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Lower-income residents took advantage of online voter registration

March 27, 2013|By Patrick McGreevy
  • Olga Korn, 86, casts her vote in the March 5 primary election at Encino Self Storage.
Olga Korn, 86, casts her vote in the March 5 primary election at Encino Self… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )

An online voter registration system launched by California for last November's election appears to be bringing more lower-income people into the political process, according to an academic study.

Researchers at UC Berkeley looked at the 839,297 people who registered to vote online before the election, and found that the breakdown was ethnically similar to those who registered in person or through the mail.

However, the results showed more online registrants came from low- and middle-income neighborhoods than expected, according to researchers Lisa Garcia Bedolla and Veronica N. Velez.

The researchers focused on census tracts in two counties. In San Diego County, 71% of Latino, 57% of white and 50% of Asian American online registrants lived in areas with medium incomes under $75,000 a year, the study found.

For Alameda County, 65% of Latino registrants, 52% of whites and 44% for Asian Americans lived in low- to middle-income neighborhoods.

"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," the researchers wrote.

Garcia Bedolla is a UC Berkeley associate professor of education and of political science. Velez is a postdoctoral research fellow at the school’s Center for Latino Policy Research.


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