we had sent out over 357 mail ballots and we started to see healthy return coming out a couple days after that and it started trailing off and tapering. So I think 40 to 45% is what we will see in terms of the overall turnout. But I think one thing is known and that is we are headed the team when it comes down to the other special elections we've conducted this year that have impacted the city in the 40th state Senate election part of the city we saw 15% turnout in that election, very low turnout for over 244,000 individuals that could cast about the fourth city Council District highest election the to the primary, it was proximately 20% turnout. Right now we are sitting at about 20% with all the mail ballots that we've received thus far. So tomorrow ML the individuals that are going to be casting their ballots at the polls as well as those individuals that have dropped off the mail that ballots at polling locations will increase the percentage.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Thank you so much. I've been speaking with Michael Vu, the San Diego County registrar of voters. Thanks.

MICHAEL VU: Thank you so much.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'd like to welcome Vince Vasquez. He is the senior policy analyst for the national University system Institute for policy research and Vince, welcome to the show.

VINCE VASQUEZ: Great to be with you.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We just heard from Michael Vu that a large number of, this election a number of San Diego voters are voting absentee. You've done some analysis of those numbers so where are we seeing most of the absentee ballots?

VINCE VASQUEZ: We are seeing the ballots coming in predominantly high voter propensity neighborhoods, neighborhoods that we've seen time and time again in special election in primaries. Like in mission hills La Jolla, Scripps Ranch Rancho Bernardo area and (inaudible), typically these are areas in San Diego where you have voter voters, you have (inaudible) residents people who have lived there little bit longer, typically the median household income levels are higher than what you would see on an average citywide level.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Right, now you obviously can't tell us how these voters voted, but what can you derive from going where these mail-in ballots came from?

VINCE VASQUEZ: Absolutely. So we went ahead and took a look at the hundred largest Republican precincts in the city, also looked at the 100 largest Democratic precincts and that is looking at the proportion of total registration of the absentee, but also mail in voters and we solicit Republican precincts are averaging about 100% turnout rate and compare that to Democrats which are averaging about 23%. So it's a significant lag in terms of turnout and many in the Democratic precinct said part of that is the the (inaudible) pandemic. Many of the Democratic precincts there's a lot of more blue-collar students, younger people, Latino and African-American neighborhoods, Asian communities as well. And, that's beginning to have an effect. We know that these are lower propensity voters. These are voters that it takes more motivation to get them to come out to the polls.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: It seems that is what you are saying that the mailing ballot returns both significantly well for perhaps that Republican candidate. How does the prediction therefore line up with the latest 10 News UT poll numbers?

VINCE VASQUEZ: One of the things are projecting is about 100,000 voters are going to be casting their ballots tomorrow on election day and these are people who maybe they to gain maybe to the election they probably identified a candidate but they have cast a ballot yet. So it is incumbent upon especially David Nathan Fletcher as well as Dave Alvarez to make sure they are getting their base out to the polls and this is a big aspect of traditional elections is the get out the vote operations. Dave Alvarez is a great beneficiary of two major endorsements one for the labor Council as well as the Democratic Party who are powerful third-party validators and many households if you got a mailer for the labor Council or the Democratic Party and you already go ahead and make a decision. You don't spend a lot of time looking at candidates and elections but you trust these organizations. The same time you need to make sure these folks are coming out to the polls. So we really are expecting the other candidates are going to be spending every second tomorrow making sure that their base is coming out.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now does it looked like any particular candidate will wind up with the 50% plus one that would avoid a runoff?

VINCE VASQUEZ: No, you definitely would have seen especially in the public polling you know, if it was a Kevin Faulconer coming close to 50% we would have seen a greater trend toward that. I think we've probably had some on a threshold especially with the undecided voters in has been people that's been slowly shrinking and now we are down to single digits in the likelihood of that is far from expected.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now when we first started to talk about the nuts and bolts of this election back couple of months ago I guess it was a couple, such a short race, we were talking about you know maybe a turnout in the area of some people have speculated maybe around 25% or something because the special elections have a tendency to have low voter turnout. Now Michael Vu said it could be around 45%, what does that do to the prospects for the major mayoral candidates?

VINCE VASQUEZ: The greater the turnout the higher the Democratic turnout is typically what we see not only on the national level but also what we see in San Diego. The reason again is because you have a large number of city voter groups college students and people ethnic neighborhoods, people who are renters and the sorts of communities and he really does take a lot more to get their attention. Also there's an aspect of information cost that the voter groups, they if they do not spend very much time focusing on elections and focusing on local politics they really need to do the candidates, they need to have aware of the fact that there is an election they need to know what they are voting on and what if that takes time and resources. Most campaigns don't spend that much time focusing on these low propensity voters. They really focus on those that are permanent absentee people who show up to every election no matter who is on the ballot. So I think it really does say a lot about the importance of a special election the fact that the world knows now that we have a Mayor who resigned earlier this year and San Diegans have a choice and I think that is really something that more households especially today are aware of it and is something that is definitely contribute to a higher turnout rate.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Vince, even though we've seen over the weekend and perhaps we will see today a great number of TV ads for the various mayoral candidates etc. etc., what it really comes down to now is getting out the vote?

VINCE VASQUEZ: Obviously this is something that you spent the entire campaign working on from election day backwards. You figure out who the voter groups are, the likely voters are going to support your candidacy and you invest time and resources tracking system to continuously gauge. But for this election and many other elections it is really a race to the finish line on election day to get those folks to come out to the polls and with Dave Alvarez and David Fletcher neck and neck in this race they really will be working from today till 8 PM or 7:59 PM tomorrow to get their supporters.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, Vince it seems likely at least if the polls are correct that there will be a runoff. Would you care to make a prediction about the second-place finisher tomorrow?

VINCE VASQUEZ: I'd like to, but I think it will be close. I think we will be talking about within the thousands of votes and it could be a late-night. And they're still a lot that could happen between now and election day. And I think there's, looking around I live south of the eight, I see a lot more Dave Alvarez signs and supporters than I do Nathan Fletcher. At the same time I think Nathan certainly had a head start in terms of a head start, name ID, among a lot of voters earlier in the election. People remember him from last year in the mayoral election so it's going to be close.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I've been speaking with Vince Vasquez, senior policy analyst for national University system Institute for policy research and earlier I spoke with Michael Vu of the county voter registrar. Vince, thanks a lot.

VINCE VASQUEZ: Thank you.