Gov. Jerry Brown can still emerge victorious with his tax increase Proposition 30 but he needs a different electorate than the one we are seeing today. Voting has been underway for two weeks now and we are beginning to see the outlines of the November 6 electorate. Some 8.6 million Californians can now Vote By Mail. These VBM voters include permanent absentee voters, voters who do not live in a precinct, and voters who request an absentee ballot. As of Tuesday, October 30 – one week from the election – some 2.5 million VBM ballots had been processed by the counties. Thanks to the folks at Political Data, we know a lot about these voters. They track closely to the primary election electorate that was older, whiter and more conservative than the electorate as a whole. The 2.5 million ballots also represent a turnout twice that of the primary election in June that was only 31 percent of eligible voters, one of the lowest in history.
If the November turnout is only 62 percent of registered voters, Proposition 30 will lose because that electorate will be much more like a non-presidential year electorate than what we are used to in a presidential year. In 2008, the turnout was 79.4 percent of registered voters. Bring it up to that level, and Proposition 30 probably passes.
And there is one way that might happen. Thanks to passage of legislation providing for on-line voter registration, there has been a huge increase in the California electorate, from 17.1 million in the primary to over 18 million for the general election. The new voters are overwhelmingly Democratic, some 48 percent to just 20 percent who are Republicans.
These are not absentee voters; they will show up, if they turn out at all, on Election Day. But they could dramatically change the political landscape of California – if they vote. Virtually all the competitive congressional and legislative races have seen a big increase in Democratic registrants thanks to on-line registration. Get out these voters and the Democrats might achieve a sweep of the competitive races.
And these voters, younger and obviously more liberal, could carry Proposition 30 over the finish line, although we may not know until days after the election.
I have always felt that the key to victory in California in 2012 is who votes. The primary turnout was great for Republicans, and they are doing just fine with the 2.5 million Californians whose ballots have already been processed. But is there a mass of Democratic voters poised to come out on Election Day and sweep away what’s left of the Republican Party and the anti-tax movement in California. The new registration figures certainly show this could happen; Election Day will tell us if it does.