Sacramento Region Votes Early, If Not Often

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, December 3, 2007

There’s a new craze when it comes to election time – voting by mail.  The number of Californians casting what used to be called “absentee ballots” has gone up sharply since 2000.  That’s because the state now allows you to register for permanent vote-by-mail status.  KXJZ crunched the numbers and found the Sacramento region is ahead of the curve.  
Here’s the most interesting stat we found: Out of more than 600,000 ballots cast in Sacramento, Yolo, El Dorado and Placer Counties in the November 2006 election, just 47 more people went to the polls than voted by mail.
Brad Buyse is with the Sacramento County Elections Department.
Buyse: “We don’t think that’s gonna change. If anything, we see that it’s gonna increase in 2008.”
And it’s not just in our neck of the woods, either.  Mark DiCamillo runs one of the state’s best-known political surveys, the Field Poll.  He says voting by mail is a growing phenomenon in California.
DiCamillo: “In the last primary election for governor in 2006, 47 percent of all voters voted by mail.  We think that – as we look ahead to the February, 2008 primary – it may be the first statewide election in which a majority of all votes are cast by mail.” 
DiCamillo gives much of the credit to a change in California law.  After 2000, the state created that permanent vote-by-mail status.  By November 2002, just over a million people had signed up.  As of this past February, it was over four million.  So the Field Poll wondered, what kind of Californian votes by mail?  The results are out.
DiCamillo: “They tend to be people who are stable in their communities, have been there a while, own their homes, and tend to be older.” 
And three-quarters of them are white, though income is actually not a factor.
DiCamillo says the surge in voting by mail could shake up California’s February 5th presidential primary.
DiCamillo: “It might even magnify in those voters’ minds the importance of the events of Iowa and New Hampshire.” 
That’s because permanent mail voters will start seeing their ballots arrive on January 7th – four days after the Iowa caucuses and one before the New Hampshire primary.