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    Less than one in four residents in San Diego County voted in last week’s elections — the lowest rate of any presidential election year in the past three decades.

    Turnout may have been unusually low for the presidential primary because that contest had already been set for November. Republican Mitt Romney won enough votes in other states to clinch his party’s nomination and challenge President Barack Obama.

    With the presidential race established, most of the biggest election issues last week focused on local candidates for elected office or ballot initiatives. Those heated battles for mayor and City Council, and over city pensions and contracting rules apparently didn’t spur as many to weigh in and vote.


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    When election officials report turnout, they are typically referring to the number of votes among registered voters. That’s the orange line above. The latest numbers from county election officials showed about 35 percent turnout last week.

    The blue line above shows a broader way to calculate election turnout. It compares the number of votes with an estimate of residents who were old enough to vote. Using this method, turnout was about 22 percent last week.

    The second method likely represents a slight understatement of turnout among eligible voters because that population includes residents who may be ineligible to vote, such as non-citizens and convicted felons.

    Still, the graphic illuminates a few interesting findings:

    • Turnout last week was more similar to primary elections in gubernatorial years than presidential years. The average turnout in past primaries was about 40 percent and 49 percent respectively.

    • Last week marked the second lowest turnout of any gubernatorial or presidential election since 1980. Turnout was only lower in the 2002 gubernatorial primary, which advanced Republican Bill Simon to challenge Democratic incumbent Gray Davis. Voters reelected Davis that November but then recalled him in 2003.

    • Though the same number of voters were registered last week and in 2008, election turnout was much weaker last week. More than twice the number of people voted in the November 2008 presidential election.

    So what do you find most interesting? Please share your thoughts with our readers in the comments section below or shoot me an email.

    Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. He writes about local government, creates infographics and handles the Fact Check Blog. What should he write about next?

    Please contact him directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668. You can also find him on Twitter (@keegankyle) and Facebook.

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      This article relates to: Government, Mayor 2012, News

      Written by Keegan Kyle

      11 comments
      john nienstedt
      john nienstedt subscribermember

      By the way, turnout in the City (as opposed to the County) was a percent or two higher than in the '08 and '10 Primary elections. More competition and choices breeds more voter turnout.

      John Nienstedt
      John Nienstedt

      By the way, turnout in the City (as opposed to the County) was a percent or two higher than in the '08 and '10 Primary elections. More competition and choices breeds more voter turnout.

      Arthur DuBois
      Arthur DuBois subscriber

      Apathy rules in San Diego politics. In this case a few hardcore partisans showed up to vote. Everyone else stayed home. The open primaries gave the electorate the ability to effect change. Unfortunately nobody but party wogs gave a crap. In the end the final choice will be Left or Right. Not very enticing for those of us in the middle.

      aduboisIII
      aduboisIII

      Apathy rules in San Diego politics. In this case a few hardcore partisans showed up to vote. Everyone else stayed home. The open primaries gave the electorate the ability to effect change. Unfortunately nobody but party wogs gave a crap. In the end the final choice will be Left or Right. Not very enticing for those of us in the middle.

      Jim Jones
      Jim Jones

      The only thing interesting is the results.

      Jim Jones
      Jim Jones subscriber

      The only thing interesting is the results.

      Frances O'Neill Zimmerman
      Frances O'Neill Zimmerman

      I had never heard about this practice before and and questioned its propriety. Seiler defended it as "public information." I asked who, besides the conservative online blog San Diego Rostra, got these tallies and how much they cost. I haven't heard back yet. I also wrote a complaint to the Secretary of State describing this practice and asked if other communities in California do this. No answer yet.

      mgland
      mgland

      I'm surprised really, with all that is going on, That this election was the 2 lowest in that 30 year timeframe

      Mark Giffin
      Mark Giffin subscribermember

      I'm surprised really, with all that is going on, That this election was the 2 lowest in that 30 year timeframe

      Vlad Kogan
      Vlad Kogan subscriber

      Be even better if you got turnout by party of registration

      vkogan
      vkogan

      Be even better if you got turnout by party of registration