County turnout more than double state’s record low

By Aaron West, The Triplicate June 06, 2014 07:07 pm

Less than half of the registered voters in Del Norte voted in Tuesday’s primary election, a significant decrease from the 70 percent of folks who voted in 2012.

Voter turnout across the county was a little more than 41 percent, according to a report provided by the County Clerk’s office, with 5,122 voters either showing up in person to vote or sending in their ballot by mail. There are 12,431 registered voters in the county.

“Of course you’d like to see it over 50 percent at least,” Northrup said, attributing the low turnout partly to the fact that there wasn’t a presidential candidate to vote for this year, which typically brings out more voters.

According to state election returns, 3.2 million people, or 18.3 percent of registered voters in California, voted in the primary election — a record low, the Sacramento Bee reported. 

Despite the low number here in Del Norte, Northrup said that 41 percent was more than she had anticipated at the beginning of the night when an early summary of counted mail-in ballots showed a turnout of just 2,981 voters.

“It ended up higher than I anticipated, considering the way things started,” she said. “We started really slow.”

The turnout numbers will go up a bit when the rest of the vote by mail and provisional ballots are tabulated by Friday at 3 p.m. Northrup said that there are 854 of those ballots, and whether the uncounted votes will change the results of any of the races remains to be seen. Out of the 854 ballots, 129 are provisional ballots, which means some of them very likely won’t be eligible. Provisional ballots are provided to voters whose names don’t appear on registered voter lists, for whatever reason. They’ll have to be verified against voter registration cards, Northrup said.

Only one local race — the judicial face-off between Chris Doehle and Darren McElfresh — which, as the results currently stand, is set to be decided in a November runoff — has any real chance of being affected by the uncounted ballots. On Tuesday night, Doehle had 48.6 percent of the vote and McElfresh had 36.2 percent. Doehle will need to clear 50 percent to win, which means she’ll need to get a little more than half of the uncounted, eligible votes.

Although the numbers tell a story of low turnout, talking to the folks who were manning the polling stations on Tuesday reveals a slightly more exciting tale. 

Voting inspectors who oversaw the various precincts around the county filtered in and out of the County Clerk’s Office throughout the evening, accompanying their ballot boxes like proud parents.

“It was pretty awesome,” said Bernadette McCune, who does legal processing work for the Clerk’s Office and was the voting inspector at Precinct 10 in Hiouchi. 

It was McCune’s first time as an inspector, and she said that even though there were some lulls in the action way out in Hiouchi — “I hear it’s one of the slower precincts,” she said — it was still interesting being on the other side of the voting booth.

“I voted in several primaries and a couple of presidential elections, so being on the voter’s side, I understood that process, but not being on the side of answering all the questions and being the person that knows the answers,” she said. “I was really nervous about making a mistake. But once you get into the groove of things it’s not really that hard.”

Jake and Patty Smith, who moved to Smith River last year and also were manning a precinct as inspectors for the first time, echoed McCune’s sentiments, going on to say that they felt the whole process had gone smoothly and that there were some memorable moments.

“There was a woman who brought her son in to vote for the first time,” Jake said. “That was cool. He’s going to go into the Army when he graduates. It was very cool.”

The Smiths said that they were encouraged by all the young people who showed up to vote, estimating that probably half of the 205 people who showed up to vote at Precinct 15 were under thirty.

For her part, McCune said there weren’t that many young people at all, and that even though voting at her precinct was steady, she was surprised by how many people didn’t vote.

“I do wish more people would come out,” McCune said. “When you see a list of how many people are registered to vote in a precinct, you can see the number of people who didn’t come in. It was astounding.”

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