Local Voter Turnout Highest Among Mail-in Ballots

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    NEWSLETTERS

    About 55 percent of San Diego County voters regularly cast mail ballots instead of going to a polling place on Election Day. Now, the registrar wants to switch exclusively to mail-in ballots. NBC 7’s Gene Cubbison reports. (Published Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014)

    San Diego County's registrar of voters is on a mission to get more of us to cast ballots.

    He says voting by mail is really the way to go – saving taxpayer money and boosting participation.

    About 55 percent of the county's voters regularly cast mail ballots, up from just under 30 percent in 2000.

    Their turnout rate far exceeds that of people who vote at polling places, and more voters are requesting mail ballots in every new election cycle.

    "This is an ongoing trend that's happened throughout our county,” Registrar Michael Vu said.  “And we've been highly attuned to the behavior of our voters, how they would like to vote. What they're saying is they’d like to vote conveniently in the comforts of their home."

    As a result, they avoid election-day lines and help the county cut 30 to 40 percent off the costs of what precinct polling places have incurred.

    Also,  their promptness returning ballots after they're mailed shortens lines at the precinct polls on Election Day and  expedites reporting of outcomes after the polls have closed.
               
    The registrar’s charts and graphs, which will be presented Wednesday to the San Diego City Councils’ Economic Development & Intergovernmental Relations Committee, show that mail-ballot voters have cast the dominant number of votes in recent election cycles.
               
    And those voters tend to send their ballots back sooner, rather than later in the cycles.

    "Once I get the mail-in ballot I'll starting going through it -- look for things online that I can see and compare what they're trying to do," said Poway resident Kevin Martin. “Once I feel comfortable with what I'm reading, I'll send it in."
               
    So as those ballots pile up,  campaign strategists can narrow their outreach to voters yet to cast ballots -- and get a quicker jump on what have been end-game strategies.

    "Typically the negative stuff comes in the final week to 10 days of the campaigns,” said Jason Roe, a veteran political consultant. “Now I think you're going to see campaign professionals pushing to do that stuff a little bit earlier because they don't want people to cast a vote without knowing what's wrong with their opponent."

    Also, Roe pointed out Tuesday: "As people vote, we take those voters out of our targeted universe of people we're mailing and calling and reach out to with door-to-door programs … so I think it really allows us to get more scientific about executing the campaign."

    It seems, however, that there will always be a segment of the electorate that has a fondness for old-school voting.

    "We're a very convenience-oriented society,” said Escondido resident Rhonda Telfer. “But I also think you miss a chance to interact with the people who are volunteering -- have that 'American experience.'"

    Vu favors maintaining a number of "voting centers" for walk-in balloting, while conducting more and more elections primarily by mail ballot.
               
    He said fewer than a dozen cases of suspected voter fraud have arisen from several million mail ballots since 2008.
               
    Today, Oregon and Washington are the only states with all-mail ballot elections.

    His counterparts in those states, according to Vu, “only have glowing remarks about their vote-by-mail program ... they love it, they’ve seen the savings, they’ve seen the participation statistics rise.”