SACRAMENTO — Buoyed by a 2.6 million-person increase in registered voters compared to a similar point in the 2016 election, California officials announced Friday a record 22 million people have signed up to vote in the general election.
The mammoth figure is larger than the population of any other state except Texas. And at nearly 88%, California is enjoying its highest percentage of eligible voters registered for a general election in 80 years.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla applauded the impressive total but warned it could lead to busy voting centers on Election Day, even though all 58 counties have been required to send each registered voter a mail ballot. He urged those that haven’t voted to return their ballots or hit polling sites this weekend.
“There are more voters registered in California than the number of people in the state of Florida!” remarked Padilla. “Record registration and a historic election points towards a big voter turnout, which could also mean longer lines and wait times on Election Day.”
Friday’s official tally of 22,047,488 registered voters builds on a Super Tuesday primary in which a record 9.6 million Californians voted. Since Padilla’s last update on Oct. 1, an additional 807,000 Californians have signed up to vote and the voter rolls could continue to swell as the Golden State allows same-day registration.
The peaking voter interest is further illustrated by the over 9 million mail ballots that have already been returned to county elections officials.
Absentee voting was popular in the Golden State prior to the current election cycle — 72% of all votes in the March primary were cast by mail — but the state’s Democratic leaders have made it easier this year than ever before.
Governor Gavin Newsom ordered mandatory mail ballots on May 8, claiming the state needed to quell the fears of voters and volunteers about contracting the coronavirus at polling sites. He said California voters shouldn’t have to wade into a “concentrated dense environment to cast their vote.”
Though the decision was unsuccessfully challenged in court and criticized by President Donald Trump, lawmakers passed a series of bills mandating mail ballots and extending the amount of time allowed to count ballots postmarked on or before Election Day. New California laws also require counties to offer voters a ballot-tracking system and mandate at least one physical voting center per 10,000 registered voters.
According to the U.S. Election Project, a database compiled by an elections expert at the University of Florida, 9.1 million Californians had returned their ballots as of Thursday, double the number in 2016. Just over half of this year’s ballots have been returned by registered Democrats, compared to 22% Republican and 24% independent or third-party voters.
“Keep it up!” Newsom said in a tweet.
As for the entire electorate, Democrats outnumber Republicans by a nearly 2 to 1 margin. Of the 22 million potential voters, 46% are registered Democrats, 24% are Republican and 24% have registered as no party preference.
The Democratic Party has increased its share of registered voters by 1.2% compared to this point in the 2016 election cycle, while the Republican Party has dropped 1.8%. Democrats continue to dominate in coastal counties like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Alameda, accounting for over 50% of registered voters.
Republicans make up over half the voters in rural Modoc and Lassen counties. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner were the last Republicans to win statewide office in 2006, and the state hasn’t gone to a GOP presidential candidate since George H.W. Bush in 1988.