Voter turnout likely to mirror 2008 election, say officials

jsmith@mercedsunstar.comOctober 31, 2012 

— The November general election is right around the corner, and Merced County residents have a number of races to consider.

But how many people will actually show up to the polls?

"It's our duty to vote," said Carol Crawford, 40, a Merced City School District employee. "It's important."

About 99,000 Merced County residents are registered to vote, according to the county Registrar of Voters. That's roughly 38 percent of the county's total population.

Based on statistics from the last presidential election, county officials estimate about 68 percent of registered voters will make it out to the polls. Put another way, about one in four Merced County residents are expected to vote this election.

Perceptions about the upcoming election vary greatly among voters. Some, such as UC Merced student Ozair Ilyas, are enthusiastic about participating. "I want to be part of the system," said Ilyas, 18, from Southern California, who recently registered to vote in Merced County. "I want to vote. I want to have a say in what's going on."

Colt Laney, 22, who moved to Merced from Arizona a little more than a month ago, has a similar view. He registered as soon as he moved to the area. "I grew up and I didn't really like the world around me. Voting's the only way I can see to change it."

However, Merced native Matthew Davis said he's not registered to vote. "I'm anti-voting because the people that own the government, they're the ones putting the people in," said the 30-year-old tattoo artist. "They have a corporate agenda. It's not the voters anymore."

Randall Rank said he's disillusioned with the political system. But rather than boycotting the election, he said he plans to vote for a third-party candidate for president.

"It's important to step out and vote," said 51-year-old Merced native. "Even though there are a number of people that say that's just throwing your vote away. Throwing my vote away would be voting for one of those two parties."

Others say they needed a little convincing before making the decision to vote. "My boyfriend and everybody's telling me to do it," said Monique Perez, 23, a student at Merced Adult School. "So I think am going to do it. Honestly, if I was by myself, I wouldn't."

Area choices on ballot

Beyond the state ballot measures and the national races, there are a number of local and regional elections specific to area voters.

For state Assembly, regional voters have a choice between Republican Jack Mobley and Democrat Adam Gray for the newly drawn District 21. The district encompasses all of Merced County and the southwest section of Stanislaus County, including Ceres and parts of Modesto.

For the Merced County Board of Supervisors District 1, residents in Livingston, south Merced and Planada will choose between incumbent John Pedrozo and challenger Jim Pacheco.

There are two seats open on the Merced Community College District Board of Trustees.

Residents in the cities of Merced, Atwater, Dos Palos, Gustine, Livingston and Los Banos, as well as the areas of Planada and Winton, will vote on several local races, including school boards and city council elections.

The Merced Irrigation District Board of Trustees could see a shake up with three of the five seats up for grabs.

There are two candidates running for Division 2, which includes part of the city of Merced and El Nido. Incumbent Gino Pedretti is going up against feed salesman Scott Koehn.

In Division 4 -- which includes the cities of Livingston, Cressey, Winton and part of Atwater -- voters will chose between Incumbent Suzy Hultgren, who is a Cressey dairy farmer, and Winton almond farmer Kevin Gonzalves.

Voters in Division 5 -- which encompasses most of Atwater and the area southwest of the city -- will chose between incumbent Wil Hunter and former board member Billy Pimentel.

The general election is Tuesday. For more information contact the Merced County Registrar of Voters at (209) 385-7541.

Reporter Joshua Emerson Smith can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or jsmith@mercedsunstar.com.

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