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Success of mail-in ballots lengthens campaign, candidates say

April 09, 2013|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com
  • Dan Pabich, with Martin & Chapman Co., place leader cards in the red ballot boxes with absentee ballots on election day, Tuesday, April 2, 2013, in the Glendale Police Department Community Room.
Dan Pabich, with Martin & Chapman Co., place leader… (Tim Berger / Staff…)

More Glendale voters used the postal service to cast their votes than a polling center ballot box for the election on Tuesday, a trend that’s been on the rise in the city — and across the state — now for years.

The shift, candidates and elections experts say, has meant harder and longer campaigns that must capture voters over a much longer period of time.

“You have to make sure you get your message out there in time for the earlier voters,” said Lori Cox Han, professor of political science at Chapman University.

City Council incumbent Laura Friedman’s campaign was a case in point. She timed her television ads, which ran on both cable and broadcast channels, to air around the time the sample ballots arrived.

“The polls were open as soon as those absentee ballot were in their hands,” said Friedman, who, according to unofficial results released this week, recaptured her seat.

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About 62% of voters in Tuesday’s municipal election voted by mail, roughly the same as 2011, but up 5% since 2007.

Top candidates said they paid close attention to absentee voters, who are playing an increasingly important role in municipal elections. Plus, if a campaign gets a voter to turn in an absentee ballot early, that’s one less person that might skip going to the polls on Election Day, experts said.

It’s especially important for underdogs, who have a harder time generating mass voter interest, said Jaime Regalado, a political analyst and professor emeritus of political science at Cal State Los Angeles.

“You need to make things easier for voters or they will not vote,” Regalado said. “Typical American voters are lazy, especially in and around Los Angeles.”

Challenger Chahe Keuroghelian — who is currently 262 votes behind third place City Council candidate Zareh Sinanyan — said after running five times for the seat, this election marked the first cycle in which he focused on registering absentee voters.

“I wanted to energize the voters to participate,” Keuroghelian said.

Roughly 3,500 late vote-by-mail and provisional ballots have yet to be counted, which could sway the ultimate outcome of the preliminary results, which have Councilman Ara Najarian in first place, followed by Friedman and Sinanyan.

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