Credit: Daniel Dreifuss (from file)

With less than a week before next Tuesday’s elections, roughly 17 percent of Santa Barbara County’s registered voters have turned in their ballots. 

To the extent party affiliation matters — and in Santa Barbara it does — registered Democrats had turned in nearly twice as many ballots as their Republican counterparts as of October 28 — roughly 20,000 Democratic cast ballots to 11,200 by Republicans. Declined-to-state ballots made up 8,400 of the rest. Of the nearly 39,600 ballots, roughly 31,000 were cast by voters older than 50. Of those, nearly two-thirds were age 65 or older. And 79 percent were White. 

With few contested high-profile races on the ballot, it’s uncertain what kind of a last-minute push can and will be mustered in the last few days. County elections czar Joe Holland said he expects 150,000 to 160,000 more ballots to be cast by this November’s mail-in election deadline. Of the county’s 233,879 registered voters, 110,362 are Democrats, 65,537 are declined-to-states, and 57,980 are Republican. More than half — 151,914 — are White and 70,154 are Latino. While more than half—110,000 — are older than 50, 65,000 registered voters are 18-34. 

To a remarkable degree, many key local races were decided before a single ballot was cast in this June’s primary. Two supervisorial candidates—Steve Lavagnino and Laura Capps faced no opposition at all, likewise for John Savrnoch, soon to be the county’s next district attorney. 

The race for Assembly — pitting Democratic Party stalwart and county supervisor Gregg Hart against Republican Mike Stoker, who most recently served as a Trump appointee as the head of the Western Regional EPA and takes credit for originating the chant “Lock ’er up”— was never infused with any sense of palpable urgency even though the seat was vacant. Thus far, Hart has reported raising nearly $600,000 — with unions and organized labor providing the bulk of that — while Stoker reported having raised $245,000, with $13,668 still in the bank. 

On the South Coast, the races generating political heat are school board showdowns between cultural conservatives and progressive-tilting candidates.

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