More than 1 million voters set a record this year by requesting mail in ballots in Los Angeles County for the November general election.
Prior to 1978, only voters with certified medical reasons or who were out of town could vote by mail, but now any registered voter can vote by mail in any election. In addition, since 2001 any registered voter can request permanent vote by mail status.
Statistics from the Los Angeles County Register-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office reflect the increase in the voting by mail trend. In 1980 only 5.28 percent of the ballots cast in the general election were mailed in. By 2008, nearly a quarter (24.06 percent) of the general election ballots were submitted by mail. In 2010, the trend continues to climb as 28.13 percent of the June primary ballots were mailed in. The total number of mail in ballots for this most recent November general election has yet to be compiled, both in LA County as well as the number of voters who voted by mail from Santa Monica.
There are many reasons why people chose to vote by mail. Eileen Shea who is a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Register-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office said a key reason people are voting by mail is convenience. “People are very busy now a days,” she said. “They don’t like being confined to having to vote on one day during certain hours.”
Seniors are one demographic voting by mail in increasing numbers. Santa Monica resident Joanne Leavitt said, “my polling place is inconvenient because there is no public transportation [available for her to get there].” West Los Angeles resident, Martha Shamounsky echoed Leavitt when she said getting to her assigned poll is too difficult because, “I do not drive.”
Jackie Berman was worried she “might not vote” because she travels a lot. Santa Monica resident, Thea Brodkin, is not a permanent mail in voter because she sometimes enjoys going to the polls. However, when there “is a more complicated ballot, I like to have all the information available when I vote.” She added that many seniors like to vote by mail because many of them “don’t know how to get to their poll or some polls do not have parking available.”
Another Santa Monica resident, Barbara Inatsugu, explained that voting by mail is perfect for those who are unable to get to the polls because they are in the hospital, are in school, out of town, or who are serving in the military.
Voting by mail is a more expensive process for the government than having voters go to the polls. When a voter requests their mail-in ballot their registration must be checked. After their ballot is returned their ballot must be sorted by precinct, and their signature must be verified. There are also additional printing and mailing costs.
The count for mail-in ballots is also slower than for ballots cast at the polls. Therefore, the count for this election is still going on because mail in ballots had to be mailed in by October 29 or turned into a precinct by 8 p.m. on November 2. The Los Angeles County Register-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office now has 28 days or until November 30 to certify the November 2 election. So the total number of mail in voters is not immediately known at the time of publication of this article.
More information about mail in ballots can be found at the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s website, www.lavote.net or by calling 800.481.8683.