Sacramento, CA – California’s chief elections officer published his official Statement of Vote on December 11, confirming an all-time record number of votes cast and especially high voter turnout and engagement, aided by Senator Allen's Voter’s Choice Act of 2016 (VCA). The VCA enabled county elections officials to implement more options for how and where to vote in the November 3 election, allowing every registered voter to receive a vote-by-mail ballot and switching neighborhood polling places to better-equipped vote centers.
“When we were working on the Voter’s Choice Act to improve voter turnout in California elections, we couldn't have foreseen the additional benefits it would deliver during a pandemic,” said Senator Allen (D – Santa Monica). “Now the data make it clear that voters appreciated having choices in how and when they were able to cast their ballots. This flexibility – the chance to vote by mail, at a drop box, or in a vote center – helped to propel our high turnout numbers, giving Californians the chance to make their voices heard while maintaining safety and privacy.”
Counties that utilized the VCA saw especially significant jumps in voter turnout in comparison to the 2016 presidential election (which was held before the VCA became law). For example:
• Amador County saw 88.3 percent voter turnout, compared to 81.6 percent in the 2016 presidential election.
• Butte: 83.1 percent turnout, compared to 76.5 percent in 2016.
• Fresno: 74.5 percent turnout, compared to 66.7 percent in 2016.
• Los Angeles: 74.6 percent turnout, compared to 67.6 percent in 2016.
• Orange: 87.2 percent turnout, compared to 80.7 percent in 2016.
• Sacramento: 82.5 percent turnout, compared to 74.5 percent in 2016.
• Santa Clara: 84.8 percent turnout, compared to 82.8 percent in 2016.
The other counties that implemented the VCA include Calaveras, El Dorado, Madera, Mariposa, Napa, Nevada, and San Mateo. Altogether, the counties made up more than half of the Golden State’s registered voters.
Critically, voters were not restricted to one voting location and could vote at any location throughout the county. California law already allowed any eligible voter to vote by mail up to 29 days before Election Day. Under the VCA, any eligible citizen could vote at any vote center in their home county.
Some vote centers were open for 11 days (before and through November 3); a larger number of centers were open for three days plus Election Day. In addition to traditional onsite voting, vote centers offered expanded services such as same-day voter registration and accessible voting machines for people with disabilities. Voters also could fill out the ballot they received in the mail, then drop it off at a vote center or at one of the designated drop boxes throughout the county.
Prior to the 2020 Presidential Election and COVID-19 pandemic, the New Electorate Study and the Public Policy Institute of California had demonstrated VCA achieved the goal of increasing turnout by providing voters with more flexibility.
On the day before the presidential election, Los Angeles County voters had already turned out in droves, with about 3 million people casting ballots ahead of Election Day. That total included more than 2.5 million vote-by-mail ballots received through the postal mail and official drop boxes, and more than 391,000 ballots cast in person at one of the 791 early vote centers in the county.
Los Angeles County voters historically have not voted by mail at high rates. In the 2016 presidential election, 57.8 percent of all ballots cast were vote-by-mail ballots. During the November 3 election this year, 86.7 percent of ballots cast were mail-in ballots, an all-time state record. According to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office, ballot drop boxes were particularly popular, with more than 1.3 million ballots returned in the hundreds of drop boxes before Election Day.
Ben Allen represents the 26th State Senate District, which consists of the Hollywood, Westside, and South Bay communities of Los Angeles County.