Voters might go postal for California's June primary

Courtesy of Patrick Hoesly.


By Cody Drabble

With mail-in ballots for the upcoming statewide primary set to go out in a couple of weeks, a recent study examines just who makes most use of the remote-voting tool.

The California Civic Engagement Project at the UC Davis Center for Regional Change looked at disparities in use of vote-by-mail ballots from 2002 to 2012. Specifically, Asian voters in California are turning to mail-in ballots in greater numbers than Latino numbers.

Project director Mindy Romero said the “large and growing gap between Latino and Asian [voters]” surprised the researchers. Both groups have been historically underrepresented in voting and “have a high percentage of naturalized citizens and language access needs when voting,” she said.

The Sacramento region had the second highest percentage of vote-by-mail use among Asians, following the Bay Area. As a region, Sacramento used the second highest percentage of mail-in ballots after the central coast.

As a group, Sacramento Latino voters’ use of mail-in ballots ranked second after central coast Latino voters. Latino voters in the Sacramento region had the smallest gap between general vote-by-mail turnout and such users generally. Despite this, Sacramento County was “in the middle of the pack” of vote-by-mail use in the state, Romero said.

The Civic Engagement Project plans to look at why certain groups use mail-in ballots in upcoming studies. Possible explanations would include convenience and voter turnout operations directed at certain groups by political campaigns.

More than half of young voters (ages 18 to 23) in the Sacramento region resorted to mail-in ballots, beating the statewide average of 39 percent. Overall youth vote turnout will be studied in future surveys, Romero said.

While voting by mail is well-studied in Oregon, not enough data on California voters has been gathered to answer some of the bigger questions that might guide politicos in forecasting beyond 2014.

Mail-in ballots go out in the first week of May, 29 days before the election.

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