Apparently spurred by interest in the presidential race or several growth-related measures on the local ballot, a record 1.26 million San Diego County residents have registered to vote in the Nov. 8 general election.
The total, which represents about 85% of those eligible countywide, is an 11% increase in the weeks since the June primary election, county election officials said Tuesday.
In addition, about 100,000 county residents have requested absentee ballots, roughly double the previous record for voting by mail. On Tuesday alone, about 12,000 applications for absentee ballots were received by the registrar of voters, a one-day record.
Election officials say the marked increase in absentee ballot requests can be attributed to a concerted vote-by-mail effort mounted in recent weeks by the registrar’s office.
Officials feared that polling places might clog up because of the length of the November election ballot, which includes as many as 50 national, state and local races and propositions. Among those are several complex state propositions that will affect insurance rates.
The surge in county voter registration follows a trend during recent presidential elections, which have been marked by a steady increase in the number of people who have signed up to vote.
“Every presidential race, we reach an all-time high” in voter registration, said Keith Boyer, the county’s assistant registrar of voters.
Although the electorate typically balloons during presidential races, San Diego County voters may have also been lured by several local ballot measures, among them two competing slow-growth measures in San Diego and two others on the ballot countywide.
“There’s something for everyone in this election,” Boyer said. “Usually the top office is the one that holds the key to the voters, that captures everyone’s imagination. But you sure can’t discount the growth measures, perhaps even more so than the statewide insurance measures.”
Mikel Haas, deputy director in charge of elections for the San Diego City Clerk, agreed that the presidential race and the growth measures may be the chief factors for the increase in registered voters.
“It’s always a risky business to try to ascertain what motivates people to register and vote,” Haas said. “The obvious connection may be that the presidential election has heated up in the last month or so. Another significant factor may be the big growth measures. There’s no greater issue in San Diego than growth, and this is a chance for people to vote on it.”
Registration in San Diego mirrored the overall increase in the county, jumping from about 521,000 in June to more than 600,000 for this election, Haas said.
Aside from the growth measures, voters will decide the fate of competing police review board issues, whether to adopt district elections and staggered work hours.
Republicans saw the greatest gain from the voter increase in both the city and the county.
In the city of San Diego, 42.3% of the electorate is Republican, up from 41.8% in June, while Democratic Party registration dropped from 44.5% in June to 44.3%.
Republicans widened their lead in voters countywide, as registration jumped from 46% in June to 46.5% for the November election. Democrats dropped from 40.4% in June to 39.7%.
Neither Haas nor Boyer had an explanation for the percentage increase in Republican voters. Both parties have mounted extensive recruitment campaigns in the county. Some recruiters are reportedly being paid up to $2 for each voter they sign up.
Boyer said officials have no idea how many voters will sign up for absentee ballots, since the totals have already exceeded projections.
“We’re in uncharted territory now,” Boyer said, noting that the county received just 49,000 applications for absentee ballots in 1984. “We don’t have any solid information on how high it will go.”