Northbound: Forecasting the June election

Early voting began this week in the June 7 presidential primary election. Are you registered to vote?

I took a closer look at the local races and voter dynamics for this election cycle in San Diego County.

Using data from the San Diego Registrar of Voters and political campaign software, I came to some notable conclusions.

First, on projecting voter turnout: Of those presidential primaries in early states where Independent voters are eligible to cast ballots in the Democratic and Republican presidential contests, total statewide voter turnout has ranged from 44 percent to 50 percent.

However, most of those state ballots were limited to the presidential contest, or only included congressional district races.

San Diego County, and voters statewide, will be casting ballots on additional local races and ballot measures, some of which will increase voter turnout due to competitive contests and campaigns spending resources on Get-Out-The-Vote operations.

Furthermore, California voter registration has skyrocketed over the last few months, particularly among infrequent voter groups — young people, Latinos and Independents.

This is a good indicator of a high voter turnout this election cycle. With Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. John Kasich dropping out of the Republican presidential contest, voter enthusiasm for the June 7 election is decidedly no longer at a bipartisan fever pitch.

Still, there are large numbers of highly motivated voters eager to cast ballots in favor and against particular candidates. Unusual for a presidential primary election, both political parties have controversial, polarizing front runners (Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and businessman Donald Trump) with high unfavorable ratings nationally. This has helped sustain voter attention and strong opinions about which candidates to support and not support.

At this point in time, I project that slightly more than half (50 percent to 53 percent) of all registered voters countywide will cast a ballot in the June 7 election. This range falls short of the countywide voter turnout for the February 2008 presidential primary (60.67 percent) but surpasses the 2012 turnout rate (37.43 percent). Based on the most current countywide voter registration totals (April 30), this would mean approximately 778,000 to 837,000 votes will be cast this election cycle.

Next, onto voter registration: California is experiencing historic growth in new voter registrations — more than 850,000 voters have registered between Jan. 1 and March 31 of this year.

This registration figure is twice the total from the same time period in 2012. San Diego County is no exception.

Crunching the numbers in San Diego County, I found that from Jan. 1 to March 18, 122,701 new registrations were added to the county voter rolls.

These new voters are younger, more diverse and more Democratic-leaning than the overall San Diego electorate.

Slightly more than half (51 percent) are Millennials, and four out of 10 (42 percent) registered with the Democratic Party. Looking at recent presidential primaries, demographically these voters largely fit the profile of Bernie Sanders supporters.

San Diego is “feeling the Bern,” and it may be for a couple more weeks; the final deadline to register to vote is May 23.

What do these trends mean for North County races? Most of these new Bernie voters reside in the city of San Diego, so there’s probably limited impact in local contests in our part of the region.

It’s also unclear how many will be casting votes in down-ticket races.

Two North County local races to follow: in the 52nd Congressional District (Rancho Bernardo, Poway), attorney Denise Gitsham is likely to advance to face incumbent Congressman Scott Peters in the fall general election.

In San Diego County Supervisorial District 3, the conventional political wisdom says that incumbent Supervisor Dave Roberts will fall short of earning the majority of votes, and will instead have to face a challenger in the general election.

Barring polling data, I rate the run-off contest between Escondido Mayor Sam Abed and Encinitas Mayor Kristin Gaspar to face Roberts a toss-up.

 

Vince Vasquez is an elections analyst based in Torrey Pines. He is a Carlsbad resident.

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