Opinion: More Californians are mailing it in


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California voters, that is. That’s according to the Sacramento Bee:

Since passage of a state law in 2002 allowing voters to sign up to cast their ballots by mail in every election, the number of permanent absentee voters has more than tripled. According to a new Field Poll released Thursday, more than 4.2 million of the state’s 15 million registered voters – 27.2 percent – have signed up to cast their ballots by mail. In the June 2006 state primary election, a record 47 percent of the ballots cast came from absentee voters.


Some in other states are even thinking about turning to a system like Oregon‘s, which is solely vote-by-mail. But that’s not likely to happen in California until SoCal shapes up:

Twenty-nine percent of voters in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area and 20 percent of voters in the Central Valley have signed up as permanent absentee voters. But only 10 percent of voters in Los Angeles County and 11 percent in Orange County have chosen to vote permanently by mail.

Just one more reason the Bay Area rocks.

Most permanent absentee voters seem to be rich, white homeowners. The original drive to make ‘absentee voting’ easier was led by Democrats trying to counteract higher turnout by Republicans. In the 1982 race for governor, the GOP turned the absentee vote around, however, and Republicans still hold a 1% edge over Democrats among the mail-in crowd. The San Francisco Chronicle takes this opportunity to hate on both Republicans and Los Angeles:

The mail ballot numbers are skewed, however, by Los Angeles County. Although the county has 25 percent of the state’s registered voters, it includes only 10 percent of the state’s permanent mail voters. Election officials in that county, concerned that a flood of mailed-in ballots could overwhelm the system, have been reluctant to encourage people to sign up for permanent mail status. Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2 to 1 in Los Angeles County, which means the low number of permanent mail voters there gives the GOP a statewide boost. While Democrats outnumber Republicans 42 percent to 34 percent among all California voters, the GOP holds a 41 percent to 40 percent edge with permanent mail voters.

It’s too bad LA hasn’t really rolled out the mail-in vote. California’s been trying (in vain) to increase its influence among the state presidential primaries, and this could be one way to up the ante. After all, with a month-long voting period, people could be voting as early as January.

The California Progress Report also tries to think positive:

The extended voting period also should reduce the effectiveness of last minute ‘hit pieces.’ Expect to be bombarded once those ballots arrive.... Field reports that some county registrar of voters are encouraging VBM ‘as a way of reducing election costs.’ It should take some of the pressure off of having to assemble a large army of Election Day workers at polling places. The downside, however, is fewer polling places at greater distances for voters.

Hey, don’t knock the silver lining. What with our dashed dreams of primary influence, we’ll take what we can get.