NORWALK, Calif. -- Almost three-quarters of a million people in Los Angeles County have voted by mail or in person before Election Day, officials said Monday.
More than 8,000 people showed up at one of ten early voting locations Sunday. Another 6,000 people voted the same way on Saturday.
This is the first year election officials in L.A. County expanded early voting to consecutive weekends at ten different sites. Wait times were the longest at West L.A. College, where some voters stood in line more than three hours.
"What we do clearly see in this is a pattern of interest for this mid-term election," said Dean Logan, the L.A. County Registrar.
"We know that combined with what we're seeing with vote by mail, we're approaching the level that you might see in a presidential election," Logan said.
As of Sunday, nearly 700,000 completed vote by mail ballots had been received - a 24 percent rate of return. For comparison, just 17 percent of completed ballots in the 2014 mid-term election had been received at this point.
One change that may be contributing to the rise in participation is eliminating the requirement to put appropriate postage on mail-in ballots, Logan says.
Early voting continued Monday at the Registrar's office in Norwalk, where several new U.S. Citizens were among those who wanted to give themselves extra time to fill out their ballots.
"I was really nervous at the beginning; I felt very responsible," says Charles Ryu, a one-time refugee from North Korea who became an American citizen in September.
"You must vote for one person in North Korea," he says. "[Here] your voice matters. You gotta vote. C'mon, let's go!"
He added that he's going to wear his "I Voted" sticker for a month in celebration.
Monica Olivares, who because a U.S. Citizen last month, drove from Santa Monica to cast her first ballot early.
"It took me two mornings sitting down and finding out about who should I vote for," she says. "I've always wanted to be an American."
Photo: Andrew Mollenbeck