Local Elections

Two-thirds of Sacramento County voters cast ballots by mail

About two out of every three Sacramento County voters cast their ballots in the Nov. 4 election by mail, setting a record for a general contest, the county’s registrar of voters said Tuesday.

Jill LaVine certified the county’s results, in which 330,817 voters cast ballots, and 66 percent did so by mail. That percentage beat the previous general election high of 58 percent in November 2012.

“More and more people are doing it. It’s a natural trend,” LaVine said. “It’s easy and convenient.”

The mail record came during a lackluster election in which voter turnout also reached a record low for a Sacramento County general election. Based on final results, 48 percent of registered voters participated, the smallest turnout according to records that date back to 1936. The county’s previous low was 58 percent in 2006, the year Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger cruised to a re-election victory.

LaVine said the mail trend is further evidence that the state should conduct elections completely by mail. Right now, the increase in vote-by-mail ballots has forced the county to essentially run two elections – one by mail, the other at the polls.

The dual election process delays election results by three to four days, because the county has to stop counting early mail-in ballots prior to Election Day to set up and run voting precincts, LaVine said.

Voters and candidates had to wait more than two weeks after polls closed to learn that Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, beat Republican challenger Doug Ose in a race for Congress. Both sides closely watched the counting process after the election, and Bera won by 1,455 votes in Tuesday’s final certification.

While LaVine and other election officials across the state have pushed for all-mail elections, some advocacy groups, such as the California Voter Foundation, insist that polling places need to remain in place to keep the public interested in the election process.

LaVine said election rules scheduled to start in coming years will continue the trend of voting by mail. Next year, ballots postmarked by Election Day can be counted if they’re received within three days.

Call The Bee’s Brad Branan, (916) 321-1065. Follow him on Twitter @BradB_at_SacBee.