More than 12,000 mail-in ballots cast in the race for Santa Barbara school board already have been returned to election officials – suggesting great interest in a wide-open campaign likely to produce a high voter turnout.
“People are going to vote this year,” said a veteran insider who does not have a client in the school board contest, which features eight candidates with a wide range of views seeking two seats.
Standard political writer disclaimer: There is, of course, no way of knowing for whom any of the mail-in ballots already handed back to the county Registrar of Voters have been cast, and a countless number of speculative scenarios might be derived from them. Caveat emptor.
For political junkies and self-interested parties, however, statistics compiled by Political Data Inc., a subscription service widely used by political strategists of both parties throughout California, offers a fascinating, inside and granular glimpse of the electorate to date: heavily Democratic, shaped by a small gender gap, with overwhelming portions of white and older voters.
Here is a look at the numbers as of close of business Tuesday.
12,227 of these already have sent in ballots, with two weeks left before the Nov. 6 election. This represents about 11 percent of the overall number of registered voters – but nearly one-fourth of what would result in a robust 50 percent turnout for an off-year, low-information election.
3,172 ballots have been returned by Republicans – about 26 percent. Not surprisingly, their portion at this point is greater than the GOP’s overall registration percentage of 19 percent, because Republicans historically are the most reliable – and typically the earliest – voters, particularly in non-presidential elections.
2,594 ballots – about 21 percent – have come from No Party Preference, non-partisan independents. This compares to their 27 percent slice of overall registration. The school board race is, nominally at least, a non-partisan contest, so it may be that NPPs are waiting to learn more information about the contenders before making their choices. As a general rule, however, registered independents in Santa Barbara tend to favor Democrats, and also often are younger, and vote later, if at all.
WHAT DO WOMEN WANT?
The Political Data Inc. breakdown of ballots includes estimates of the ethnic background of voters based on at least two factors: a) whether or not a voter requested ballot materials in a language other than English; b) a best guess judgment of ethnicity based on a voter’s surname. According to this subjective assement:
1,359 have come from those identified as Latino according to the above criteria. This represents about 11 percent, compared to the 19,621 voters – about 18 percent – counted as Latino in total registration.
Better late than never. There is a late-breaking school board candidate forum scheduled for tonight (Wednesday), 6:30-8:30 p.m. All the candidates have been invited to speak at the event, sponsored by La Casa de la Raza and its online community radio station, KZAA-LP, at 601 E. Montecito St.
Don't forget to vote.