Today is Election Day, and once 8 p.m. hits, the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk will begin readying the release of the votes of the 2.22 million registered voters in the City of Los Angeles, as well as another 3.5 million voters across the county.
By Monday, 1,042,449 city residents had already cast a ballot, representing nearly 47% of the total number of registered voters in the city, according to Political Data Inc.
Ballot breakdown by race and ethnicity
The city is seeing some interesting participation trends. Latinos have cast 32% of the votes so far in the city, according to Political Data Inc. The most recent Census data calculates that Latinos comprise 48% of the population. Black voters account for 10% of the returns, and 8.9% of the city’s population. Asian Americans have returned 8.6% of the ballots. According to Census data, Asians make up 11.6% of the populace. The participation of white voters was not fully clear; the database declares that voters who are not Black, Asian American or Latino have cast nearly 49% of ballots.
Los Angeles’ surging early tally is being echoed across the country. The New York Times on Monday afternoon reported that more than 97 million people in the United States had already voted by mail or early in person, representing more than two-thirds of the number of people who voted in 2016.
In Los Angeles County, people have had ample opportunity to vote early. Ballots were sent to all registered voters in the first few days of October, and 118 regional Vote Centers opened on Oct. 24, with another 650 arriving Oct. 30. In addition to voting by mail, there are also more than 400 ballot drop boxes scattered across the region, according to the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk.
The trend of early and distanced voting underscores how both the polarized election cycle and the coronavirus pandemic are propelling people to ensure that their ballot is counted.
A September 2020 survey of Black voters in the United States found racism, the coronavirus and the economy were the most important issues for voters this cycle, and 81% were either extremely likely or likely to vote. According to the Pew Research Center, 32 million Hispanics are projected to be eligible to vote in 2020, a total that exceeds the number of Black eligible voters for the first time. It also found that 54% are eager to vote.
Meanwhile, the 2020 Asian American Voter Survey, conducted by the organization Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote, found that Asian American voters are worried about the safety of voting in person, which is why 26% said they prefer to vote by mail.
Individual concerns are being borne out across Los Angeles. Bryan Hudson, a Black voter and resident of Vermont Square, said he dropped his ballot off at a polling place at Santa Monica College.
“With so many ballots to process and count, I think it is best to vote early in order to not overwhelm those doing the counting at the last minute,” he said last week. “It also seems likely that the earlier the ballots are counted, the sooner we’ll have a decision on the outcome.”
A survey released by the Public Policy Institute of California found that white people are still more likely to vote than Latinos, Asian Americans and Black people. Statewide, white people comprise about 41% of the population, but account for around 55% of likely voters.
Micheal Trujillo, a Los Angeles political strategist, noted that even with the rush of early ballots, people in many communities are accustomed to voting at elementary schools or churches in their neighborhood, and now they have to use a mail-in ballot because of the pandemic.
“A lot of folks are just used to their way of voting,” he said. “Now, due to the coronavirus, we are asking them to be boring and send it in the mail. The ones that do vote by mail historically turn them in late.”
Trujillo added that many people are still making up their mind – maybe not about the presidential race, but for the numerous state and local contests, as well as the 12 state propositions for voters to consider.
“The lower education you have within a community, the later they tend to vote,” he said. “In communities of color, a lot of folks don’t want to get it wrong, so they take their time to do their homework.”
Voters between the ages of 18 and 24 had the lowest ballot return rate so far, making up 10% of returned ballots in the City of Los Angeles, according to Political Data Inc. Voters who are 25-34 had the highest rate of early returns, with 23%.
Trujillo said young voters tend to move more than other age groups, due to school or other obligations, whereas older voters are more likely to be retired and settled.
Although the Registrar-Recorder will count all ballots as long as they are postmarked by Nov. 3 and arrive within 17 days, there are widespread concerns about the impact of slow mail delivery. There have been other issues, too, as recently more than 200 ballots were inside a Baldwin Park dropbox when it was set on fire in a suspected arson attack, according to ABC Los Angeles. Black and Latino people make up 80% of the population in Baldwin Park.
The fire prompted the County Board of Supervisors to order the Registrar-Recorder to pick up ballots from all voting boxes every day.
Crystal Frank, an accounting specialist with the Los Angeles County Foster Youth Services, lives right across the street from where the fire happened in Baldwin Park.
“I was really close to dropping off my ballot in that box this past weekend, but got busy,” said Frank. “I’ll be voting in person at my local vote center. I feel much better about voting in person.”
Frank, who is Latina, said she believes her voice is heard when she votes.
“There are so many people I know who choose not to vote because they know the electoral college makes that decision, but I always urge them to at least vote locally, to vote for their mayor and city council,” she said. That’s how you create change in our community.”
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