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Voter turnout once again creeps lower

Posted: November 7, 2013 4:28 p.m.
Updated: November 7, 2013 4:28 p.m.

Poll worker Eric Bergman signs in Patricia Miledi to vote Tuesday at Mint Canyon Elementary School in Canyon Country. Local voter turnout was around 7 percent. Signal photo by Charlie Kaijo

Turnout for Tuesday’s elections in the Santa Clarita Valley was fairly typical for off-year elections.

That’s another way of saying it was meager.

Less than 7 percent of the more than 112,000 registered voters in Santa Clarita cast ballots on Tuesday, according to numbers from the Los Angeles County Office of Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk.

“Where is everybody?” asked Matthew Porcellino, who worked the polling station at Mint Canyon Elementary School in Canyon Country on Tuesday. “Nobody votes. It doesn’t make sense. I’d love to see more people vote.”

At the polling station at the Hyatt Regency Valencia, Jon Conley said he had seen only about four people come by as of 1 p.m. Tuesday.

“We wait here all day,” he said. “We came last night to set everything up.”

And while polling place turnout doesn’t paint a complete picture in this day of increasingly popular mail-in balloting, the numbers returned by the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk show participation was even lower than in past elections.

None of the four local elections on Tuesday came close to seeing more than 10 percent of eligible voters take the time to cast a ballot, according to county records.

In the Newhall School District, only 2,764 ballots were cast out of 39,919 registered voters, good for a voter participation of 6.9 percent.

The top vote-getter in the Newhall district this election year was Christy Smith, who received 1,733 votes.

There was no election for the Newhall district board in 2011, but in the 2009 election 5,916 ballots were cast, according to the county.

The candidate who placed fifth in the 2009 election, K. Scott Miller, received 1,572 votes, which would have put him second in this year’s election.

Despite the decrease in participation, Smith said in an interview on election night that she was somewhat surprised turnout ended up being as high as it was.

“I really appreciate the numbers of people who did get out to vote,” she said.

In the Saugus Union School District, only 3,872 ballots were cast out of an eligible voter pool of 58,253, a voter participation of around 6.6 percent, according to county figures.

That is a notable decline from the last school board election in 2011, when 5,159 votes were cast, according to the county.

Judy Umeck, the top vote-getter from this past election, received 2,328 votes, a figure that is lower than the top two candidates received in 2011.

Of the 17 candidates vying for board seats in four local districts on Tuesday, only two — Umeck and fellow Saugus district board member Paul De La Cerda — received more than 2,000 votes, according to figures from the county.

Sulphur Springs
The story was much the same in the Sulphur Springs School District, where an eligible voter pool of 31,247 yielded only 2,142 ballots, a voter participation of about 6.8 percent.

That is 27.3 percent lower than in 2011, when 2,949 votes were cast in the district, according to county figures.

The top vote-getter in 2011 received 1,870 votes, while Ken Chase, the lead candidate in 2013, received 1,263.

Chase said he made a concerted effort to encourage people to vote.

“I think we really worked hard getting out people to vote and I’m hoping that made a difference in the turnout,” he said Tuesday.

Newhall County Water
The Newhall County Water District rounds out a quartet of elections that saw falling participation. In the last election for the water district’s board of directors in 2009, more than 3,000 people voted. This time around, only around 1,800 took the time to vote, despite both elections featuring four candidates vying for three seats.

Low voter turnout was not unique to the Santa Clarita Valley.

Countywide, only about 9.91 percent of eligible registered voters cast ballots in this election, according to county officials, with a total of 174,025 ballots counted and processed Tuesday.

That, too, is a decrease from the most recent off-year election in 2011, when 11.71 percent of county voters cast ballots.

Failed date changes
Local school districts, as well as the Newhall County Water District, petitioned the county earlier this year to change election dates for board seats from odd-numbered to even-numbered years, a move they said would reduce the cost of putting on elections as well as increase voter turnout by aligning local races with higher-profile elections such as those for president or governor.

About 78 percent of the more than 94,000 eligible voters cast ballots in the November 2012 election in Santa Clarita, when national races were on the ballot. Unincorporated areas of the Santa Clarita Valley saw similarly high turnout.

Comparatively, only around 12 percent of the then-90,000 eligible voters in Santa Clarita cast ballots in 2011 and fewer than 7 percent did so this year, falling figures that are also reflected in unincorporated areas.

County staffers, citing added costs and capacity constraints on the ballot, urged members of the Board of Supervisors to deny the move.

Supervisors eventually split 2-2-1 on the item, causing the move to fail.

Signal photographer Charlie Kaijo contributed reporting to this story.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney




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