Salinas, CA – Election Day is still a few days away, but for the past few weeks thousands of voters have been casting their ballots in Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties.
"We like that idea of standing in line," said Ophelia Raymond, "but because we are going out of town, we want to be sure that our vote is in." Raymond and her husband Frank voted at the Monterey County Elections Office in Salinas.
Between the voters like the Raymonds who have cast their ballots in person, and those who mailed in ballots, one week before the election more than 37,000 or 24% of registered voters had already voted in Monterey County. In Santa Cruz County, more than 26,000 or 18% had already cast a ballot.
Early voting is growing increasingly popular across the nation. George Mason University Professor Michael McDonald is tracking these voters. "A little bit of everything is going on here. A lot people are interested and interest really does drive turnout, and the other component to this is mobilization. The campaigns are going out now and energizing their supporters to go out and vote early," said McDonald. He also points to laws that have made early voting more accessible over the years. Like the 2001 California law allowing any voter to vote absentee for any reason.
With nearly 13-million votes already cast nationwide, McDonald says that puts the country on track for a record turnout of 64% of eligible voters. "If we do reach that mark and we beat the 63.8% in 1960, you have to go all the way back to 1908 to find the next highest turnout rate of 66%. So we may see a turnout that we have not seen in a century of American politics," said McDonald.
Election officials in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties are also expecting a record turnout.