SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Several types of voters could make all the different in the California primary, but predicting which was the political winds will shift on election day is more of an art than a science. Still, experts use statistics, polls, and historic predictions to parse the numbers surrounding the Golden State's races, in hopes of offering some glimpse into the future of who will come on on top come Super Tuesday.
Paul Mitchell, Vice President of Political Data Inc., a non-partisan consulting firm based in Norwalk, Calif., compiles voter data and analyzes trends. He says increases in voter registration and people requesting to vote-by-mail translates to a shifting electorate.
“The combination of kind of organic changes to our electorate, and mechanical changes to our electorate are expected to make the voting population at the end of the day, younger, more diverse," said Mitchell.
That may be good news for Democratic front runner Senator Bernie Sanders, who polls extremely well with younger voters and voters of color in the Golden State. But, Mitchell cautions against putting too much stock in these polls, because predictions don't mean anything if those voters don't show up on election day. He emphasizes that the key for the Sanders campaign will be mobilizing them during the primary.
“Just polling well in one portion of the electorate isn’t really enough. You really need to be able to get them to the polls on Election Day," said Mitchell.
Another section of voters who will play a huge role in California's Super Tuesday races are the voters who identify as "No Party Preference." They are the second largest voting block in the state at nearly 5.6 million people. But, if a "No Party Preference" voter wants to cast a vote in the Democratic presidential primary, they need to request a ballot. That could prove to be a hurdle for some less motivated voters come March 4.
“Which campaign benefits? The one that actually does the work to get their identified voters to the polls, with the right ballot," said Mitchell. "Because every one of those presidential campaigns in their campaign databases can identify the segment of the California electorate that’s most likely to support them.”
With such a crowded Democratic field, the polling can also be misleading and make even cause some misfires on election night. Although polls show 75 percent of vote-by-mail voters in California said they plan to send their ballots early, those ballot will make up some of the first results on election ngiht. Mitchell says that means some candidates may end up declaring victory too early, even though it could take a month to certify results here.
“If it turns out that you didn’t win as many delegates as you thought, maybe someone else actually won, not you," said Mitchell. "There’s no refund, you don’t get that back.”
After initial stumbles in Iowa's reporting, and candidates jockeying for percentage points in Super Tuesday states, the key factor for some candidates being able to move foward may come down to whether they can maintain significant momentum. With such a crowded Democratic field, Mitchell says it appears more voters are holding onto their ballots a little longer, watching what plays out first.
“In that segment of highly engaged voters, in 2016 we saw that they had a 35 percent turnout rate at this point," said Mitchell. "As of right now, in 2020, we see them having a 19 percent turnout rate.”
Mitchell is urging "No Party Preference" voters who are voting by mail to check their ballots and soon. He says at this point only 9 percent have requested to vote in a presidential primary.