By Dave Barrom
The Secretary of State Debra Bowen reported that a new record of sorts was set on the May 19 Special Election. More than 64% of the voters cast their ballots by mail in the statewide election called by the Governor.
The overall voter turnout for the Special Election was 28.4%. That’s a pretty low number but still above the record low of 17.5% in a statewide election in 1935.
Availability of Absentee Voting was mandated by the state legislature a few years ago. Before that, you had to have a reason such as disability, illness, or being out of town on Election Day. Now, any registered voter can choose to vote by mailing in their ballot. By the way, it is now called “Vote by Mail.”
Keep in mind that thirty years ago just 4.4% of the ballots in a statewide general election were cast by mail, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
One of the problems is that you never know how many people are going to vote by mail so you have to set up polling places at local precincts and hire poll workers anyway.
Then there are those voters who forget to mail their ballot. When they are reminded by campaign people, they drop off the signed and sealed Vote by Mail envelope at the polling place. Sometime they have a relative drop it off for them if they cannot do it themselves.
I asked the Secretary of State’s office how many of the Vote by Mail ballots were actually delivered to the polling places instead of being mailed in. They didn’t have a number, I bet there was a significant number of mail ballots hand delivered to the polling place.
Sometime in the future, you may see more and more cities have mail elections. The city of Burbank has an all-mail ballot with about 50,000 voters. Santa Barbara will have an all-mail election later this year.
An all-mail election results in significant changes. Many voters prefer to cast their ballot in the traditional way. For candidates, it means a completely different strategy because 100% of the votes will get their ballot 29 days before the election.