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Local News

Low Santa Barbara County Voter Turnout Expected for Election Day

Santa Barbara County elections officials estimate that more than half of the county’s registered voters will cast a ballot Tuesday on Election Day, but they worry the number could be much lower.

Elections chief Joe Holland said his office anticipates a 65-percent turnout, a rate based on past general elections during gubernatorial election years.

Four years ago, and four years before that, 68 percent of county voters showed up to the polls to elect a governor.

Presidential years historically bring bigger turnouts, Holland said, including 86 percent in 2008 and 81 percent in 2012.

But if vote-by-mail returns are any indication, Holland feared more voters than usual will sit this November out.

Final tallies from the Oct. 20 voter registration deadline showed 196,998 residents can cast ballots — an increase from the number officially registered in early October when vote-by-mail ballots went out.

As of Oct. 27, voters returned just 26,718 of the more than 115,000 mail-in ballots, according to Chief Deputy Registrar of Voters Renee Bischof. Tuesday was the last day to register to vote by mail, she said.

“At this same point in time four years ago, we probably had a little over 30,000 (vote-by-mail ballots),” Holland told Noozhawk. “I would like to think that folks are just procrastinating, but I think it’s just going to affect the general turnout. I think you’re seeing this trend across the state.”

Besides being 10 percent behind in mail-in returns, Holland said state estimates show more than half of all California voters might opt out of this election.

Nearly 38 percent of county voters turned out for June’s primary, compared to just 25 percent statewide, he said.

“I just think it has to do with this particular election,” Holland said, dismissing it as part of a larger trend.

“People maybe aren’t as excited. You just tend to get a lower turnout for gubernatorial elections. I hope I’m wrong.”

He said the highly contested Measure P ​“​anti-fracking” initiative and Santa Barbara City College’s Measure S bond initiative could bring more people to the polls.

The “Yes on Measure P” campaign recently announced its members had registered more than 7,100 incoming freshmen and students living in Isla Vista.

Of the county’s total voters, 79,392 were registered as Democrats, 58,202 were registered as Republicans and 48,408 noted no party preference, according to elections data.

Holland said the county could still use more poll workers Tuesday, and he encouraged voters to mail back ballots or drop them off to any polling location countywide by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

A full list of polling locations can be found under the Upcoming Elections tab on the county Elections website.

“Elections are expensive, and we’ve spent the money on this election,” Holland said.

“We’ve got ballots for everybody who wants to vote. We would like a reasonable return on our investment.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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