For the first time ever, more than half of all California voters in 2012 voted by mail, and in most regions of the state, more than 60 percent dropped their ballots in the mailbox rather than the polls, according to a new University of California, Davis, policy paper. But not all voters are using mail ballots at the same rates. There are disparities in the rate of vote-by-mail use by age, race, ethnicity and political party in California. “Outreach and services to voters — including election and campaign materials — may need to be retooled to reflect these different use rates to ensure all voters have access to the voting option that is most useful for them, said Mindy S. Romero, author of the paper. Romero is founding director of the UC Davis California Civic Engagement Project, which collects and analyzes statewide data on voters and other civic issues.
The only regions of the state where more voters went to the polls rather than their mailboxes were San Diego and Los Angeles counties, the report said. While only 30 percent of Los Angeles County voters voted by mail, 90 percent in Napa County did. Alpine and Sierra counties do not even have polls, so all those who cast ballots in those counties voted by mail. In 2012, 13 million Californians voted. For this brief, Romero analyzed voter data from the Statewide Database for the years 2002-2012.
Young voters, ages 18-24, voted by mail the least of all age groups, at 39 percent, or 340,000 ballots. While young voters have increased their use of vote-by-mail over the last decade, it is at a slower rate than all other voter age groups. In Sacramento County, however, 52 percent of young voters voted by mail — the highest rate of any region. More than 50 percent of voters ages 55 and older voted by mail. Those 65 and older voted by mail 63 percent of the time.