Link to the 2013 early voting map

San Diegans began voting for their next mayor a week ago, on Jan. 13, when the San Diego County Registrar of Voters mailed out more than 300,000 absentee ballots.

So far, the ballots have been trickling in. As of Jan. 20, some 340,000 ballots had been issued and about 54,000 ballots had been cast — a 15.6 percent return rate. Those numbers include individuals who voted in person at the Registrar’s office.

In the Nov. 19 primary, more than two-thirds of votes cast were mail ballots, according to San Diego County Registrar of Voters Michael Vu. He expects mail ballots to dominate in the runoff Feb. 11, as well. That’s increasingly been the trend for years.

“68 percent of the total votes cast in the election were vote by mail ballots and of course we broke down that number,” said Vu. “That’s 165,000 ballots that were vote by mail compared to the 77,000 ballots that were cast at the polls.”

In November, a total of 243,000 voters cast ballots, a turnout of 36 percent.

That’s lower than the turnout in the last special runoff election–held in November, 2005–when turnout was 55 percent and Jerry Sanders was first elected mayor.

But if overall turnout was down from 2005, the percent of votes cast by mail was way up.

In the 2005 election, 39 percent of votes cast were cast early, little more than half of what was cast by mail in the most recent election.

So far, the precinct with the highest early voting turnout was one in Rancho Bernardo, with a 37.1 percent return rate. By contrast, several precincts in and around the University of California at San Diego and San Diego State University had yet to see a single voter turn in an early ballot.

According to Vu, some 660,000 city residents are currently registered to vote in the runoff. San Diegans can register to vote online at the Registrar’s website through Jan. 27. The election is Feb. 11.

We’ve built a map that visualizes early-voting turnout across San Diego. We’ll update it daily as ballots are received by the Registrar. Check it out here.

inewsource investigative researcher Emily Burns contributed to this report.

Joe Yerardi is a freelance data journalist for inewsource, where he worked between 2013 and 2016 as an investigative reporter and data specialist. To contact him with questions, tips or corrections, email