Over a Million California Voters Have Already Returned Their Ballots

Early mail-in ballot figures show a record number of returns. How did this happen and will it last?

By Marie Tae McDermott

Good morning.

Less than two weeks since mail-in ballots were sent to every registered voter in California, officials announced this week that over 1.5 million mail-in ballots had already been returned.

That means roughly 7 percent of the 21 million ballots that were sent out earlier this month have been processed. For perspective, there were just 150,000 returned ballots at the same point in time during the 2016 presidential election.

This is surely a record, but this is a year for unprecedented changes.

“We have more vote-by-mail ballots out there than we ever have,” said Mindy Romero, director of the Center for Inclusive Democracy at the University of Southern California. “That being said, we are seeing huge numbers that don’t seem to be explained by simply the amount of additional vote-by-mail ballots that are out there.”

Dr. Romero attributes the flood of ballots to a few factors. For one, she surveyed eligible voters in California and found that 14 percent of respondents were concerned about becoming infected with the coronavirus if they were to vote in-person at a polling site. For African-Americans, that number was twice as high.

In addition, President Trump’s claims about voter fraud leading up to the elections and worries about Postal Service delays might have spurred people to cast their ballots as soon as possible. That would leave plenty of time for ballots to make it through the mail and for officials to review ballots for discrepancies.

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