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Early Voting Is Well Underway In San Diego County

A woman fills out a ballot in California, June 7, 2016.
Associated Press
A woman fills out a ballot in California, June 7, 2016.
Early Voting Is Well Underway In San Diego County
Election Day is one week away. Voters across the county have been casting early ballots for more than three weeks, and it should soon become clear which candidates in several hard-fought contests have the turnout advantage heading into Nov. 8.
Early Voting Is Well Underway In San Diego County
Early Voting Is Well Underway In San Diego County

This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. it is Tuesday, November 1. Our top story on midday edition this is the last day to request a mail-in ballot for next week's election all requests must be received at the register's office by 5 PM today. The county register's office as a doubt the most mail-in ballots ever for this election and the campaigns are tracking where the votes are coming from to try to figure out if their supporters are getting out the vote. Another group tracking them is iNEWSSOURCE. So far the county register voters have sent out about 1.1 million mail-in ballots. So far 300,000 have been returned. How does that compare to previous years. --? Eight days out from the election in 2012 there had turned in about 283,000 mail-in ballots and that was out of a universe that reached 850,000 total mail-in ballots issued. So we are lagging that in terms of the return rate. There are reasons why that might be. I will go into that in a moment but what can you tell us about the partisan makeup for the returned ballots? So far as often happens especially early in mail in ballots folks white and a fight other Republican or Democrat tend to be turning in their ballot at a higher rate than those identified as no party preference. There is one big reason for that. If you are dedicated partisan on either side, you're very likely to be -- you know already going in who you are going to vote for and how you will vote on measures and propositions. If there's anything you don't really are sure about you can refer to the party websites to see who your party endorses. You have maybe that out there and you can go down and check out the boxes. Folks were no party preference may be independent-minded, they have to take longer to hold onto their ballot study and research and figure out how they're going to vote on these.@Marceaux than ever this year with the superlong jumbo ballot we have. You spoke with elections analyst and what else did he tell you about why voters may be hanging onto these mail-in ballots. First which is mentioned at the end, which a lot of folks they want to really do their research. Slowly fill that out. Especially with the ballot were we have 17 state propositions. Many local and county measures as well. This is a really long valid. The second reason is a lot of folks will fill out their ballot early but a lot of people want to hold onto that and take it on election day to a polling place or drop-off location and handed in to share in this national civic day of catharsis him. They want to get that sticker that says I voted. They want to wait until the election day to say here's my ballot. I made out beforehand but I will turn out in the day of. We seem to see higher turnout on presidential election years. Are there any predictions being made about voter turnout in next week's election? Lots of people are trying to perfect this one. What I'm hearing is most think we will talk 80%. Big reason is because it is a presidential election year. This year in particular, folks are saying Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have strong feelings and both sides with those candidates and a lot of folks are saying I'm absolutely going to be sure to go out and cast my ballot. That is going to drive high voter turnout. What did you learn about how campaigns use the information that they get about early voting and who has returned their ballot? This is a big part of campaign strategy especially as early voting has become more common in the last two or three election cycles. They want to study the latest data to understand these are precincts that I know we should be doing well in and how many folks have turned in their absentee ballots. If you see that some of the -- their lagging behind in terms of folks getting in their ballots. You will have volunteers to hit your door and ask how has she or is she -- here she turned in their ballot? They want to lock in votes for them well in advance and election day. You've had a map included in your report and it is searchable by precinct. Will you be updating it until election day? Yes, we will update it every day as a last handful of mail-in ballots go. Folks can type in their address and hit search and above pop all the precincts near them and they can see how their neighborhood's journey -- neighborhood is doing. You can see his report and the searchable map on the website.

San Diego County voters began casting ballots Oct. 10 in dozens of races for federal, state, county and local offices and for ballot measures.

As of Monday, the county’s registrar of voters had sent out 1,106,390 mail-in ballots, the most ever issued, with thousands still to be sent out by the end of the week.

Voters have returned 294,488 of them, a 26.6 percent return rate.


inewsource has created a searchable map that will be updated daily through the Nov. 8 election to show how many mail-in ballots have been returned in each precinct.

Vince Vasquez, a local independent elections analyst, has an idea as to why more voters haven’t turned in their ballots.

First, he said, absentee voters are taking their time studying their ballots at home — something he said can be expected with this year’s extra-long “jumbo ballot.” Second, many absentee voters may be filling their ballots out in advance but plan to drop them off at a polling place on Election Day.

“I think some people really enjoy the recognition and the experience on Election Day of getting those ‘I voted’ stickers — something you can’t get from the mail,” Vasquez said.

Campaign operatives in competitive races watch where early votes are cast because they know which precincts have voters most likely to cast ballots for their candidate or measure. They use this data to dispatch volunteers to those precincts to encourage more voters to mail in their ballots.


INTERACTIVE: Click here for a searchable map of early voting results by precinct

Vasquez noted that the typical presidential general election sees 55 to 60 percent of total ballots cast as absentee. In 2012, 56.1 percent of the electorate voted absentee.

Vasquez expects that number to rise this year, as it has in every election since 1992.

Source: San Diego County Registrar of Voters

“You continue to see year after year more voters re-registering or registering for the first time as absentee,” Vasquez said.

In the November 2012 election, total turnout hit 77 percent of registered voters.

Vasquez expects that number to rise, as well.

“Overall, I think we’re going to see an 80 percent — more than 80 percent — turnout rate on Election Day,” Vasquez said, particularly with the choice at the top of the ticket.

“With Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, everybody has an opinion on these candidates,” Vasquez said. “Everybody has a general sense as to whether they think one or the other is qualified to be president and I think that’s going to be one of these really easy driving factors to turn out people to the polls.”

In terms of the partisan makeup of returned ballots, Republicans hold the registration advantage in nine of the 10 precincts that have returned the highest proportion of their absentee ballots (when excluding mail-only precincts with just a handful of voters).

Vasquez said that’s to be expected as the most dedicated voters — both in terms of those who request absentee ballots and those who mostly reliably turn them in — tend to be the most partisan.

“Early voting is more still an older voting phenomenon — people who are 55 and over,” Vasquez said. “Typically they’re partisan voters so they’re simply getting those endorsement slate cards from the Democratic and Republican parties, using that to make the choices and that’s why they’re able to return those ballots so quickly.”

As we approach Election Day, Vasquez said to expect a rise in the percentage of ballots from those with no party preference. He also expected more Democratic voters to vote in the coming week and on Election Day as younger and demographically diverse, Democratic-leaning constituencies cast ballots.

Today is the last day for county voters to apply for a mail-in ballot. Mail ballot voters who would prefer to drop their ballot off in person may do so at the Registrar of Voters Office at 5600 Overland Ave. in San Diego and at 24 other locations throughout the county. If a mail ballot is to count, it must be postmarked by 8 p.m. on Election Day and received by Nov. 14, three business days (Nov. 11 is a holiday) after the Nov. 8 election.