Split primary results in record low-voter turnout


State election officials reported a record low number of ballots cast in the June 3 primary.

An estimated 33 percent of registered voters in California participated. That's a disappointing number, especially compared to the 58 percent of voters statewide who turned out for the Presidential Primary in February.

Tuolumne and Calaveras voters came in at a 40 percent level. Better than the state average, but only about half the level of voter turnout that we've seen in past general elections.

This was the first year since 1940 that state legislators chose to separate the Presidential Primary from the traditional June primary.

The conventional wisdom was that moving the Presidential Primary to early February would allow Californians to have an earlier impact and more influence on the selection of the Republican and Democrat nominees.

What no one anticipated was that 23 other states, including New York and Illinois, would join California to create a massive "Super Tuesday" primary extravaganza.

All of the media hype was focused on the composite number of votes and delegates. "Super Tuesday" mitigated our state's importance in the presidential selection process.

Creating this "third" election was a bust. State legislators should be embarrassed. It cost taxpayers millions of dollars to stage this extra primary. The "skinny" ballot, with only two statewide propositions and a small number of contested races, did nothing to energize the electorate.

Unfortunately, a type of "political burnout" or "voter fatigue" may have contributed to the low turnout. After months of watching presidential primary elections, caucuses, political debates and campaign rhetoric, many voters decided to take a time-out. In some precincts across the state, voter turnout was only 10 percent.

Low voter turnout for races like the Board of Supervisors is especially disturbing. It undermines the importance of that office.

Most of us realize, or should, that the decisions of county supervisors have a significant impact on our everyday lives, our quality of life and the future of our communities.

When the voter turnout in a June primary constitutes only 50 percent of the turnout for that district in a November election, the political process is impaired and diminished.

As legislators sort through the debris of this split primary season, let's hope they return to their senses and go back to a single California primary.

They could also find ways to cut election costs by reducing the number of polling places by one-half. Nearly 60 percent of local voters are now using vote-by-mail ballots.

Many voting precincts are becoming very lonely places on Election Day.

The Union Democrat
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