California primary hits low for turnout, high for vote-by-mail

07/11/2014 5:15 PM

07/30/2014 11:49 AM

While a historically small number of Californians participated on Election Day, more of them than ever cast their votes by mail.

Official tallies released by the California secretary of state’s office capture a record low and a record high. Total turnout for the June primary was the lowest ever for a statewide election, sitting at 25.2 percent. That fell below the previous nadir of 28.2 percent, set in 2008.

“There is no doubt the turnout number is disappointing, but if ever there was a statewide election where every vote mattered, this was certainly it,” Secretary of State Debra Bowen said in a statement.

While fewer voters participated in an election that was slim on high-profile contests, more than two-thirds of those who chose to vote did so by mailing in ballots. The 69 percent of voters who weighed in by mail broke the previous high-water mark of 65 percent.

Lawmakers hoping to boost involvement in low-turnout elections have emphasized mail-in ballots as a way to get voters engaged. A bill moving through the Legislature would allow counties to mail ballots to all voters in special elections to fill vacant seats. Assembly Bill 1873 has passed the Assembly and is advancing through the Senate.

While the bill’s supporters call it a proven tool for increasing turnout in otherwise obscure contests, Republican opponents have warned of the potential for fraud.

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