Primary Turnout Crosses 25%

With all but three small counties reporting their remaining uncounted ballot numbers, turnout for last Tuesday’s election is finally clear at 28.8 percent.

The counties report 4.1 million ballots counted, with almost 490,000 ballots uncounted. There may be a slight reduction from 27.4 percent due to the differences in timing between the counted and uncounted ballot reports.

As expected, actual turnout is considerably higher than the 20 percent figure counted on election day, but it remains the lowest-turnout statewide primary in recorded state history. Turnout in a California primary has only dropped below 40 percent of registered voters twice since the Secretary of State began keeping statistics in 1914: once in 2002 (34.6%) and again in 2006 (33.6%).

Last Tuesday represents not only a new low turnout mark, but the first time turnout dropped below 30 percent.

One of the most likely reasons for such low turnout would be this year’s split of California’s presidential and state/local primary. With only judges, district attorneys, legislators, and nominally controversial propositions on the ballot, many voters likely lacked the motivation to make it to the polls. California’s turnout in February’s Presidential primary was 57.7 percent. Over the next four years Californians (and their legislators) will have to question whether the goal (but not result) of increased national influence in the Presidential nominating contest was worth causing lower turnout for local elections.


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