There's a huge X factor in this year's city election: Pima County's permanent early-voter list. In previous city elections, voters had to ask for a mail-in ballot. In this election, more than 62,000 early ballots went out automatically to city voters when early voting started on Oct. 8. There are roughly 224,000 registered voters in Tucson.
Whether all those voters will care enough to mail ballots back in remains to be seen, but the numbers we got from Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez suggest that most Tucsonans aren't in a rush to cast a ballot.
Here's the breakdown, as of yesterday morning:
A total of 65,635 ballots had been mailed to city voters. Of those, 14,376 ballots had been returned, which comes out to roughly 22 percent.
• 31,780 of those ballots went to Democrats; 7,270 of those ballots had been cast, for a return rate of roughly 23 percent.
• 20,021 of those ballots went to Republicans; 4,567 of those ballots had been cast, for a return rate of roughly 23 percent.
• 355 of those ballots went to Libertarians; 63 of those ballots had been cast, for a return rate of roughly 18 percent.
• 160 of those ballots went to Greens; 35 of those ballots had been cast, for a return rate of roughly 22 percent.
• 13,319 ballots had been sent to people who aren't registered with any of the above parties; 2,441 had been cast, for a return rate of roughly 18 percent.
The slow return of ballots bodes well for opponents of Prop 200, as momentum seems to be moving their way as more members of the business community come out against the Public Safety First initiative because they fear it will drive up taxes and result in a financial disaster for the city.
The big question: Are people waiting to vote because they still haven't made up their minds or because they just don't care and won't be returning their ballot at all?
My predictions: The number of early ballots not sent back will reach an all-time high percentage, but so will the number of people casting ballots by mail. Turn-out on Election Day will be light as a percentage of voters.
Turn-out in city elections tends to run about 25 percent, although it got up to about 40 percent in 2003. I explored the reasons for low turnout earlier this year.