Young and online—but will they vote?
October 31, 2012
Voter registration in Los Angeles County is on a roll, with a surge in online registrations, particularly among young voters, helping to set new records leading up to the Nov. 6 presidential election.
The L.A. County electorate now stands at 4,674,338—larger than the registered voter population in 42 of the 50 states. Nearly one million of the county’s voters are under 30, and that’s the group that has most enthusiastically embraced online registration, according to figures released this week by the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk.
In all, 284,268 people registered to vote or updated their registration information in September or October—and 42% of them did so online, the Registrar-Recorder’s analysis found. Of those, nearly half, or 56,980, were between the ages of 18 and 29. And 74% percent of those taking advantage of the online option were under 40.
“For a particular demographic…once it was turned on, they rushed to it,” Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan said. “It was sort of like an ‘if you build it, they will come’ type of scenario.”
Democrats, who make up half of the county’s electorate, were the most avid users of online registration (55.85%), followed by nonpartisans (22.34%) and Republicans (13.8%.) (Traditional, on-paper registration activity during the same September-October period was 57.45% Democratic, 26.37% nonpartisan and 10.83% Republican.)
The Registrar-Recorder also found that Los Angeles County is home to the largest permanent mail-in voting bloc in California, with more than one in four voters now registered to always cast their ballots by mail.
More than 1.2 million such ballots were requested for this election, and 461,322 had been returned as of Oct. 31. Of those, 50.81% came from voters who registered as Democrats, 29.74% by Republicans, and more than 16% by nonpartisan or “decline to state” voters. (Updated 11/2/12: By Thursday afternoon, 549,000 ballots had been returned—50.59% from those registered as Democrats, 29.65% from Republicans and nearly 17% from “decline to state” and nonpartisan voters.)
That breakdown is not surprising, given the political composition of the county electorate. Overall, the latest figures from Logan’s office show that it is 50% Democratic, 22% Republican and 19% “decline to state,” with 4% calling themselves nonpartisan and the rest belonging to various other political parties.
As it has statewide, the pool of registered voters in the county has grown to record levels. The Registrar-Recorder’s analysis shows a 9% jump in registration between 2008 and 2012, with 375,898 new voters added. That beats the historic registration numbers leading up to the 2008 presidential election; during the four-year period from 2004 to 2008, the county’s electorate increased by 8%.
Online registration—being offered for this first time this year—seems to be playing a key role in the increase.
Even Logan seemed surprised at the large volume of registration activity leading up Oct. 22, the deadline for registration.
On that day alone, 88,214 online voter transactions (including both new registrations and updates to existing registrations) were submitted.
“I’ve never seen anything quite like that. That was pretty remarkable,” Logan said.
It remains to be seen whether the newly registered younger voters, who have traditionally lagged behind their elders when it comes to casting ballots, will make their voices heard this Election Day. (The presidential election of 2008 was a big draw for younger voters, however, with 19.5% of 18-29-year-olds casting ballots in Los Angeles County, compared to 18.4% in 2004 and 15.8% in 2004.)
“It’s always encouraging to see an increased level of interest in participation,” Logan said this week. “Now the challenge, of course, for us from an administrative standpoint but also for stakeholders in the election process, is turning that interest in registration into getting those people out and actually having them cast their ballots.”
Read the entire report here.