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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Low-Information Voters in a Low Turnout Election

Tuesday's California primary will not be a proud day in the history of American democracy.

Leland Yee, whom the California State Senate suspended after his indictment on seven felony charges, ran third in a field of eight for secretary of state.

Heather Knight writes at The San Francisco Chronicle:
He withdrew too late for his name to be removed from the ballot, but still, it was shocking to see that more than a quarter of a million voters [the number will tick upward with the counting of provisional and mail ballots] - 9.8 percent of those who voted - thought he would be an effective statewide leader. He even beat serious contenders Derek Cressman and Dan Schnur.
And even in his hometown of San Francisco, where news of his travails have been blasted for months, 10,494 voters chose Yee. That's an even higher percentage than statewide, at 12.4 percent. So we can't take our usual tactic and just blame L.A.
We asked some political experts to explain this bizarre result. But even they're perplexed.
"It's a stumper," said political consultant Maggie Muir. "I don't have a great answer for that."
There are a mix of not-so-great answers, though. Yee's very familiar to voters, having been on many ballots over the course of decades. He has a popular Chinese name and that can attract Chinese voters. He's a Democrat in a blue state. And his ballot designation sounded legit.
"His ballot designation was state senator - not accused felon," said Corey Cook, a political science professor at the University of San Francisco. "You don't expect somebody accused of those things to be on the ballot. You're not thinking, 'Hey, isn't that the guy ...'
Dan Walters reports at The Sacramento Bee:
The official election night returns were that just 3.2 million or 18.3 percent of the state's 17.7 million registered voters cast ballots, but those numbers will increase when the number of still-uncounted ballots becomes clear in the next few days.
"I'm going to be surprised if it doesn't get to 20 or 23 percent," Paul Mitchell, a political number analyst for Political Data, Inc., said Wednesday.
Reaching 23 percent would mean another 800,000 or so ballots, mostly mail-in ballots delivered to election officials in the final hours of the election, remain to be counted.
However, even were turnout to reach 23 percent, that still would be five percentage points below the lowest statewide primary turnout ever recorded, 28.22 percent in June, 2008.

  • The Legislature barred citizen initiatives from the June ballot, thus removing a voter magnet.
  • There is no US Senate race this year.
  • There is no serious doubt that Governor Jerry Brown will win reelection.
  • The major GOP gubernatorial candidates raised little money.