Local Election

Merced County voter turnout was up significantly, registrar says. Here’s why

Stickers wait to be handed out to voters at the Merced County Administration Building in Merced, Calif., on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.
Stickers wait to be handed out to voters at the Merced County Administration Building in Merced, Calif., on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. akuhn@mercedsun-star.com

While thousands of mail and provisional ballots remain to be counted, it appears that a significantly higher number of people voted this week in Merced County than the last gubernatorial ballot, according to the registrar of voters office.

About 55 percent of the registered population of Merced County cast ballots for the election, Registrar Barbara Levey said. That’s compared to 40.5 percent four years ago.

At 97,926, there are also 2,384 more people in the county registered to vote than in November 2014, according to Levey.

The increase came in the first election in Merced County that allowed people to register and vote on Election Day. A couple of locations in Merced allowed people to register and fill out provisional ballots, Levey said, which are certified by registrar employees.

“The new law does allow same-day registration, so a lot of them were registering here, getting a ballot and voting here,” she said on Friday.

A large number of those same-day registrants were tallied at UC Merced, she said. The registrar’s office confirms that students who were same-day voters hadn’t voted in their home counties.

“There’s been a lot of talk this particular election, about the significance of it,” Levey said. “I think a lot of the discussion contributed to that significantly.”

There are still about 20,000 mail-in, provisional and other ballots to be counted in Merced County, Levey said. The registrar’s office has beefed up staffing to try to get through the verification and counting process faster this year.

Merced County is not alone. Election Day may be over, but California has more than 4.5 million ballots left to count. The uncounted ballots could push voter turnout statewide to nearly 60 percent of those registered. Participation in a non-presidential election has not hit 60 percent in California since 1994, although it hit 59 percent in 2010.

Democrats have traditionally outperformed Republicans in California as more and more votes get counted after Election Day.

“Later voters are much more progressive and diverse,” said Paul Mitchell, a political consultant and vice president of the bipartisan voter data firm Political Data. “That means if Republicans are in a contest where the vote difference is a percent or two, that is something that historically isn’t enough to withstand the ballots that are going to come in.”

The Associated Press has yet to call five congressional races, two statewide office seats and 16 spots in the California Legislature. One of those includes a Merced County representative.

Running for state Senate District 12, Democratic Assemblywoman Anna Caballero is winning by just over 1,000 votes. Her 1 percent lead makes this the closest race in the state Senate. If she can beat Republican Rob Poythress, her party would pick up a seat and effectively capture a two-thirds supermajority.

Sacramento Bee reporter Bryan Anderson contributed to this report.