Absentee ballots may strongly impact elections

October 15, 2010 7:35:43 PM PDT
Election Day is still more than two weeks away, but Americans across the country are already voting. Absentee ballots are starting to come in, all of this voting by mail gives the Bay Area an interesting advantage.

There are a million more registered voters in Los Angeles than the Bay Area. So you'd figure LA candidates have a big advantage, but that's not true this year.

In Contra Costa County, they're already getting absentee ballots returned. Like the rest of the Bay Area, Contra Costa County has a high percentage of voters who vote by mail.

"Vote by-mail in my [Contra Costa] county will be 60 percent of the vote cast and statewide it might hit 50," Contra Costa County Clerk Steve Weir said.

Compare that 50 to 60 percent to the mere 14 percent of Los Angeles County voters who vote by mail.

"Because the Bay Area mails out millions of absentee ballots that sit on kitchen counters and get mailed in," political analyst Paul Mitchell said.

LA relies instead on day-of voting and that is not nearly as reliable.

"We're going to probably lose 300,000 to 400,000 voters from LA County and you can say that with a great deal of confidence," said.

In heavily democratic and Latino Los Angeles, that will disproportionally hurt Democratic candidates Jerry Brown and Sen. Barbara Boxer. But in the lt. governor's race, it's not so clear.

"LA is 35 percent of the state's Latinos those Latinos that don't turn out could hurt able Maldonado so it is less clear in the lt. governor's race," Mitchell said.

Mitchell says Gavin Newsom might actually benefit from a higher percentage of Bay Area voters.

But there is another wrinkle in this absentee turnout. In Contra Costa County the early absentee returns have historically been Democratic but not this year.

"Right now the Republicans are returning their ballots at a higher rate than the Democrats, which is unusual, it goes against what I've been watching for 10 years," Weir said.

Could be those early republicans are just more eager to vote this time around. Could be they're going to vote this time in greater numbers. We'll continue to track it over the next couple of weeks.


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