San Diego Has Second Lowest Vote-By-Mail Rate In State, Study Finds
While 56 percent of voters in the San Diego region voted by mail in the November 2012 general election, San Diego still has the second lowest vote-by-mail rate in California, a new UC Davis study found.
According to the study, San Diego was behind only Los Angeles in its vote-by-mail rate.
The UC Davis data was released soon after state Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez proposed a new bill, the "Voting Ought To Be Easy Act,” or VOTE Act, that would allow counties in California to conduct special elections entirely by mail. Mindy Romero, the study's author, said she has no opinion on Gonzalez's proposed law change, but cautioned that any new laws impacting how votes are cast should take data into consideration.
Because Romero's study found that more Latinos vote in person than other ethnic groups, she said it's important to know whether making some elections vote by mail only would impact overall Latino voter turnout.
"(Latinos) use the polls more often, so if we limit their options in terms of that, what would that mean in terms of their representation and their ability to participate?" Romero said. "We don't have data to tell us whether or not they would switch to voting by mail."
Gonzalez said the study shows "voters from my community are less likely to be signed up to get their ballot in the mail, which partially explains the dismal participation rates in these elections. I want to fix that."
"Data suggests that voters across all ethnic groups who are mailed a ballot at home 29 days before Election Day are more likely to participate in a special election than those who have a 13-hour window to get to a polling place on a workday," she added.
The study also found that in 2012, 71 percent of vote-by-mail voters were age 44 or older, and that voters age 64 and older were far more likely to vote by mail.
Romero said she will next look at why some groups of people and geographic regions are less likely to vote by mail, but said one early indication is that a county's registrar of voters can impact the number of people who cast mail-in ballots.
"Those county registrar's offices that have a pretty robust, or widespread reach in terms of their outreach and informing voters, encouraging or even recommending voters to sign up for permanent vote by mail, they tend to have higher rates," she said.
While San Diego has a lower vote-by-mail rate, its 1981 mail-only ballot election partly inspired Oregon to become the first state in the country to conduct all of its elections entirely by mail.