While statewide election participation hovered around 23 percent Friday, Sonoma County voters turned out at more than twice that rate.
With about 59,000 ballots left to count, countywide participation in Tuesday’s election was about 48 percent, Sonoma County clerk-recorder-assessor Bill Rousseau said Friday, the last day to accept mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day.
The national political climate paired with a competitive race for county clerk-recorder-assessor and the first contested sheriff’s race in a quarter century likely contributed to the high turnout, Rousseau said.
Turnout for gubernatorial primary elections always has hovered around 50 percent, but the county experienced a drop to 41 percent in 2014 — a fact Rousseau attributed to “a trend of people being tired of politics and elections.”
“I think we’re moving back into the more normal range now,” he said.
County election workers mailed out 210,000 ballots. The county has 268,669 registered voters.
Statewide, voter participation in gubernatorial primaries has been steadily declining for more than a decade.
In 2014, 25 percent of registered voters participated, compared to 33 percent in 2010.
In 2006, 34 percent participated.
Sonoma State University political scientist David McCuan blamed this year’s even poorer statewide showing on a combination of factors, including voter apathy, an uninteresting ballot and a top-two primary election system, where the two candidates who receive the most votes, regardless of party, move on to the November general election.
“All of these things combine to lower interest in the primary itself,” he said.
McCuan said the downward trend likely will continue until the state changes its primary election system.
“(But) it’s not only that,” McCuan said. “It’s the lack of compelling races.”
County officials have 30 days from Election Day to submit final vote counts. The outstanding ballots are unlikely to change any county races because the margins are so wide, Rousseau said.
The backlog is a result of the growing popularity of voting by mail. Even though the system is meant to create easier access to voting and simplify the process, it doesn’t change voters’ general behavior of waiting until the last minute, Rousseau said.
Official election results will be published by the Secretary of State by July 13.
You can reach Staff Writer Christi Warren at 707-521-5205 or email@example.com. On Twitter @SeaWarren.