By: Eric Jaye

At Reset we focus more on policy than politics – but we can’t create better policies unless we get out and vote.

That’s why the new absentee ballot return numbers coming back are important to review. As of yesterday, only 22,211 absentee ballots for the San Francisco November election had been returned out of a total of 205,884 mailed more than two weeks ago.

It is normal for most absentee ballots to be cast in the final week and for many to be hand-delivered to polling places on Election Day. But quick math shows that if the current return represents just 25% of the total absentee ballots expected – we are looking at a total of only 88,844 absentee ballots cast. Since more than half of the ballots will be cast by absentee voters, if current trends hold we are now looking at a projected turnout of around 150,000 to 160,000 total votes. That’s low. For example, in the last hotly contested mayor’s race 253,782 San Franciscans voted in the run-off between Gavin Newsom and Matt Gonzalez.

I spoke with my friend Jim Ross – who watches these issues closely and is an expert on San Francisco elections (and beyond). He described the returns as of this date as “somewhere between slow and very slow.”

There are some interesting “internal” trends – for example, more than 25% of the early returns are from Chinese American voters, so there is clearly intense interest in that community. But the overall number shows a lack of interest in the election or even outright confusion about the election is being reflected in low voter turnout.

What can we do about low voter turnout?

These “trends” are just that – how things are going currently. They can be changed very simply – by encouraging everyone we know to get out and vote.

Reset San Francisco was launched by Phil Ting to engage and empower San Franciscans with web 2.0 tools they could use to help improve city government. It has already been an inspiring success – with over 25,000 San Franciscans now engaged around the simple idea that San Francisco government should be as creative and innovative as San Franciscans. We’ve been fighting for better policies – from more Muni express service to Universal Internet Access.

But at the very core of our DNA is a belief that government is better when more people get involved. That’s why Phil Ting proposed ideas like “YouTube Testimony” that will open up City Hall to more voices.

But the very best way to make your voice heard is to mail your absentee ballot today if you have one, and don’t forget to vote November 8 if you are an Election Day voter.