“This is something new,” Hoffenblum said. “Then you have the two campaigns doing everything they can to increase turnout. Some people looking at the absentees coming in are saying at least 40 percent, and some people are saying 50 percent, of voters will turn out to vote.” The county has 3.8 million registered voters, 50 percent of them Democrats, 27 percent Republicans and 18 percent who decline to state a party preference. Of the 15.8 million registered voters statewide, 43 percent are Democrats, 35 percent are Republicans and 18 percent declined to state. While the number of Democrats and Republicans has dropped a couple of percentage points since the October 2003 recall election, the number of voters who decline to state a party has increased from 16 percent to 18 percent. Meanwhile, voters also are taking advantage of early voting with touch-screen voting machines at various sites. As of Tuesday, 8,828 people had voted electronically at one of the county’s 11 sites. On election day, polls will be staffed by 11,000 poll workers and every poll inspector will have a cell phone to use in case problems occur. “Everything is ready to go and we’re not anticipating any problems,” McCormack said. But McCormack warned that because so many people are voting by mail and many of those ballots won’t arrive at her Norwalk headquarters until early next week, complete election results might not be known until later in the week. “There could be well more than 20 percent of the total vote that won’t be counted on election night,” McCormack said. “The number outstanding could swell to numbers never seen before. “If there are close races, there will be some nail-biting going on days after the election until those ballots are signature-verified against the original voter registration form to make sure it’s that person that voted.” Troy Anderson, (213) 974-8985 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week “That would indicate that 50 percent or more of the vote will be cast by mail,” McCormack said. “In the presidential election last November, 33 percent of everybody in California that voted, voted by mail and that was a record. “So the trend is that the mailbox is becoming the polling place.” McCormack attributed the shift to a law change two years ago that allowed anyone in California to apply for permanent absentee voter status – meaning voters no longer have to apply for an absentee ballot every election. Statewide, 3.3 million Californians signed up as permanent absentee voters. Allan Hoffenblum, a political consultant and publisher of the California Target Book election guide, said there is a “hard-core group” that is voting by absentee ballot in every election now. Nearly half of all votes in next week’s statewide special election could be cast by absentee ballot, an election official projected Wednesday. Election experts are predicting that about half of the state’s 15.8 million voters – including 3.8 million in Los Angeles County – will go to the polls. So far statewide, 4.5 million absentee ballots have been sent out, including 634,000 in Los Angeles County, according to county Registrar Conny McCormack, who also is president of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials. As of Wednesday, 1.1 million votes had already been cast across the state, including 248,000 in county absentee ballots.