As an elections analyst, I typically release a series of key voter registration trends and turnout projections to watch for prior to Election Day. This year, I’m happy to release a sneak preview exclusively for Coast News readers.
Turnout-wise, this will be a high turnout election. San Diego County typically experiences somewhere around a 75 percent to 83 percent turnout rate for general presidential elections. This is partly due to a high awareness and motivation to vote by even “low-propensity” voters — most everyone in America has a strong, informed opinion about who’s qualified to be president. And this year is no different — Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are perhaps the most well-known, polarizing, un-liked candidates to ever win the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations in generations.
I’m projecting that countywide, voter turnout will be more than 80 percent this election cycle. This is partly based also on the fact that now, absentee ballots will be accepted by the Postal Service even if they don’t have sufficient postage, and will be accepted by the Registrar of Voters even if they are received days after Election Day. In prior cycles, thousands of ballots wouldn’t be counted for these simple reasons.
An interesting phenomenon to watch for on Election Night is what effect voter drop-off on down-ballot races will have. Historically, it’s Democratic voters that have been more likely to only cast their vote for “big ticket” races, like president, and skip the remaining races. This year, however, we have what I’ve been calling the “jumbo ballot” — two full pages of state, county and local races, all in tiny, condensed font. The ballot is, in a word, intimidating. I think this fall you’ll see more than just a large Democratic voter drop-off — I think you’ll probably also see lots of Independents and Republicans not casting their vote in down-ballot races. This will probably skew the vote in local races to be more partisan, and far older than the electorate overall.
The resulting volatility may give us some surprises on Election Night. If only older Democratic and Republican voters are voting in down ticket races, there is likely to be a higher skepticism and scrutiny of candidates and ballot measures. That probably results in more No votes on local measures, and a higher deference to incumbents — with exceptions. Challengers and campaigns with sophisticated voter targeting techniques and sufficient financial resources may be able to overcome this phenomenon, or make their races closer than they otherwise would be.
Have you voted yet in the Nov. 8 election? Be sure to plan plenty of time to cast your ballot, particularly if you are a polling location voter.
It took me half an hour to get through my Carlsbad ballot! Consider that a warning.
Vince Vasquez is an independent elections analyst and an economist based in Torrey Pines. He is a Carlsbad resident.