Early turnout low in town for special election
Truckee’s polling booths were quiet early Tuesday as the eight propositions on the state’s special election ballot generated only a tepid response from local voters early in the day.”Since its only my second time [as an inspector] and my first time was the presidential election, this is extremely slow,” said Lynn Burch, a poll inspector at the Truckee Community Center just before noon on Tuesday.Truckee voters questioned outside of the polling booth seemed to think the money and effort than went into the special election was unnecessary. The election is expected to cost the state between $52 and $55 million.”I’m against them all,” Donna Jones said of the eight propositions on the ballot. “I think the cost of the election was something that we didn’t need and couldn’t afford.”Truckee resident Penny Fink agreed that the cost of the election was wasteful, as she walked out onto Church Street from her polling place.”I’m absolutely against special elections. It costs too much money,” she said.
John Roberts said he felt many people perceived the election as a judgment of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a governor.”If he loses all of the [propositions] it will look bad for his political future,” said Roberts. “I think a lot of people are either voting for or against Arnold.”Despite the nearly empty polling booths, poll workers reported a high number of absentee votes for the special election.”I knew it was going to be slow, but there are a lot more absentees than usual,” said Mavis Bowes, an inspector at the Truckee Donner Public Utility District polls.More than 40 percent of Nevada County’s voters asked for absentee ballots, said Nevada County Clerk-Recorder Kathleen Smith. That’s about 26,000 of the county’s more than 64,000 voters, many of whom have chosen absentee ballots for convenience, according to Smith.
Bowes had only seen 35 voters come to the polls by 11:30 a.m.Approximately 42 percent of registered voters were expected to turn out for Tuesday’s election, according to the California Secretary of State’s office.Schwarzenegger faced long odds, according to several recent independent polls. Democrats and labor unions have spent more than $100 million to defeat him, outspending Schwarzenegger by about 2-1. The polls have shown that none of Schwarzenegger’s proposals has majority support among likely California voters.Schwarzenegger has warned of tax increases and other dire consequences if his four-part plan fails Tuesday, while Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, has accused the governor of trying to make himself “a king” at the statehouse.The defeat of his proposals would leave the governor looking politically vulnerable just as his 2006 re-election campaign gets under way. But with polls running against him, winning even one initiative would remind Democrats that his public standing may be only temporarily damaged.Schwarzenegger has dismissed polls and cast the election as a second step toward reform after the 2003 gubernatorial recall election. After a steep drop in popularity, he has sought to recapture the outsider credentials that propelled him to office that year.
The governor called the election in June to promote three initiatives: Proposition 74, which would lengthen teachers’ probationary period from two years to five and make it easier to fire veteran teachers; Proposition 76, which would set a state spending limit and give the governor authority to make midyear budget cuts; and Proposition 77, which would transfer the power to draw legislative boundaries from state lawmakers to a panel of retired judges.Schwarzenegger later endorsed Proposition 75, which would require public employee unions to get written permission from members before using their dues for political purposes. Schwarzenegger has since included that measure in his four-part agenda.Two other propositions offer dueling visions to lower prescription drug costs for the uninsured, while another seeks to regulate part of California’s electricity market.California has held four statewide special elections since 1910, putting a combined 15 ballot measures before voters. Seven of those were approved, including a half-cent sales tax to support law enforcement in 1993.– The Associated Press and the Grass Valley Union contributed to this report.