Part of the Bay Area News Group

Special election turn-out historically low

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Thursday, April 2nd, 2009 at 11:38 am in Election reform, Elections.

Contra Costa Registrar of Voters Steve Weir

Contra Costa Registrar of Voters Steve Weir

Contra Costa Registrar of Voters Steve Weir has compiled some dismal turnout data for special elections in California.

The most recent congressional special election was in April 2008 to replace the late Rep. Tom Lantos: Overall turnout was about 25 percent but turnout on election day was less than 7 percent.

Weir is among a growing number of election officials who would like Legislature to pass a law that would allow counties the option to hold mail-only elections if turnout is expected to be low. It costs a fortune to put on a precinct-based election where so few people show up at the polls, and money is especially tight in county coffers these days.

Contra Costa faces the prospect of two or more special elections this year in addition to the May 19 statewide election. An election to replace Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, will likely occur sometime this summer and if voters select someone who occupied a legislative seat, a subsequent special election will be needed to replace him or her.

Here is what Weir found:

SD 26 March 24, 2009                7.91% turn out, 3.3% turn out at the polls         May 19, 2009*                Scheduled

CD 12 April 8, 2008                25.9% turn out, 6.9% turn out at the polls

June 3, 2008*                No Data Posted.

AD 55 December 11, 2007        11.56% turn out, 5.64% turn out at the polls

February 5, 2008*        43.29% turn out (vote by mail data not available)

CD 37 June 26, 2007                12.35% turn out, 7.12% turn out at the polls
August 21, 2007                9.02% turn out, 4.04% turn out at the polls

AD 39 May 15, 2007                14.27% turn out, 10.24% turn out at the polls
No Runoff

CD 50 April 11, 2006                38.86% turn out, 18.20% turn out at the polls
June 6, 2006*                41.04% turn out, 17.67 % turn out at the polls

SD 35 April 11, 2006                19.14% turn out, 14.14% turn out at the polls
June 6, 2006*                28.18% turn out, 12.13% turn out at the polls

CD 48 October 4, 2005                22.80% turn out, 8.3% turn out at the polls
December 6, 2005        25.70% turn out, 8.,89% turn out at the polls

AD 53 March 8, 2005                17.69% turn out, 11.09% turn out at the polls
No Runoff

CD 05 March 8, 2005                27.72% turn out, 12.34% turn out at the polls
No Runoff

CD 32 April 10, 2001                35.25% turn out, vote by mail results not available
June 5, 2001                37.60% turn out, vote by mail results not available

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  • Steve Glazer

    Lisa-

    I hope Steve is successful.

    I know Orinda is unusual but in our school parcel tax special election last month we had an overall turnout of 59% and 81% came by mail.

    It is such a waste of taxpayer money to have fully staffed polling place where few go.

    There is a middle ground: allow local governments to call for a hybrid all mail election where ballots are sent to everyone but allow for a few ‘final day’ drop-off locations. This would also allow provisional voting if someone losses their ballot.

    In this option, I could see having one drop-off location in Orinda rather than 7 polling stations. We would get 85% of an efficiency and we would still please the ‘old school’ voter who likes to personally vote (drop their ballot).

  • Michael F. Sarabia

    Maybe that is their intent and purpose and let the banks take the hindmost?