Half of CA primary voters may be early voters

There is a new Field poll out that reports on registration status among California voters.

The report indicates that 47% of the voters in the last primary election (2006) were permanent absentee voters. How does this happen when only a quarter of the state’s citizens are registered permanent absentee?

I’ve written about this before on this blog:

  1. The same sort of people who tend to register permanent absentee are the sort of people who vote more frequently
  2. People who register as permanent absentee, and thus get their ballots in the mail, are more likely to vote in lower profile elections (like primaries)
  3. The combination of these effects results in an electorate with a far higher proportion of permanent absentee voters than their proportion of registered voters.

Ok. If you follow that logic, here is the kicker: we know from past work (and it is confirmed in the Field poll) that permanent absentee voters are older, whiter, and wealthier. What we didn’t know previously is that they are much more likely to live in the Bay Area (and conversely less likely to live in Los Angeles County).

That difference is almost completely driven by permanent absentee Democrats, who are a whopping 20% less likely to live in LA than the general population.

I’ve blogged before about how early voting will change the dynamics of the primary contest, but I’ve never given sufficient thought to how the composition of the overall electorate is affected by the composition of the early voters.

Based on pre-election polls, the compositional effects of permanent absentee balloting will help Obama on the Democratic side, and hurt Clinton and Edwards. On the Republican side, these numbers simply have to favor Guiliani.