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UPDATE: Some precincts report heavy voting in Santa Clarita City Council election

Posted: April 8, 2014 9:15 a.m.
Updated: April 8, 2014 8:21 p.m.

High school students Tito Gonzalez, 18, left, from Hart High and Tiffany Shroyer, 16, from Santa Clarita Christian School sign in voters at La Mesa Junior High School in Canyon Country on Tuesday. Signal photo by Dan Watson

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Voter turnout for Tuesday’s 2014 Santa Clarita City Council election was heavier than normal for at least some precincts during the day, poll workers said Tuesday, though others reported an average or light turnout.

Voters who cast ballots at Mitchell Elementary School in Canyon Country found almost as many homemade cookies to choose from as they had choices on their 13-candidate ballots.

By mid-afternoon Tuesday, precinct Inspector Jim Gray — who baked the cookies himself and who has been manning local polling stations for more 15 years — said turnout was “better than it was two years ago.

“We are where we would have been at the end of voting two years ago,” he said, with about five more hours of voting left in the day.

A similar high turnout was reported at Sunrise Senior Living at Sterling Canyon in Valencia, where a steady trickle of voters had been arriving to cast ballots starting at 7 a.m. when the polls opened, said Inspector Amanda Bare around noon Tuesday.

“It’s going very well today,” said Bare, who has been a poll worker for about a decade. “A lot of absentee ballots are coming in — they say they just forgot (to mail them),” she said.

Polling places at Saugus High School and McGrath Elementary School in Newhall reported average turnouts by late afternoon — some 200 at Saugus and 20 at McGrath. But both were hopeful of heavy evening turnouts.

Bob Heisch, one of two inspectors at Saugus High, said those coming to the polls were an older crowd — in their 40s and 50s.

“Younger people think that anything under the president is not important, (but) it’s more important for you because it’s so close to home,” Heisch said of the City Council vote.

“This should be bigger than the presidential election. The further (elected officials) are from you, they have less understanding about what’s going on.”

At the Newhall Library, precinct workers displayed a voter roster peppered with gray tabs, indicating voters who had voted by mail. Not many polling-place voters were expected, they said, although some trickled in during a short visit there around 10:30 a.m.

As Santa Clarita Valley residents began heading to the polls Tuesday morning, at least 10,550 votes had already been cast by mail, said Arminé Chaparyan, interim city clerk/redevelopment manager for the city of Santa Clarita.

“Last night, we had 10,550 vote-by-mail ballots returned to the city,” Chaparyan said Tuesday morning. Those received in the mail Tuesday would be added to the count Tuesday night.

Traditionally, the lion’s share of ballots in Santa Clarita City Council elections are cast by mail.

The city received 11,607 ballots by mail in 2012 — meaning 75.4 percent of the 15,390 votes in that election were cast by mail.

The story was much the same in 2010, when voters cast 10,052 ballots by mail. That was 67.3 percent of the 14,947 votes cast in that election.

In fact, the last time more ballots were cast at polling places than by mail in a City Council election was 1998, according to city records.

This year’s figures were also affected by a dramatic growth in the number of people eligible to vote in City Council elections.

Since the last election, the city’s number of total voters has grown by more than 24,000, largely as a result of annexations, according to city officials.

Chester Allen was inspector at the Canyon Country precinct headquartered at Fair Oaks Ranch Community School.

Asked to describe turnout as brisk, slow or casual, he said: “That’s in the right direction. To call it casual is charitable.”

“A lot of our voters are mail-in votes,” he said.

A couple of miles from his precinct, down Via Princessa at La Mesa Junior High School, voter turnout was a trickle inside an empty, dark gymnasium.

“We’ve had 63 voters,” Inspector Saul Han said in the late afternoon, asking for a count confirmation from his young helpers — Tito Gonzalez, 18, a Hart High School student, and Tiffany Shroyer, 16, a Santa Clarita Christian School volunteer.

“It’s been really interesting to see how voting works,” Gonzalez said as a voter stopped at his table with three kids in tow.

Han called turnout at his station “not light, not heavy” but added: “We should get over 100 because it will pick up after 6 p.m.”

Signal Staff Writers Luke Money, Lila Littlejohn and Charlie Kaijo contributed to this report.
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt



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