School Board Race: Headed for Big Turnout

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School Board Race: Headed for Big Turnout
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By Jerry Roberts

More than 12,000 mail-in ballots cast in the race for Santa Barbara school board already have been returned to election officials – suggesting great interest in a wide-open campaign likely to produce a high voter turnout. 

“People are going to vote this year,” said a veteran insider who does not have a client in the school board contest, which features eight candidates with a wide range of views seeking two seats.

Standard political writer disclaimer: There is, of course, no way of knowing for whom any of the mail-in ballots already handed back to the county Registrar of Voters have been cast, and a countless number of speculative scenarios might be derived from them. Caveat emptor.

For political junkies and self-interested parties, however, statistics compiled by Political Data Inc., a subscription service widely used by political strategists of both parties throughout California, offers a fascinating, inside and granular glimpse of the electorate to date: heavily Democratic, shaped by a small gender gap, with overwhelming portions of white and older voters.  

Here is a look at the numbers as of close of business Tuesday. 


  • 106,985 voters are registered in the Santa Barbara Unified School District, a sprawling area that ranges between Carpinteria and Gaviota

  • 12,227 of these already have sent in ballots, with two weeks left before the Nov. 6 election. This represents about 11 percent of the overall number of registered voters – but nearly one-fourth of what would result in a robust 50 percent turnout for an off-year, low-information election.


  • 5,832 of the ballots submitted – about 48 percent -- are from Democratic voters, aligning with their percentage of overall registration. 

  • 3,172 ballots have been returned by Republicans – about 26 percent. Not surprisingly, their portion at this point is greater than the GOP’s overall registration percentage of 19 percent, because Republicans historically are the most reliable – and typically the earliest – voters, particularly in non-presidential elections.

  • 2,594 ballots – about 21 percent – have come from No Party Preference, non-partisan independents. This compares to their 27 percent slice of overall registration. The school board race is, nominally at least, a non-partisan contest, so it may be that NPPs are waiting to learn more information about the contenders before making their choices. As a general rule, however, registered independents in Santa Barbara tend to favor Democrats, and also often are younger, and vote later, if at all.


  • 6,212 ballots returned are from women – about 51 percent; this is slightly higher than the percentage of voters – just under 50 percent – who identified themselves to the registrar as female.

  • 5,586 ballots have come from men – about 46 percent; this too is slightly higher than the percentage of voters – just under 45 percent – who checked the box stating they are male on their voter registration.

  • 429 ballots have come from voters who did not check a box to identify their gender when they registered. This is about 4 percent of the ballots so far submitted; among the total number of voters, about 5 percent did not check the box.


  • 8,854 ballots have been returned by voters 51 or older – 72 percent, compared to the 48 percent portion of the electorate of the district who are of those ages.

  • 1,454 are from voters between 35 and 50 – about 12 percent, compared to the 18 percent slice of overall registration in that cohort. 

  • 1,917 have come from younger voters, between 18 and 34 – 16 percent of the early ballots; this is less than their portion in total registration – about 34 percent.


The Political Data Inc. breakdown of ballots includes estimates of the ethnic background of voters based on at least two factors: a) whether or not a voter requested ballot materials in a language other than English; b) a best guess judgment of ethnicity based on a voter’s surname. According to this subjective assement:

  • 9,347 ballots have been returned by white voters – about 76 percent – compared to their 69 percent of overall registration.

  • 1,359 have come from those identified as Latino according to the above criteria. This represents about 11 percent, compared to the 19,621 voters – about 18 percent – counted as Latino in total registration.

  • Shout-out to the 23 Armenian-surnamed voters who have returned ballots - .001 percent – a solid down payment on their .003 percent share of the SBUSD’s universe of voters.

Better late than never. There is a late-breaking school board candidate forum scheduled for tonight (Wednesday), 6:30-8:30 p.m. All the candidates have been invited to speak at the event, sponsored by La Casa de la Raza and its online community radio station, KZAA-LP, at 601 E. Montecito St. 

Don't forget to vote. 

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a-1580153836 Oct 26, 2018 09:02 AM
School Board Race: Headed for Big Turnout

If all development/building was banned for 5 years at all schools in California, from grade schools to colleges, how would interest in school board elections (and candidates) be affected?

RHS Oct 26, 2018 08:45 AM
School Board Race: Headed for Big Turnout

This is chilling to read. So much information is shared about our personal identities and lives. Age, sex, politics, area of residence, 'race' or ethnicity, and such. This sort of stuff just leads to divisive politics and nasty campaigns. Really, do we need to know that voter has an "Armenian" name? And is an Armenian name indication that one is "white"?

taz Oct 25, 2018 03:16 PM
School Board Race: Headed for Big Turnout

Thanks Jerry - this was very interesting to read. Worrying some about what a lowish turnout from younger voters indicates. Still early though. Appreciate what you've compiled here. Yes, all Vote :)

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