Midterm election: Nearly 20% of L.A. County voters have already cast ballots
Two days before voting closes, more than 17% of registered voters in Los Angeles County have already cast their ballots for the midterm election, the vast majority voting by mail, according to the L.A. County registrar-recorder’s office.
Election experts say the early ballot counts don’t give a good indication of the final election turnout, and it’s still uncertain whether the bitter winter storm that is expected to hit Southern California on election day will deter voters from showing up to the polls.
More than 70,000 people in Los Angeles County have voted in person — about a third of whom voted Sunday — and over 900,000 have voted by mail, as of counts late Sunday. Voting in Tuesday’s election remains open Monday and Tuesday, with voting centers closing Tuesday at 8 p.m., and mail-in ballots requiring postmarks of Tuesday or earlier.
The registrar-recorder said an additional 24,000 vote-by-mail ballots were counted by late Monday morning, bringing L.A. County’s total votes to just over 1 million and close to 18% of registered voters.
There are 5.6 million people registered to vote in L.A. County this election, according to the county, about a million short of estimates of all eligible voters. The county opened 500 additional voting locations this weekend, operating a total of 640, all of which will remain open through Tuesday.
What do you need to know about the 2022 election? Find out with these voting guides for local and California races and state propositions.
Even with early voting numbers, experts say it’s still hard to predict the turnout, especially given the growing reliance on vote-by-mail ballots, which can continue to come in days after election night.
However, when compared with votes tallied two days before the 2020 presidential election — which historically draws higher turnout than midterms — early voters have not been as active this election cycle, according to data provided by the USC Price School of Public Policy’s Center for Inclusive Democracy. More than 40% of registered voters had already submitted ballots or voted in person two days before the 2020 election, compared with almost 18% as of early Monday.
Final tallies in 2020 showed voters came out in record numbers, with more than 75% of those registered in Los Angeles County casting ballots. The USC policy center did not have the voter turnout rate for two days before the 2018 midterm elections, in which the final voter turnout hit 60% in L.A. County.
Mindy Romero, the director of the Center for Inclusive Democracy, cautioned that sizing up voter turnout this midterm with the 2020 election is far from a fair comparison, given the prominence of the presidential race and how the 2020 contest occurred during the height of the pandemic.
“We can’t really compare this election at this point,” Romero said. “We’re still learning about how people are changing or adjusting [their voting habits]. ... It’s always difficult to predict, but coming out of the pandemic it’s even more difficult.”
She also pointed out that L.A. County has historically recorded a larger share of in-person voters than other counties, which can also make it hard to draw conclusions from early voting.
Voter turnout in the most recent June primary hovered at about 30%, a decent showing for a primary election — but still well below recent midterm or presidential election years.
“I would be very surprised if we went past 2018 numbers, but anything’s possible,” Romero said. “I’m thinking that this will be a good year of turnout for L.A. County — for what we would expect for a midterm election year.”
While the city’s mayoral race has become increasingly competitive, she said, there are few other close contests locally or statewide — or even ballot initiatives — that are energizing Angelenos to get to the polls. She also said it’s still unclear how voters may be motivated by the recent leaked recording of Los Angeles City Council members using racist language, or become more apathetic.
The overwhelming shift to vote-by-mail ballots fundamentally altered how Californians participate in elections. Ballot tabulation can extend for weeks afterward.
It’s likely voter turnout — and election results — will take days, if not weeks, to finalize as more and more voters have shifted to mail-in ballots in recent years. Officials are warning that candidates and voters should prepare for ballot tabulation to extend for weeks after election day, though Romero said an update on unprocessed ballots Thursday should pretty accurately show total turnout.
And added into the election mix this year is an early November storm sweeping across Southern California, which is forecast to bring rain across the region Tuesday — often a concern for voter turnout. Some studies have shown, though, that increased early voting can mitigate weather’s effect.
“It can be an issue, and not just for voters,” Romero said of the rain. “It can be an issue for the get-out-the-vote efforts, the volunteers.” But she said she wasn’t convinced the weather would have much effect on any particular outcomes in California.
Voting centers are open through 7 p.m. Monday and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. A full list of sites and an online map can be found online. People can return their vote-by-mail ballots through the post office or by dropping them off at an official drop box location or at in-person voting centers.
More details on how to vote in this election, the important races and what issues are at stake can be found in this guide.
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