Sonoma County voter turnout could be average

Maria Diaz De Valle fills out her ballot at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building in Santa Rosa, on Tuesday, June 7, 2016. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)


Turnout among Sonoma County voters was not expected to drop significantly despite a Democratic presidential contest that was called for Hillary Clinton the day before Tuesday’s election.

Sonoma State University political scientist David McCuan said Monday’s analysis by the Associated Press showing Hillary Clinton had locked up enough delegates to secure the presidential election would likely do little to affect turnout in Sonoma County.

“It won’t dissuade those who are feeling the Bern,” he said of Bernie Sanders supporters casting ballots for the Vermont senator, despite Clinton being identified as the presumptive presidential nominee the day before.

“Sonoma County voters tend to be high-information, high-propensity voters that are engaged,” said McCuan, noting that most county voters also cast ballots by mail and are less likely to be affected by last-minute news.

More than three quarters of the county’s 253,860 registered voters cast ballots by mail. Before Tuesday, about 93,000 ballots — representing 48 percent of the voters registered to cast ballots by mail — had been returned.

That could be a bellwether for the voting rate at the end of the day, including those voting at polls and dropping off ballots, said Sonoma County Elections manager Deena Thompson-Stalder.

Primary elections typically have a 40 or 50 percent turnout rate. Sonoma County officials said prior to the election that this year’s primary could be around 60 percent.

On Tuesday, Thompson-Stalder said a steady stream of people continued stopping by the main elections office on Fiscal Drive to drop off their ballots.

“A lot of people are really making an effort to get in and make sure their vote counts,” she said. “California kind of matters, whereas past years everything was decided before it reached the primary.”

The primary came amid a surge in voter interest stoked by the presidential race, with nearly 18 million Californians registered to vote — the highest number ever for any state before a primary, according to the California Secretary of State’s office. That compares with about 17.2 million registered voters before the state’s 2012 presidential primaries.

An early-morning computer glitch meant voters couldn’t use Sonoma County’s elections website to look up their polling place, but the problem was fixed by about 8 a.m., Thompson-Stalder said. People could get that information by calling the county registrar office or on the back of the sample ballot mailed to voters.

Chris Rudd, 33, of Santa Rosa said he is not an avid political observer but said he felt it was important to show up for this election.

“I ended up voting for Bernie Sanders after talking with my friends,” Rudd said. “I’ll vote for whoever is not Donald Trump in the general. I think it’s important for us to show up to vote.”

The AP announcement angered Bernie Sanders supporters nationwide, while also concerning nonpartisan organizations focused on increasing voter participation. Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, said she was disappointed the AP released its count hours before the California primary — one of the nation’s last — because it has the potential to suck the air out of the election.

But media analysts said news organizations are obligated to report the information as soon as it is known.

The Associated Press and Staff Writer Julie Johnson contributed to this story.