Web registration pulling in new, young voters

Getty Images File Photo61% of the voters who registered online were under the age of 35.

Getty Images File Photo61% of the voters who registered online were under the age of 35.

California’s new online voter registration process added more than 614,000 registered voters to today’s state electorate — almost half of them registered as Democrats. But beyond the presidential race, experts say, party officials shouldn’t count on support from such first-time voters.

Younger people and first-time voters tend to vote more independently and less along party lines than other voters, noted Corey Cook, an associate professor of politics at the University of San Francisco. New voters also tend to vote for the president and then leave many other items blank on their ballots.

“The further you get down the ballot, the more things drop off,” Cook said. “New voters matter more for presidential than state and local elections.”

So even with California solidly in President Barack Obama’s column for the presidential vote, other campaigns that hope to receive the support of young and first-time voters will have to have made sure newcomers know about their state and local issues as well, said political analyst David Latterman.

“It is up to the campaigns to target these voters who are not thinking much about these ballot measures,” Latterman said.

Consequently, just because someone supports Obama does not mean he or she will be a shoo-in for other Democratic Party-backed initiatives, such as Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax measure in support of schools.

Today’s election — which features the presidential showdown, several federal races, and a plethora of state and local elections — is the first in which Californians who registered to vote online will cast their ballots. Senate Bill 397 from state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, allowed the state to register voters through an online process.

As of Oct. 22, a record 18.25 million voters were registered across the state, according to the California secretary of state. New voters account for 1.62 million of those statewide voters.

According to Political Data Inc., an election data firm, of the more than 614,000 new voters who registered online, 49 percent are Democrats, 19 percent Republicans and 32 percent other. About 61 percent of those online registrants are under the age of 35.

Latterman said having more young voters could just extend the trend of voters bucking party lines.

“More people think independently about ballot initiatives,” he said.

As of Sunday, more than 502,000 San Franciscans had registered to vote. Roughly half, or 263,551, requested mail-in ballots, with just 111,666 returned as of Sunday, according to the San Francisco Department of Elections.

About 25,000 people registered online in San Francisco, 84 percent of whom are new voters, according to information from Political Data Inc.

mbillings@sfexaminer.com

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