MERCED -- After heated races, bitter debates and speculation about possible changes at the local, state and national levels, Election Day is here.
Though local voter participation is usually low, Merced County Registrar of Voters Kent Christensen expects today's turnout to be up from the June primary because presidential races usually draw more interest.
With 38 percent of Merced County residents registered to vote and an average turnout of about 25 percent, Christensen would like to see a bump in those numbers.
Christensen is hoping to see 60 percent to 70 percent of registered voters cast their ballots today.
His department has gotten about 20,000 vote-by-mail ballots, which is about 55 percent of the 36,000 that were sent out. He said he was hoping to see more than that.
Christensen is focusing on registration drives and electronic registration to increase the voting percentage in the county.
"I'd just as soon everybody vote, but what can we do?" he asked.
Favorable weather also could encourage more participation this time.
Though the average high in November hovers around 65 degrees, the National Weather Service in Hanford is calling for a sunny sky today with a high of 86 degrees. The record high for this date was set in 2010 at 90 degrees.
Those who take advantage of the good weather will be presented with a slew of decisions at the polls, including presidential, congressional, Assembly, county supervisorial, city council and other district races.
Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Polling locations can be found at www.mercedelections.org; click on the "Presidential General Election Information" tab for access to the list.
Results will start posting on the Web site, part of the Merced County site, shortly after the polls close. Absentee ballots will be the first results and the numbers will be updated throughout the night as precinct totals come in.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or email@example.com.