California election officials report record-low turnout for primary | SierraSun.com

California election officials report record-low turnout for primary

ALLISON HOFFMAN
Associated Press Writer

SAN DIEGO (AP) ” Election officials reported record low turnouts at polling places throughout the state Tuesday as voters who came out in droves for California’s historic February presidential primary decided to sit out a slate of largely ho-hum races.

Steve Weir, who heads the statewide election registrars’ association, said turnout among California’s 16.1 million registered voters probably would break the primary record low of 33.6 percent, set in June 2006. Some San Francisco Bay Area precincts reported less than 10 percent of registered voters cast ballots, said Weir, who also serves as county clerk for Contra Costa.

In Sacramento, assistant registrar Alice Jarboe projected a final turnout of only about 20 percent despite a city mayoral race featuring former NBA All-Star Kevin Johnson. In Los Angeles, the state’s most populous county with 4 million voters, polling places reported turnout of about 23 percent.

“I think it’s pretty clear we’ve set a low turnout record,” Weir said.

The scant interest also was evident among absentee voters. Los Angeles County reported only 29 percent of the absentee ballots were returned. It was only slightly better in San Diego County, despite a mayoral race and several City Council elections, registrar Deborah Seiler said.

The secretary of state’s office said official turnout figures would be released once counties completed their preliminary tallies, perhaps Wednesday.

This was the first year since 1940 that California’s presidential and state primaries were held on different dates. With competitive Republican and Democratic races, February’s presidential primary attracted 58 percent of registered voters, the highest for a primary since 1980.

It was a much different story Tuesday.

Secretary of State spokeswoman Nicole Winger said a voter hotline logged only about 150 calls per hour, far fewer than the 1,000 per hour the same line received in February’s high-octane presidential primary.

Most of the calls were from voters asking for polling place addresses or wondering how to replace lost absentee ballots. The secretary of state was investigating a handful of complaints from voters who claimed they had registered in the Peace and Freedom Party but were listed as nonpartisan, Winger said.

The only statewide races in the ballot were two initiatives restricting government’s use of eminent domain.

Mayoral races in Sacramento and San Diego generated some local interest, as did a handful of state legislative races. That included a Democratic primary challenge for a Bay Area Senate seat and a failed recall campaign in the Central Valley against Republican state Sen. Jeff Denham.

The highlight of the congressional primaries was in the 4th District, which stretches from Sacramento’s suburbs east to the Nevada and Oregon borders. State Sen. Tom McClintock’s defeated former Congressman Doug Ose in the GOP primary for the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. John Doolittle, R-Rocklin.