For more than 25,000 Sacramento County voters, the process of casting a ballot in the Nov. 6 election started with a few clicks of the mouse.
Those voters were some of the hundreds of thousands of residents across the state who took advantage of a new system allowing Californians to complete or change their voter registration online.
While they represented just 5 percent of the county's total voter turnout, voters who cast a ballot after using the online system in the final weeks of the campaign were younger and less Republican than the county's overall electorate. They also headed to the polls at a higher rate.
An analysis by Political Data, Inc., a firm that collects and distributes voter information, puts turnout among Sacramento County voters who used the online system at 85 percent 11 percentage points higher than the county's overall rate. Turnout among 18- to 24-year-olds who used the system was 27 points higher than the countywide figures for that age group.
"It really points to the fact that these online registrants were motivated," PDI Vice President Paul Mitchell said.
A statewide analysis is not complete, but Mitchell said trends in other counties he has studied are similar to those in Sacramento County.
Political consultants and pollsters have credited a surge of young and minority voters for delivering big wins to Democrats, including the passage of Proposition 30. In Sacramento County, high Democratic turnout boosted Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, and Rep.-elect Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, to victory in tight races. It's not yet clear, however, how big of a direct impact the launch of the online registration system had on those trends. The new registration system went online Sept. 19, about a month before the registration deadline.
"The key question about online registration specifically is did online registration make the difference or were those people going to register to vote anyways?" said Eric McGhee, a policy fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California.
Sen. Leland Yee, the San Francisco Democrat who wrote the law putting the online voter registration system in place for the 2012 election, said Friday that he "could not be more pleased" with the results.
"The numbers are overwhelming," Yee said in a written statement. "Not only were we able to increase turnout among those who registered online, but we significantly increased participation among young people and first-time voters."