With California’s June 7 primary election 10 days away and county ballots mailed out more than three weeks ago, Santa Barbara County elections czar Joe Holland is reporting that mail-in ballots are barely trickling in. As of Thursday evening, only 24,000 of the 234,000 ballots mailed out countywide had been returned.
“It’s pretty darn low,” said Holland.
Holland added that typically voter turnout is fairly anemic during gubernatorial primary races. “That’s one of the worst turnout races we have,” he said. But with Governor Gavin Newsom having just decisively triumphed in a recall election race held earlier this spring, Newsom’s victory is seen as all but assured and the June primary less than a formality.
Making matters bleaker in terms of voter turnout, Holland said, “This year, there are no propositions on the ballot either. If we get above 50 percent turnout, I’ll be surprised.” Holland added, “I’ll be happy.”
Those casting their ballots thus far have been predominantly older and whiter registered Democrats. What that means for the candidates running is up to their campaign strategists to divine. Of the ballots returned, 52 percent are registered Democrats, 58 percent are 65 years old or more, and 79 percent are White. Although younger voters — ages 18-34 — account for 65,000 of the county’s registered voters, only 2,063 of that age bracket have cast ballots yet. Of the 70,000 registered Latino voters in the county, 3,555 have turned in their ballots thus far.
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To the extent voters appear to be sitting out this June’s election, there’s a notable dearth of hotly contested races to drive interest. Top-of-the ticket incumbents like Congressmember Salud Carbajal — a Democrat — will face whichever of his several challengers comes in second in November. Perversely, the race generating the most media attention involves the seat least understood by county voters, that of county superintendent of education. In this race, incumbent Susan Salcido faces a long-shot challenge from conservative cultural warrior Christy Lozano, a phys ed teacher who has taught in six different schools during her 18 years with the Santa Barbara Unified School District. The seat is so obscure, in fact, that this is the first contested race in 10 terms, or 40 years.
Mail-in ballots were sent out on May 9, and “they’re all postage paid,” Holland said. “There’s no reason not to vote.”
California’s primary election is Tuesday, June 7. Click here for a list of current ballot drop box locations in Santa Barbara County, or look up your polling place here. To track your ballot status, use the Secretary of State’s My Voter Status tool online. Same Day Registration is available until Election Day on June 7, and voters can “conditionally” register and vote a provisional ballot during this time. Check your voter registration here. For more info on this year’s primary election, visit the County Elections website.