Just how big is LA voter turnout?

Massive amounts of early-arriving ballots alter the picture for local races
City Government


Election season finally ends tomorrow, Nov. 3, but voter turnout in Los Angeles has already tilted the scales.


According to a Sunday morning tweet from the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, more than 327,000 county residents have voted in person, and 2.36 million have voted by mail. Altogether, turnout stood at 46.8% of registered voters three days before the ballots will be tallied. 


Los Angeles County voter turnout in presidential elections

chart of voter turnout in Los Angeles County


The county turnout level has already blown by the 2.12 million votes that were cast in the primary election in March. That represented 38.5% of registered voters


Given the significant number of people participating, turnout is almost certain to surpass the level in the 2016 presidential election. In the Donald Trump/Hillary Clinton battle, 3.54 million votes were cast in Los Angeles County, a 67.5% turnout rate. That was down slightly from the 68% in the 2012 presidential election.


In elections before 2020, residents of Los Angeles County were limited to voting by mail if they requested a ballot, or voting in-person on Election Day. This year, as part of the Voting Solutions for All People initiative, regional Vote Centers opened either four or 11 days before Election Day. 


Additionally, due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the effort to maintain physical distancing, ballots in early October were mailed to all 5.6 million registered voters in the county. Those who do not want to vote in person or trust in the timeliness of the United States Postal Service can place their ballot by Nov. 3 in any of the more than 400 voting drop boxes spread across the county.


Nearly 50,000 people in Los Angeles County came out during the first weekend of in-person voting on Oct. 24, according to Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan. On Halloween, more than 20,000 people cast in-person ballots in the two hours after Vote Centers opened, and by 4 p.m. that day (three hours before the centers closed) 48,000 had cast ballots in person.


In certain City of Los Angeles races, turnout is reaching levels that would have been unthinkable even five years ago ago. Take, for example, the Fourth City Council District, where one-term incumbent David Ryu is seeking to defend his Sherman Oaks-to-Silver Lake seat.


Turnout in Los Angeles Council District 4


In the March 2015 primary, when 14 people were running for an open seat, a total of 24,378 votes were cast. The city, in an effort to boost turnout, then changed its election schedule, shifting from odd-numbered years to even years in order to align with state and federal voting schedules. In the primary this past March, more than 76,660 people voted in the district.


Ryu earned just under 45% and was forced into a runoff by challenger Nithya Raman, who received about 41% (a second round occurs if no one gains more than 50%). The contested race is drawing ample attention from residents: According to tracking from Political Data Inc. on Sunday morning, more than 93,000 ballots in the district have been returned. 


Turnout in Los Angeles Council District 10


Turnout also appears to be surging in the 10th Council District, where current County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas is in a runoff against attorney Grace Yoo to represent the district that includes West Adams, Mid-City, portions of Koreatown and other areas (current officeholder Herb Wesson is termed out). A Political Data Inc. database, also from Sunday morning, showed that 53,730 ballots had been returned in the district. 


That is more than the 47,530 ballots cast in the district in March, when Ridley-Thomas received 44.3% of the returns, to Yoo’s 23.6%. In March 2015, just 14,048 people in CD 10 cast ballots. 


How We Did It: We examined publicly available election results and data from the Los Angeles County Registrar/Recorder/County Clerk and the Los Angeles City Clerk. We also looked at information from Political Data Inc. 


Got a question? Email us at askus@xtown.la.