At end of week 35-percent of Elk Grove voters have submitted ballots; Will straight ticket voting happen locally?

As of Friday, October 23, with only 11 days the end of voting, 35-percent of Elk Grove voters have submitted their ballots, according to data compiled by Norwalk, Calif-based Political Data Inc. 

Of the 103,474 ballots mailed, 36,175 have returned. Return rates among the three largest registration groups show the highest engagement rate for Democratic voters.

Total Democratic registration in Elk Grove is 47,732, and of those, 19,862, or 47-percent ballots have been received by the Sacramento County Voter Registration and Elections. By comparison, of the city's 25,886 GOP voters, 8,322 have returned ballot for a return rate of 31-percent while the city's 8,352 of 29,856 non-affiliated voters have voted for a return rate of 28-percent. 

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While local races in California are non-partisan, that has not stopped some Elk Grove candidates from identifying or avoiding discussion of their party affiliations. Most notably, Mayor Steve Ly, who is in a hotly contested reelection bid against fellow Democrat Bobbie Singh-Allen, has promoted his endorsement from the Elk Grove-South County Democratic Club.

For her part, Singh-Allen has rolled out a list of heavyweight Democratic endorsements including Rep. Ami Bera and Assemblymember Jim Cooper in her appeal to Democratic voters but has mostly refrained from painting herself as Democratic. Aside from that, on a recent mailer, Singh-Allen included copy saying "Endorsed by Firefighters, Law Enforcement, Democrats, Republican, Independents, Labor and Business Leaders" in an unambiguous bid to expand her pool of supporters.   

Will Ly's targeted focus, at least in his mailers to Democratic voters, combined with his broader non-partisan mailers to all voters, provided sufficient support to push him across the finish line first? Or will Singh-Allen's efforts to appeal to Republican and independent voters, who are participating at lower rates than Democratic votes, provide her with the winning edge?

Although neither Ly nor Singh-Allen's campaigns have released internal polling, if any, on their respective support, one study can provide some guidance if Elk Grove Democratic voters, especially given the unpopularity of President Donald Trump, will vote along strict party lines. 

A study released on October 21 by Pew Research found in the 34 states with Senate races, which California does not have this year, only four percent will split votes along party lines between the presidential candidates and senatorial candidates. As it relates to congressional races, the number of split-ticket voters increased to about two in 10 voters who said they would cross party lines between presidential and congressional candidates.

As it relates to Elk Grove, will these national trends of 10,543 voters surveyed in states with senatorial contests will this tendency of straight-ticket voting prevail?

If so, Ly would not only have to win the vast majority of Democratic voters but strip enough voters from the pool of independents. Given he has made strong appeals to Democratic voters, Ly will probably not draw many Republican voters.

Conversely, while Singh-Allen may not get a majority of Democratic voters, her bi-partisan appeals could satisfy enough Republican voters to support her. It may help with this group of voters that before affiliating with the Democratic Party, Singh-Allen had ties to local Republicans like former Elk Grove City Councilmember Sophia Scherman, who she said has been a mentor to her.     
If this scenario that plays out, Singh-Allen will need to encourage more voting from Republicans, who seem to be experiencing an enthusiasm gap this year in Elk Grove, given the unpopularity of Trump and the dearth of viable GOP candidates on the ballot. Likewise, Ly's path may be to mine the enthusiasm Democratic party loyalist have this year to remove Trump and encourage straight-ticket voting. 

Of course, the larger nut for each of the candidates to crack is appealing to the second largest body of voters in Elk Grove, the non-affiliated independents. If straight-ticket does happen for Ly and Singh-Allen draws Republican voters, the jackpot will lie with this group of voters who are participating rates are lagging.

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