Voter turnout in Alameda County lowest in a decade
on November 3, 2010
Despite a hotly contested gubernatorial race and a controversial ballot initiative that would have decriminalized marijuana throughout California, voter turnout in Alameda County for Tuesday’s election dropped to its lowest level in at least a decade. Though comprehensive turnout figures will not be available for several weeks, a preliminary tally by the Alameda County Registrar of Voters office indicates that just 44 percent of registered voters submitted a ballot either at the polls or by mailing one in.
This year’s low turnout represents a noticeable dip from a high of 78 percent in 2008. Observers attributed that year’s spike in turnout, part of a nationwide trend, in large part to enthusiasm about voting in the first presidential race since 1928 in which neither candidate was a sitting president or vice president. In Alameda County, which has historically leaned Democratic, then-Senator Barack Obama won more than 78 percent of the popular vote.
In Alameda County and elsewhere, there is a trend towards significantly higher turnout for presidential elections than for lower offices. In 2004, when John Kerry challenged George W. Bush for the White House, Alameda County’s turnout was 76.5 percent, only slightly lower than in 2008.
This year’s participation rate is on par with the state’s as a whole, which Wednesday morning the California Secretary of State’s office estimated on to be roughly 43 percent. This figure will be updated as counties finish counting absentee and provisional ballots; they have until November 30 to do so. Because federal turnout statistics are based on figures reported by each state, no national turnout figures are yet available.
For the first time in California’s history, more than half of the ballots submitted in the state were sent in by mail, according to a Field Poll survey. Actual visits to the polls on Tuesday remained the most popular form of voting in Alameda County, but just barely: nearly 46 percent of ballots in the county were submitted by mail.
Despite the national attention it garnered, Proposition 19, which would have decriminalized the recreational use of marijuana throughout California, failed to attract voters to the polls at the levels many anticipated. According to a survey commissioned by the Los Angeles Times and several other news organizations, only one in ten voters considered Proposition 19 to be the issue he or she felt most strongly about. About half of all voters cited the gubernatorial race between Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman as their main reason for voting.
Check out all of our Oakland elections coverage on our Campaign 2010 page.
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