Now, as election day approaches, we’re getting our first real-time glimpse of voter enthusiasm.
The early numbers look good for Democrats. But Republicans are betting on a late-breaking wave of pro-recall ballots — a wave probably too small to sink Newsom if Democrats turn out in numbers that parallel their true electoral strength but possibly enough to capsize the once-unsinkable governor if his supporters leave their ballots unopened or skip the option of in-person voting.
12% of ballots have been collected
State elections officials on Thursday released their first snapshot of voter participation in the gubernatorial recall, putting the number of ballots collected across Los Angeles (Surfing) and Orange counties have reported returned ballot counts consistent with the statewide average, the early response has been huge in Bay Area counties that are solidly Democratic. Republicans hold sway: 11% of ballots returned in Riverside County, less than 10% in San Bernardino County, only 7% in Fresno County and a scant 1.9% of ballots returned in Kern County, according to the state survey.
Those trends align with a tracker of returned ballots designed by Paul Mitchell, a political data analyst whose firm, Political Data Inc., provides information for Democratic candidates and campaigns. Mitchell’s numbers include ballot counts by political party and, as of Thursday, showed 55% of ballots that have been collected were cast by Democrats and 23% were cast by Republicans. Twenty-two percent of the state’s cast ballots came from independent voters or voters registered to other parties.
Now, the disclaimer: This is a snapshot and a lot can and probably will change over the next two weeks. Mitchell said Thursday he’s surprised the voting patterns of 2020 are still holding up — Democrats boasting on social media of ballots already cast, Republicans either holding on to their ballots or perhaps deciding to surrender those mailed ballots and vote in person closer to election day.
The analysis from Mitchell’s firm also sorts ballots by the age of voters and uses census data and other resources to track voters by race and ethnicity. A large majority of the returned ballots (71%) came from voters age 50 or older in the private survey. And most of the ballots returned so far are from white voters with just 16% cast by Latinos — something worth watching over the next couple of weeks.
Fact check: Ballots aren’t being ‘counted’
One particularly viral — and false — story in circulation on social media is that the ballots that have been collected have already been “counted” by elections officials and thus there’s an effort underway to ensure Newsom prevails.
State election law allows ballots to be processed when they arrive — signatures on envelopes checked, a voter’s eligibility confirmed, torn ballots tended to — at any time over the 29 days before Sept. 14. But the votes aren’t tallied by counties until after the polls close at 8 p.m. on election night.
Not all of the confusion can be blamed on false accusations. A number of voters, after returning their ballots, have received an auto-generated text or email that says the ballot has been “received and counted.” It was a poor choice of words that, given the heightened concerns these days about elections, has left some voters unsettled.