Early California voting returns so far aren’t showing a major increase in enthusiasm.
About 570,000 Californians have cast ballots, according to county voting data compiled by Political Data Inc. That’s about 100,000 more than voted at this point in the 2014 election. But roughly 3 million more Californians received mail-in ballots this year.
In total, less than 5 percent of people with mail-in ballots have so far returned them. Five counties are for the first time this year sending mail-in ballots to everyone.
“Right now it’s hard to tell exactly how much we’re measuring enthusiasm and how much we’re measuring changes in the mechanics of the elections,” said Paul Mitchell, vice president of Political Data Inc.
Monday is the deadline to register to vote, although people can register conditionally through Election Day. Their ballots will be treated like provisional ballots that are counted after the voter information is verified.
More than 19 million people registered to vote as of early September, a record in a California gubernatorial election.
The early voting pool leans Republican, white and older, a trend that’s typical compared to past elections. That pattern holds in competitive congressional districts in the Central Valley and Orange County, where Democrats are trying to break Republicans long hold on the seats. They’re banking on increased enthusiasm among voters angry at President Donald Trump or concerned about issues such as healthcare and immigration to drive turnout.
“For Democrats to win these competitive congressional races they need atypical,” Mitchell said.
Statewide, Republicans count for just a quarter of registered voters. But they make up 39 percent of early voters.
Eighty percent of already returned mail ballots are from voters older than 50, even though they make up only about half of the electorate.
Mitchell predicts a 56 percent voter turnout. That would be higher than the 2014 election but lower than 2010.