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Local Voter Turnout Already Reaching Record Highs

A record number of mail-in ballots have been returned, and county officials expect up to 85 percent of registered voters to participate in Tuesday's election.

Santa Barbara County residents vote early Monday at the downtown Elections Office on East Victoria Street. Officials expect the turnout among registered voters to reach 80 percent to 85 percent in Tuesday's election.
Santa Barbara County residents vote early Monday at the downtown Elections Office on East Victoria Street. Officials expect the turnout among registered voters to reach 80 percent to 85 percent in Tuesday’s election. (Rob Kuznia / Noozhawk photo)

Santa Barbara County elections officials are expecting a major turnout for Election Day, basing their predictions partly on how local voters already have set a record for voting by mail.

By early Monday, voters had returned a record 67,000 vote-by-mail ballots to the Santa Barbara County Elections Office, far surpassing the 45,000 returned in the last presidential election, said Billie Alvarez, the chief deputy Registrar of Voters.

Alvarez said elections officials are expecting the turnout among registered voters to reach 80 percent to 85 percent. In a typical presidential election, she said, the figure hovers at 70 percent to 75 percent.

“I think it’s going to be busy, but it’s going to be a good turnout,” she said. “People are very interested.”

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Click here to locate your precinct polling location. Click here for county results, beginning at 8:05 p.m. Tuesday.

For the elections office, the long-anticipated Election Day mayhem of Tuesday really began Monday.

All day, residents flooded the downtown Elections Office on East Victoria Street. Some were eager to vote early or drop off a vote-by-mail ballot; others asked questions such as whether it was too late to register. (It was: The deadline was Oct. 20.)

The high-stakes races aren’t limited to the presidential, congressional and statewide elections. County voters Tuesday will make major decisions that are guaranteed — one way or another — to have a large impact.

Voters across the county will decide the fate of Measure A, the transportation initiative that would continue, for 30 years, a half-cent sales tax that is set to expire in 2010. The measure would generate about $1 billion, to be split between the South Coast and the North County on transportation projects such as repairing potholes, widening freeways and expanding bus services.

Although Measure A enjoys an unusually broad base of support, it still faces an uphill climb. Because of a state law passed in the 1990s making it more difficult for localities to tax themselves, the passage of Measure A requires the support of two-thirds of the voters; its 1989 predecessor needed just a simple majority.

Voters in Santa Barbara will decide whether to approve Measure G, which seeks to continue collecting a tax on telephone use. City officials say the money would help pay for things such as police, fire and 9-1-1 emergency communications, and that its failure to pass would put a $4 million hole in the city’s annual budget.

Santa Barbara County residents wait in line Monday to vote early.
Santa Barbara County residents wait in line Monday to vote early. (Rob Kuznia / Noozhawk photo)
Another big one is the race for Goleta City Council, where four candidates are vying for two seats. As in the last election, growth and development remain key issues in the 6-year-old city. Two of the candidates, incumbent Jean Blois and newcomer Don Gilman, are more accepting of growth and development. The other two, former Councilwoman Margaret Connell and Planning Commissioner Ed Easton, are decidedly more slow-growth-minded.

Voters in the Goleta Valley, Isla Vista and the Santa Ynez Valley will make a pivotal decision in the run-off for the 3rd District seat on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.

Doreen Farr, a Democrat, and Steve Pappas, a registered “nonpartisan,” have both been credited for running a cordial campaign, but the candidates were nonetheless able to make clear their differences.

For instance, on pensions, where skyrocketing costs are largely responsible for the county’s fiscal malaise, Farr, whose biggest financial contributor is the Service Employees International Union, emphasized the importance of a healthy benefits package to attract and retain excellent employees. Pappas, whose biggest financial backer is Nancy Crawford-Hall, publisher of the Santa Ynez Valley Journal, called for a downgrade for new hires, saying “we cannot afford what we did five years ago.”

Voters from Montecito to Goleta will decide which of the five candidates will occupy three open seats on the Santa Barbara school board.

Those voters also will have the final say on Measure H, which, at $23 annually per parcel, would bring more music and foreign language to the schools, as well as restore the small class sizes in ninth-grade math that recently were eliminated in a round of budget cuts by the school board.

Also on the school front, voters in Santa Barbara will determine the outcome of Measure I, which, at $27 annually per parcel, would allow the Santa Barbara elementary district to expand its music program.

Most voters in Santa Barbara County — as well as Ventura County — will decide the victor in the most expensive legislative race in California history, not to mention the most rancorous in the area this year. That’s the fight for the 19th Senate District, pitting Santa Barbara Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson against Moorpark Republican Tony Strickland.

If Jackson wins, the 40-member state Senate would be one Democrat shy of the two-thirds, veto-proof majority.

Noozhawk staff writer Rob Kuznia can be reached at [email protected]

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