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Democratic voter registration surges in Santa Barbara County prior to November election

Randol White/KCBX News

Central Coast residents who signed up to vote-by-mail will start getting their ballots this week. The packets would have gone out on Monday, but the Postal Service was closed for Columbus Day. 

Roughly two-out-of-three voters now choose to vote by mail along the Central Coast.

San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong told KCBX those number are only expected to rise.

"I suspected during a typical election like this — and it might be a little higher — we'll get around 5000, maybe 6000 additional requests coming from those sample ballots," Gong said.

Gong said San Luis Obispo County has the option to become a pilot county in 2018 for the State of California's plan to move toward a more widespread vote-by-mail system. He said he has about a year to make a decision on whether to take part in the program approved as part of SB 450.

Whether voting by mail or in person, the General Election is engaging the electorate.

Santa Barbara County Clerk-Recorder Joe Holland said on Monday that his county is seeing a phenomenal increase in voter registration since the beginning of this year.

"We've gone from about 192,000 registered voters in January to over 214,000 today," said Holland. "We have never seen an increase like that in my memory."

KCBX took a look at those registration numbers, and found more than 70 percent of new voters joined the Democratic Party, while nearly 20 percent signed up as Republicans. Most of the remaining registrants chose "no party preference."

California residents have until October 24, 2016 to register to vote and until November 1, 2016 to request a vote-by-mail ballot.

Election Day this year is on November 8, 2016.