Elections

Has mail-in voting changed how California’s early election returns look?

More than 68,000 people in Sacramento County have already voted by absentee ballot as of Tuesday and the patterns look typical of past election years.

White voter participation is up and seniors ages 65 and up made up half of all ballots cast so far, though the electorate is evenly divided among age groups, according to absentee voter data by the consultancy Political Data Inc.

“That crazy skewing is very typical of the early vote. I’m seeing very typical early voting which favors white, old people and Republicans,” said Paul Mitchell, a political consultant and vice president of Political Data. “If it’s going to be a big wave election for Democrats then we have to see a change from this pattern of the election being dominated by white senior voters.”

The figures published by the firm only account for about 7 percent of the ballots issued.

Mitchell cautioned not to “over-interpret the data” since it’s still only a fraction of the electorate and skews toward those who received their ballots first. However, a few meaningful conclusions can be made from it, he said.

The November election will be the second time Sacramento County has used mail-in ballots, which makes it difficult to draw comparisons. Mitchell said the narrative circulating nationally is one of the Democrats mounting a decisive win because of increased turnout and young people.

“The only thing I would say is we need to see this bear out in the early vote,” Mitchell said. “If this is a typical turnout then we’re going to have a typical outcome.”

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