Long Beach expects historic voter turnout for Election Day

With this year’s heightened political awareness and ease of early voting and voting by mail, Long Beach is expecting one of the largest voter turnouts seen in recent history.

City Clerk Monique De la Garza said as of Wednesday, 86,246 (nearly one-third) of the 293,918 ballots issued in Long Beach have so far been returned.

The presidential election in 2016 saw 266,963 registered voters with more than 60% of those casting ballots.

De la Garza said she expects record numbers this year given the current political climate. Long Beach is also likely to see a record number of votes by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In the March primary, 66% of the 106,589 ballots were cast by mail, up from 48% in November 2018 and 38% in 2016.

While the majority is voting by mail, De la Garza said she’s still expecting a large number in person on Election Day. As of Wednesday, 188,826 ballots remain outstanding, she said.

“I think many people will chose to vote in person on Tuesday,” she said in an email.

For those planning to vote in person, all Los Angeles County vote centers are following strict health and safety guidelines and the county has also implemented a new Vote Center Wait Time feature so voters can find the centers with the shortest wait time: locator.lavote.net/locations.

While Election Day doesn’t arrive until Tuesday, voting is already well underway, and casting a ballot in person will become a lot easier on Friday, when hundreds of additional vote centers open across Los Angeles and Orange counties.

More than 100 vote centers opened in Los Angeles County last week, with about 650 more set to open Friday.

Vote center locations include major event venues, such as Staples Center, SoFi Stadium, the Forum, Dodger Stadium and Banc of California Stadium.

Any registered voter in the county can cast a ballot at any vote center within the county, regardless of the voter’s home address.

Residents can either use the voting machines at the center or drop off the mail-in ballots that were sent to every registered voter. The centers will be open every day through the Tuesday election.

The vote center concept replaces the traditional precinct system, which required voters to cast ballots at designated locations on Election Day. Election officials hope the availability of vote centers will encourage people to cast their ballots early, reducing the possibility of long lines at polling places on election night.

The early voting message appears to be having an impact.

According to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office, nearly 2 million ballots had already been received as of Wednesday, roughly five times the number that were returned by this point in 2016’s presidential election.

– City News Service contributed to this report.

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Kelly Puente is an award-winning general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. She has worked as a journalist in Long Beach since 2006, covering everything from education and crime to courts and breaking news. Kelly previously worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register before joining the Post in 2018. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].
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