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Online registration grabs low-, mid-income voters

The new online voter registration system that California launched last fall isn’t just getting more people registered – it’s getting different people registered.

More registrants come from low- and middle-income neighborhoods than expected, according to a study just released by researchers Lisa García Bedolla, a Cal associate professor of education and of political science, and Véronica Velez, a postdoctoral research fellow at Cal’s Center for Latino Policy Research.

“Given voters in California are, on average, significantly more affluent than the general population, this study suggests that online voter registration opened up the … process to a wider range of voters in terms of their socioeconomic status,” García Bedolla and Velez reported.

Based on data from each of California’s 58 counties, the state’s online drive that ran from Sept. 19 through Oct. 21 generated 839,297 new registered voters. Some 22.6 percent were Latino, 11.1 percent Asian, and about 59.8 percent white – breakdowns similar to the state’s overall voter registration.

But the researchers focused on census-tract data for the newly registered voters in San Diego and Alameda counties, two regions with similarly diverse populations but contrasting political tendencies – San Diego tending more conservative, Alameda County tending more liberal.

In San Diego County, 71 percent of Latino, 57 percent of white and 50 percent of Asian American online registrants lived in areas with medium incomes under $75,000. In Alameda County, the numbers were 65 percent for Latino registrants, 52 percent for whites and 44 percent for Asian Americans.

Garcia Bedolla said this suggests that “when we make the process easier, like letting you register after you Google it on your phone, folks participate.”

The study also found:

  • Women of color, rather than white women, are driving the gender gap in Democratic party identification among the online registrants.
  • A significant proportion of eligible voters over age 35, particularly white men, registered online.
  • Latina and female Asian American voters were more likely to vote than were Latinos and Asian American men.
  • Only among white registrants and voters is there near gender parity in registration and turnout.
  • Josh Richman

    Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

    • RR senile columnist

      These eyeball-opening conclusions are another proof of intellectual decline. Poli Sci
      joins Sociology as a dubious subject. As Saul Alinsky defined a social scientist:
      He needs a grant to find a brothel. I cleaned up the quote a bit.