Voting Begins Today for District 2 Supervisor – Election decided in next 10 days?
The election is abbreviated from most elections and it is sandwiched between two closely scheduled regular elections. In the first “Special Election” in El Dorado County in many years, the time has rolled around for voters to open the mail box to vote. Today the elections department began mailing VBM election ballots to about 15,500 mail only ballots in the D2 race. Due to a bit of a delay, some ballots will be mailed today and most ballots will be delivered to the post offices by Wednesday. VBM ballots are also known as “Absentee Ballots.”
“Mail” ballots have become more important in California elections and this elect they will be absolutely critical. One reason is the volume of ‘Mail’ ballots in this race and other reasons include the higher likelihood that “Mail” voters will actually cast the vote, the difficulty in changing a “Mail” vote after mailed, and many other factors. In this race, more than 2/3 of all eligible voters in the race are “Mail” only ballots. The short of it is this: 15,500 voters will begin to vote this week that are most likely to actually cast a vote; while only 6,500 voters will vote at a polling place on Sept. 9, election day, and they will be less likely to actually cast a vote. In other words, the person that captures the most “Mail” ballots will be in a position that the “Day of” voters will be unlikely to change the results of the “Mail” ballots.
In this race about 2/3 of ballots will be by mail, but expect to see closer to ¾ of the cast votes being from “Mail” voters.
The number of “mail” votes is just one unusual aspect of this race with low voter turn-out being another critical factor. The latest June election had such poor voter participation that we set a precedent in the county with low turn-out that was magnified in most California jurisdictions outside of the county. In the highly contested Supervisor’s races in Tahoe and on the Divide both brought in fewer voters than most recent elections. The unusual timing and scheduling of the D2 race has almost every prognosticator predicting exceptionally low participation by voters.
In June, District 4 had just over 10,000 voters participate of the more than 23,000 eligible to vote. That was less than 46% voter participation.
In District 5, the results were more depressed with less than 5,500 voters actually voting of the nearly 18,000 eligible to vote. That was only about 33% voter participation.
In District 2, there are just over 22,000 eligible voters. If June is an example, we can expect 5,000-10,000 votes to actually be cast. Most experts think it will be closer to the 7,000-8,000 votes in this off-cycle “Special Election” election in an off-cycle election year in a political environment that will not be driving voters to the polls for other issues.
In a race with 6 candidates, even under higher than expected turnout, that is just 1,700 votes per candidate! Of those votes, about 1,250 of them will come from “Mail” voters.
When we look at these numbers, it is clear that a good share of the bigger pool of “Mail” voters is critical to have any chance to win with election day voters and that the campaign that gets the most “Mail” voter’s votes, will be almost unbeatable on election day.
With this in mind, signs for judging the efficaciousness of a campaign will be seen in the next two weeks. Any campaign that is most effective at the political process called, “Get the vote out or GOTV” will be calling on every voter that has expressed interest in a candidate. If you have formally expressed interest in a campaign, and you do not hear from them in the week or two, that is a sign of a weak ground game in the critical GOTV effort for critical mail only voters.
Without a major, and public, revelation about a candidate prior to September, the race will be won or lost in the next two weeks. Campaigns with an experienced ground game will benefit from the short timeframe of this election by simply focusing on getting known supporters to vote, just as those that are new to the game will suffer from the inability to convince voters to support them AND THEN get those supporters to cast their votes. Although one would think these two things go hand-in-hand, experience in California elections have proven that simply getting know supporters to vote is at least as critical as getting voters to support a candidate in the first place, but that one does not necessarily follow the other.
At this point, momentum is shifting but the GOTV efforts will fundamental change the events to date. We can see that David Pratt’s early support has not grown significantly in the last two weeks, but the Nutting campaign has filed another campaign report showing the non-loan contributions climbing to over $7,500. In another apparent shift, the campaign of Shiva Frentzan is losing support of no-growth petitioners as they are lining up behind George Turnboo rather than the Center/Moore supported candidate thereby splitting the environmental vote. We have not seen many changes in the McNeal or Amaral campaigns. Although these shifts tell us something about the shifting landscape, those shifts will be minor when the effects of the GOTV programs take effect this week.
Who can “Get the Vote Out” is the real question now.
In marketing it is called “conversion” when you convert a prospect that you have already sold (conceptually) into a paying customer. In politics the same concept applies where the voter is sold on a candidate, and then they are “converted” into casting their vote in a second step. This defines the difference between the “sales pitch” for a candidate that we see lots of, and that separate effort to get those voters successfully targeted in the “Pitch” to actually get out and vote.
Today Pratt and Nutting are front runners with Frentzen a very close 3rd, but that is subject to big changes in the next 7 days. Frentzen has broad support in Cameron Park but she has not penetrated the rural areas of the District. The depth of her support is not easy to judge. But it looks as if her support is shallow and that she has no ground game to convert that general support into actual votes. Turnboo faces a similar problem in that he has great core support, but not enough to win. If he benefits from the supporters of land development limiting ballot measures that are disgruntled with Bill Center and Jim Moore' killing of their initiative efforts, than that will come from the supporters of the proposed initiates as Turnboo has no known ground game to get out the vote. But this is not so clear, as each campaign has consultants and friends whose influence becomes visible here and there.
Pratt, Nutting, McNeal, and Frentzen have known help that does understand the importance of the process of getting out the vote or GOTV. Whether or not each candidate will understand the importance of the GOTV efforts and empower their team to dedicate resource to the effort is unknown. How effective they will be at this effort is unknown. What is known is that the campaigns that fails to get enough votes in the next week or two, will have a nearly impossible handicap come Election Day.