Voter turnout in Merced County lower than expected

About half of registered residents participated

jsmith@mercedsunstar.comNovember 7, 2012 

— Despite early enthusiasm, voter turnout in Merced County for Tuesday's election ended up being lower than officials had hoped.

As the last absentee ballots are tallied, officials estimated about 52,000 individuals participated in the election.

That's about 53 percent of registered voters, compared with an average turnout of about 68 percent, according to county officials.

"I'm disappointed that is was so low," said Kent Christensen, Merced County Registrar of Voters. "We'd like people to participate in the system."

Christensen added that he had "no idea" why voter turnout was so low, but said his office would aggressively pursue future efforts to get out the vote.

"The next year, we're going to be proactive to get people registered," he said. "We have a down year coming here, so we'll be able to devote more time to voter education and registration."

Merced County has 97,990 registered voters. At the beginning of this year, the county had roughly 179,000 adult residents, according to the most recent census data.

However, because not every adult in the county is eligible to vote, including undocumented residents and convicted felons, it's hard to know exactly exactly how many more people the county can reach out to.

Meanwhile, those who did participate waited for results late into the evening because the county's Web site crashed as the first numbers were expected to be rolled out.

"There were so many people trying to log on that it jammed it up," Christensen said. "It overwhelmed our system. At some point, the county shut the server down and rebooted to log everybody off."

The next scheduled election is for the Merced City Council in November 2013.

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

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