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Voters shun election in droves

The state Capitol, Sacramento. (Photo: Wikimedia)
An early tally shows that fewer than one in five of California’s registered voters cast ballots in this week’s primary, continuing a downward trend that has bedeviled the state’s elections in recent years.

A county-by-county report from the secretary of state’s office released early Wednesday noted that only 3.24 million people voted out of 17.72 million registered, or about 18.3 percent. When compared with the total number of eligible voters in California, those who actually cast ballots dwindled to 13.34 percent. The initial tally can be seen here.

Aside from paltry participation, voters also displayed a startling lack of knowledge about candidates. In the race for secretary of state, suspended state Sen. Leland Yee, a San Francisco Democrat who has been accused of federal charges of corruption and gun-running, received nearly 300,000 votes, or roughly 10 percent of all ballots cast.

The figures are likely to change as more ballots – late absentee, provisional, unprocessed, and others — are counted, the secretary of state said, as the 28-day official canvass gets under way. In the June 2012 presidential primary, the secretary of state initially reported that 25.7 percent of registered voters cast ballots, a figure which eventually rose to 31 percent as the tally was finalized.

But while the participation level may yet rise, the early numbers reflect the depth of the remarkable lack of engagement in California’s electorate. If registered voter turnout remains below 28 percent, it will set a new low for voter participation in the state since 1914, according to records from the secretary of state.

Los Angeles County, again, reported the lowest voter turnout in the state – just 13.1 percent of the county’s 4.85 million voters cast ballots, or about 636,000 voters. San Bernardino County reported the second-lowest turnout, 14.8 percent, while Kern County’s 16.3 percent turnout was third lowest in the state.

The highest-turnout counties in the state were led, again, by tiny Alpine in the Sierra Nevada, where 532 of the county’s 768 registered voters cast ballots, or about 69.5 percent.  The county, which has five precincts, was one of 14 counties — all of them rural with limited populations and GOP registrations above the state average — that exceeded participation levels of 35 percent.

Aside from paltry participation, voters also displayed a startling lack of knowledge about candidates. In the race for secretary of state, suspended state Sen. Leland Yee, a San Francisco Democrat who has been accused of federal charges of corruption and gun-running, received nearly 300,000 votes, or roughly 10 percent of all ballots cast. Yee publicly withdrew from the election weeks ago, but his name remained on the ballot.

In the 2010 primary, the officially reported turnout was 33.3 percent of registered voters, or about a fourth of the total eligible electorate. The highest presidential primary election turnout in California was 72.6 percent in 1976. For a non-presidential primary, the highest turnout was 68.89 percent in June 1978, when the tax-cutting Proposition 13 was approved.

 


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