Absentee voting on the rise in municipal races in California

The use of absentee ballots is rising in municipal races in California, according to data collected and reported on in a story in today’s Pasadena Star-News:

Absentee ballots accounted for roughly 42 percent of all votes cast in both the recent Measure A election in Glendora and the Wal-Mart-inspired recall election in Rosemead, according to results from both races. These figures reflect statewide trends that some experts say have the absentee vote approaching the 50 percent mark.


“There is no question that the use of both absentee and early voting is increasing at local, state and national levels,” said Michael Alvarez, a professor of politics at Caltech.

“Voters like it because it is more convenient. Election officials like it because it makes their life easier. And parties and candidates like it because it is becoming a part of their targeting and micro-targeting strategy.”

But the use of absentee ballots in these municipal races sometimes has unintended consequences, as may have been the case in the Glendora race:

Some of the early election tactics used in the Glendora campaign led to accusations that proponents of Measure A were illegally trying to influence voters. NJD Ltd., which proposed the measure to allow construction of an 18-hole golf course on its hillside land in exchange for a 338-unit housing development on the Glendora Country Club, admitted its campaign workers provided $10 gift cards to residents to encourage them to turn in their absentee ballots.

The company denied its staffers told people how to vote, or even identified themselves as Measure A supporters, saying it was simply trying to increase voting for a special election they said the city purposefully scheduled a month before the November election to suppress turnout.

While NJD’s efforts did bring in more than 5,000 absentee ballot applications on top of the city’s 2,700 permanent absentee votes, in the end the tactic appears to have backfired. Only 624 of the more than 4,900 absentee ballots counted so far supported the developer’s measure.

An interesting development, to see the increased use of abstentee ballots in these municipal races.