SACRAMENTO — After months of hard campaigning by candidates and weeks of negative ads funded by record political spending, millions of California voters are finally having their say.
The outcome of the election Tuesday will decide if residents will pay higher taxes to fix the state's persistently out-of-balance budget; change direction on the death penalty; and pass a first-in-the-nation requirement to label genetically modified foods.
No state politician has more at stake than Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, who was elected after promising to end the state's long-running budget crisis and has personally championed a $6 billion-a-year tax increase that he says he will restore California's luster, especially for its schoolchildren.
Brown was greeted by more than two dozen supporters as he cast his ballot near his home in the Oakland hills Tuesday morning. He said he was optimistic the proposition would pass.
"I think that's a proposition that speaks for itself and I wouldn't be surprised if the outcome is more positive than most of you are probably expecting," Brown said.
California reached an all-time high of 18.2 million registered voters last week. The percentage of registered Republicans continued to decline, dropping below 30 percent.
A Field Poll predicted that 70 percent of California's registered voters would cast ballots in Tuesday's election, with more than half voting by mail. It would be the first time the number of mail-in ballots overtook the number of precinct ballots in a California general election.
Several thousand Californians had called the state's voting hotline by Tuesday afternoon, mostly to ask about the location of their polling place, according to Shannan Velayas, spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office.
Callers also reported that a handful of the state's 24,500 polling places did not open at 7 a.m., likely because a volunteer overslept, Velayas said.
In Sacramento, some residents did not want to cross a picket line to vote at their designated polling place located inside a Raley's grocery store. Workers at that grocery chain went on strike Sunday.
Elections workers deployed extra staff to that location to provide curbside voting and give directions to other polling places, Alice Jarboe, assistant Sacramento County registrar, said.
In South Los Angeles, a polling place at an elementary school had paper ballots but no voting machines for about two hours.
Poll workers "just inadvertently left them at home," county registrar spokeswoman Elizabeth Knox said.
Some voters waited for the machines to arrive at Trinity Street School while others filled out the paper ballots.
A number of voters around the state reported arriving to polling places and finding their names not on the rolls, including some who had registered through the Department of Motor Vehicles, said Kim Alexander, president of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation.
In Shasta County, voters registered as permanent absentee were calling in to complain that they had not received their mail-in ballots.
Asked why that might be, Shasta County Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling Allen said, "There's as many different reasons as there are voters."