It’s official: Voter participation hits record low

A Californian casts a ballot. (Photo: Vepar5 via Shutterstock)

The state’s official snapshot of the Nov. 4 general election depicts a politically disengaged populace with marginal interest in deciding who will govern.

Less than a third of California’s eligible voters cast ballots on Nov. 4. The ballot, a nonpresidential election, included statewide races for governor and constitutional offices, along with high-stakes ballot propositions relating to health care and regulation.

In Los Angeles County, with more than 5,000 voting precincts and eight million eligible voters, only 31 percent of registered voters cast ballots.

Of those who registered to vote, little better than four in every 10 – about 42 percent – actually voted, either in person or by mail, the secretary of state reported in its Statement of the Vote.

The participation was the lowest of any regular statewide California election since 1912, except for special elections in 2009, 1993 and 1979 that were called to decide specific issues, such as taxes or borrowing.

Overall, 7.51 million people cast ballots last month. Of those, 4.54 million, or 60.52 percent, voted by mail – continuing an upward trend.

In Los Angeles County, the most populace county with more than 5,000 voting precincts and eight million eligible voters, about 31 percent of registered voters cast ballots, the lowest participation level of any of the 58 counties. Of the L.A. voters who were eligible to cast ballots, less than a fourth went to the polls.

Imperial County reported 36.4 percent of registered voters went to the polls, while in San Bernardino, the figure was 34.4 percent.

Among eligible voters, the lowest participation of any county was in San Bernardino, with 23.03 percent, about a percentage lower than Los Angeles.

The highest participation level was in Sierra County, which has 2,502 eligible voters, of whom 2,229 registered. Of those, nearly 73 percent turned out. Alpine, another sparsely populated county in Northern California, about 61 percent of those who registered cast ballots. As in Sierra County, all of the voters in Alpine County voted by mail. In Napa County, more than nine out of 10 voters cast ballots by mail.

California’s highest-turnout election was in 1964, when 88.38 percent of those registered cast ballots. The second highest was four years earlier, when 88.32 percent voted.

The six presidential elections from 1932 through 1952 all had turnouts above 80 percent, with the high during that period of 86.9 percent in 1952, when voters chose Republican Dwight Eisenhower over Democrat Adlai Stevenson.


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