‘Vote by Mail’ Ballots Sent in California Primary

Mail-in ballot (Sean Freese / Flickr / CC / Cropped)
Mail-in ballot (Sean Freese / Flickr / CC / Cropped)

County election officials in the California began sending absentee and “vote-by-mail” ballots to military and overseas voters Friday — the first ballots to be delivered for the California primary on June 7.

Ballots will be sent through April 23. Other “vote-by-mail” ballots will be sent May 9 through May 31, which is the final day to request a vote-by-mail ballot. In California, voters may sign up to vote by mail even if they will be present on Election Day.

According to the office of the California Secretary of State, since 2008 more than half of all ballots in primary elections have been cast by mail, reaching 69.40% in 2014. In 2012, more than half of all ballots in the general election were cast by mail for the first time, rising to 60.52% in 2014. Once a voter has registered to vote by mail, he or she will continue to receive a mail-in ballot for subsequent elections. Still, turnout hit a record low in 2014.

The result is that the crucial period for campaigning in the state is actually early May, though the June 7 will loom large in the public imagination. Early voting typically benefits the frontrunner, though the Wall Street Journal notes that the most passionate and most organized supporters of any candidate are the likeliest to vote early.

The generous period California allows for registration and voting by mail probably benefits Donald Trump, as some of his voters will learn that they have to be registered as Republicans to vote for him in California’s closed presidential primary. (The rest of California’s offices are subject to a “jungle primary,” in which voters can choose any of the candidates.)

Citizens may register to vote in California until May 23 for the June primary, and newly sworn-in citizens have until the June 7 primary day itself. Mailed ballots must be postmarked by June 7 and received by June 10 to count.


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