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Nearly 36,000 ballots cast so far this election
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Manteca mayoral candidate Ben Cantu started hitting the campaign trail a year ago. That may be too early to some but, as it turns out, he is right on the vote.

With absentee ballots on the rise, it is becoming more and more imperative for those running in office to start pounding the pavement and knocking door-to-door as early as possible for better chances at winning the election. That’s because more and more registered voters are not waiting for Election Day to cast their ballots at the precinct and are voting by absentee ballots. And those ballots are being returned even earlier than ever before. As of Friday, the San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters office reported receiving a total of 35,808 of the absentee ballots mailed.

A total of 174,808 were sent out on Oct. 6 to those who requested these ballots. An additional 3,000 “supplementals” – from new registrations processed – were sent out via mail last week for a total of 177,808 absentee ballots this year. That’s more than half of the 297,425 registered voters in the county – 29,096 more to be exact – based on figures provided by the Registrar’s office.

No other absentee ballots will be mailed between now and Election Day per the election code. The Registrar’s office can only send them out 15 days before Election Day.

The changes being wrought by absentee ballots in the voting demographics are in the minds of candidates like Cantu and have tailored their campaign strategies accordingly. That change, however, is not stopping them from campaigning just as hard until Election Day. However, the only difference is that they are now focusing their efforts in precinct neighborhoods that have low absentee ballots.

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Council hopefuls still campaigning

“There are still thousands that will vote on Election Day. Everybody’s vote counts, and I’m going after every vote,” said Manteca City Council candidate Richard Silverman who monitors election figures, such as absentee ballots, consistently from time to time during the campaign period. He and his wife, Linda, and their friends have that in mind as they take the campaign door-to-door.

Cantu, who is running for the top elected post against council member Steve DeBrum, a veteran of Manteca politics, has been aware of the advantages of campaigning early due to the shift in the voting process being prompted by the absentee ballots. Hence, he has designed his campaign strategy to cover three different areas – one, the early voters; two, those who have not yet decided and are waiting for more information; and three, those who are waiting at the last minute to cast their ballots and are voting in person at the polls.

“In Manteca, you have such a large percentage of people who commute. You have a short period of time in which to get your information through that – generally, the weekend and in the evening. That’s why I started my campaign six or nine months ago. I didn’t follow traditional campaign programs that most people do which is to follow political party platform and process for campaigning. I basically took into account the demographics of the community and that a lot of people do vote early,” said Cantu, a former senior planner and longtime employee with the city of Manteca.

He believes part of the reason more and more people are getting in their absentee ballots long before Election Day and not wait until the end of campaigning is because “the voting public is getting more accustomed to doing things online which is much more efficient” in that you get more information about the candidates and the issues that are on the ballot such as Manteca Unified’s Measure G school bond being placed before the voters to gain funding for the repair old school facilities, among other spending targets aimed at safety concerns.

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Morowit finds about half have already voted

Political greenhorn and longtime Manteca businessman Mike Morowit who is trying to get elected as a council member found out while campaigning for nearly three hours on Friday that, indeed, a lot of voters have already mailed in their absentee ballots.

“Where I was today, about 50-50 – or half of those who vote by absentee ballot have already mailed them,” said the owner of Miner Mart in the Lincoln shopping center on West Yosemite Avenue.

“Others I talked to said they will make their decision by the weekend. So, there’s probably less voters to deal with (on the campaign trail). The closer we get to election, many people probably have already cast their votes. But it is what it is. I’m still walking. I’m still going to walk. Some people have told me they will go to the polls (to vote),” he said.

Walking and knocking door-to-door is what Silverman said he will continue to do regardless of the number of voters remaining who have not voted by absentee ballot.

“I like meeting the people and talking to them, even the ones that already voted. I want to hear what they want, what they are looking for, what they think the issues are. I’m going to persist up to the end,” he said.

“People like talking to the candidates. They appreciate that, and I get all the feedbacks. I get energized by the people I meet. The people I meet are good, hardworking people. So we’re still walking and enjoying it,” said Silverman who is joined on the campaign trail by his wife, Linda, and their friends.