In spite of the campaign literature that was mailed to prospective voters over the past few months, it might be hard to believe that many people might not know that there is a primary election today.
But some polls are showing that this might just be the case. Political pollsters are forecasting record low voter turnout in both San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties.
For some, the low predicted turnout is not a surprise given that this is a primary election. Presidential elections are always the exception when it comes to firing up voters. The highest number of registered voters turned out in San Mateo County in the presidential election of 2012, when 80% of the registered voters went to the polls. That number was a solid increase over the 78.86% that voted in the presidential election of 2008.
In the 2010 Gubernatorial race that featured Gov. Edmund Brown and Meg Whitman, 65% of the registered voters cast their ballots. But in the primary election only 38.38% voted
Generally, in statewide primary elections, voter turnout can decline remarkably to about 27%, which is considered “an historic average.”
David Tom, deputy assessor-county clerk-recorder in San Mateo County said that the numbers of mailed in ballots seem to back up the low predictions. Tom said that in recent years more and more people are choosing to mail in their ballots or drop them at the polls. The higher the absentee ballots, the lower the number of voters going to the polls.
This year, the San Mateo County registrar’s office mailed out 212,468 ballots and have, thus far, received less than 30 % of them back. In spite of the fact that absentee ballots are coming in slowly, Tom decided to be optimistic and and predicted that 31% of the county's voters would cast ballots.
This June’s low election turnout isn’t just predicted locally, but for other counties throughout the state. One blogger in Southern California, John Nienstedt, Sr., said that the voter turnout forecast for San Diego is “potentially so weak it could damage the city’s psyche.”
Since more voters are registered as Democrats in the state, the fear is that registered Democratic voters might be so complacent about the outcome that they might stay home.
In the June 2014 election, which is considered a “Top Two” primary, the top two candidates who receive the most votes will go on to the November general election, which will be held this November. This is a new statewide system of voting and for the first time in California, voters can now vote for any candidate on the ballot, regardless of their political affiliation or the candidate’s part affiliation.
With 18 candidates running for governor, Governor Jerry Brown is consider predicted to win easily. Other candidates might have an edge in being re-elected, because their names are so familiar to the voters. These candidates include Gavin Newsom, Leland Yee, Betty Yee, John Chiang and Kamala Harris, all Democrats.
There are several ballot measures that have generated some public interest, such as a Measure A, a school bond measure, which if passed would raise $265 million that would be used “to support high quality education and upgrade local high schools” in the Sequoia Union High School District. The measure would require 55% yes vote to pass.
Measure AA would require an even higher approval rate with 2/3rds of the voters casting a “yes” vote. Walter Moore, president of the Peninsula Open Space Trust, said, “That’s a high bar.” Measure AA is on the ballot in three California counties: San Mateo County, Santa Clara County and Santa Cruz County. If passed, the measure would authorize the issuance of up to $300 million in bonds that would be used to improve access to hiking and biking opportunities, protect, restore and preserve redwood forests, natural open spaces, creeks, water quality, wildlife habitats and the scenic beauty of the California Coastline.
Voters are always urged to avoid complacency. There is certainly a lot on the line in this election, as in all elections, that might well determine the future choices of local and state residents for years to come.
Tom stressed that it’s critical that voters weigh-in on the local issues on their ballots, because these issues will have a direct impact on their lives. He said that the local issues “will impact those in the community on a daily basis.”
Henrietta J. Burroughs, the author of this article, can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org