Sonoma County voters have an impressive track record of turning out at the polls on Election Day.
In most recent elections, the local turnout rate has been among the highest in the state.
More than 86 percent of registered Sonoma County voters cast ballots in the November 2016 election, trailing only Marin among California’s 58 counties. Statewide, voter turnout was 75 percent.
That was a presidential general election, and they always bring out the most voters. The numbers inevitably decline for midterm elections — and especially for midterm primary elections like the one coming up on June 5. That’s true here in Sonoma County, too.
But the drop-off for the last midterm primary — in June 2014 — was alarming, with barely 40 percent of local voters participating.
That was just the second time since 1998 that turnout in Sonoma County fell below 50 percent for any statewide election. (The only other time was an off-year special election in May 2009 to decide a handful of budget-related ballot measures.)
We hope that 2014 was an exception and not the start of a trend. A healthy democracy requires an engaged electorate. And an engaged electorate keeps government accountable.
Mail ballots are going out for the June 5 primary, and if civic duty isn’t reason enough to vote, there are some important contests to be decided, including choosing candidates for governor, seven other state constitutional offices and one of California’s seats in the U.S. Senate.
Moreover, with the state’s open-primary system, all voters are allowed to cast ballots for any of the candidates regardless of their party affiliation.
While no one is running against incumbent Sonoma County supervisors, and the lone challenger to District Attorney Jill Ravitch dropped out, local voters have a contested race for sheriff for the first time in 28 years — and it looks as if it will come down to the wire.
A Press Democrat poll published Sunday showed a toss-up between sheriff’s Capt. Mark Essick and Santa Rosa Councilman Ernesto Olivares. The third candidate is former Los Angeles police Capt. John Mutz. If no one gets a majority in the primary, the top two will advance to a November run-off.
For the first time ever, local voters are getting a say on raising tolls on the Bay Bridge and six other state-owned bridges in the greater Bay Area. If Regional Measure 3 passes, some of the new revenue would help pay for local transportation projects, including widening Highway 101 in the Novato Narrows and extending SMART service to Windsor.
If you aren’t signed up already, Monday is the deadline to register to vote in the June 5 election.
You can find postage-paid registration cards at city halls, post offices, public libraries, most county government buildings, including the office of the registrar of voters, and at state Department of Motor Vehicles offices. You also can register online at registertovote.ca.gov.
If you’re a U.S. citizen and you’re 18 years old, or will be on or before Election Day, you’re eligible to vote.
In the last statewide election, in November 2018, three local contests were decided by 20 votes or less. And a special election last year in Virginia ended in a dead heat.