Mail-in ballots more popular among voters
Andrew Edwards, Staff Writer
Posted: 09/29/2012 06:19:41 PM PDT
Updated: 09/29/2012 06:43:28 PM PDT
The idea of Nov. 6 being “Election Day” is becoming less true for a growing number of Southern California voters.
Mail-in ballots are becoming more and more popular, and that means October is essentially an Election Month this year for millions of voters and the politicians courting them.
Voters living in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties will be able to have their votes recorded as early as Oct. 9, four full weeks before the official Election Day.
Such ballots have evolved from a tool that helped seniors and others who may have difficulty traveling to a polling place on Election Day to a convenience favored by growing numbers of voters.
“As more and more people have done that, in some counties, it’s a huge percentage,” said Wayne Johnson, president of The Wayne Johnson Agency, a Sacramento-based consulting firm. “It tended to be older. It tended to be conservative. It tended to be more Republican. That’s not true anymore.”
In Los Angeles County, about 1.1 million voters are on the registar’s permanent vote-by-mail file. That’s 530,000 more on file than for 2008′s general election – a 93 percent increase. And it’s nearly 25 percent of the county’s total voter registration of some 4.5 million people.
Neighboring San Bernardino County has an even higher proportion. Nearly 41 percent of the roughly 816,000 registered voters on file have signed up to receive mail-in ballots for every election. Back in 2008, 32 percent were signed up.
The increase in early voting isn’t just a local pattern.
At least a third of American voters are likely to cast their votes before Election Day.
San Bernardino County officials encourage mail-in voting, in part because the office spends less time and money processing ballots when they come in early, said Felisa Cardona, spokeswoman for Registrar of Voters Michael Scarpello.
California’s campaign advisers have had about a decade to learn how to deal with early voting, Johnson said. In a typical election, the upshot is that a campaign studies voter rolls and initially reaches out to those voters who have a high propensity to vote early.
Then, the campaign starts fresh and advertises to voters who cast their ballots on Election Day.
“You have the same amount of voters. You just have them voting in different periods,” said Mike Shimpock, a consultant for the Pasadena-based SG & A Campaigns.
That’s the case for most elections, Shimpock said. There can be special circumstances, such as a special election he worked in during the mid-1990s.
In that contest, the pool of voters was so small that Shimpock said the get-out-the-vote effort extended as far as finding Democratic voters who rarely voted, going up to their doors and handing them stamps in order to convince them to cast a vote.
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