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Early voting numbers low nearly a week out from California primary

At this time during the recall election, 6 million people voted. Fewer than 2 million have returned their ballot for the primary.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The primary election is a week from Tuesday. Registered voters have had their ballots for weeks already, but not many have voted.

Paul Mitchell, a political data expert, said he's slowly watching the ballots come in. Politic Data Inc. has a ballot tracker that follows ballot returns and also breaks down those numbers by party and various demographics.

"Our tracker is kind of struggling to hit the 2 million mark," Political Data Inc. Vice President Paul Mitchell said. "Right now, we're at 1.7 million."

While nearly 2 million sounds like a lot, Mitchell said it needs to be put it in perspective.

"Relative to where we were at this point, say in the recall election, we were at about 6 million," he said. 

Gubernatorial primary elections like this one tend to have lower turnout compared to presidential primaries, but this time around, every registered voter received a mail-in ballot. 

“You can't create enthusiasm just out of whole cloth," Mitchell said. "If the candidates aren't interesting, if the voters are kind of tuned out of politics right now, if they're looking at the ballot and saying 'I don't even know who some of these challengers are,' then maybe there's not a lot of reason to vote.”

When turnout is low, Mitchell said the demographics do not look like the general population. For example, Latinos make up 27% of the voting population. They only represent 15% of the ballots returned so far. 

“When you see a low turnout election, the first thing you should be thinking is 'that's probably not an electorate that's really reflective of the total state's population'," he said.

Mitchell said he’s hoping to get to about a 30% return rate.

In the 2018 gubernatorial primary, that number was about 28% when universal mail-in ballots was not statewide. 

To look at the ballot tracker for yourself, click HERE.

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