Pasadena's Voter Turnout Off to a Strong Start

More than 14,000 ballots had already been processed, Mayor said on Monday

Published : Tuesday, November 6, 2018 | 5:50 AM

Last weekend's early voter turnout in Pasadena saw large numbers of voters stand in line for hours, voting even as darkness fell. Images via Twitter from @JaimeRLevy and @janellezara

Initial figures based on early and mail-in voting in Pasadena indicate voters are turning out in substantial numbers, but it’s too early to say whether the trend will continue at the polls on Tuesday.

This is the first election since the city moved its municipal elections to coincide with the state and federal contests. In addition to governor, congress members, state propositions, judges and other ballot considerations at the federal, state and county level, Pasadena voters will also decide two local measures, including a municipal sales tax increase.

With weekend early voting and mail-in ballots, more than 14,000 have already been processed by Los Angeles County, Mayor Terry Tornek said on Monday.

“I expect that the turnout will not be as huge in Pasadena as it will be elsewhere, where there’s a hotly contested congressional race, but we should have a decent turnout,” he said.

The ballot breakdown was about 7,600 Democratic, 3,200 Republican, 2,800 no party preference and 542 other, the Mayor added.

About 39 percent of Republican absentee ballots had been submitted, compared with 32 percent of Democratic absentee ballots, he said.

Caltech Political Science Professor and Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project Co-Director R. Michael Alvarez said California’s voter turnout is shaping up to be strong. “Exactly how strong, we’ll know later this week.”

“In other states there are indications of near record levels of midterm turnout, but those are states with highly competitive U.S. Senate or gubernatorial elections,” Alvarez said. “Here in California, while we have some extremely competitive U.S. House elections, and voter turnout will be high in those areas, most voters in the state have ballots with relatively uncompetitive statewide elections at the top of their ballot, which will serve to limit turnout in our state.”

More than 35 million early votes have been cast nationwide, according to an NBC study. That compared with less than 20 million in 2014. The 2016 presidential election saw over 46 million early votes.

The large early voting turnout strained Los Angeles County resources, according to Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan.

“The volume pressed on the capacity of our legacy voting system and resources,” he said via Twitter.  “But voters responded favorably, patiently and #ReadytoVote.”

Pasadena was no different, according to Kenny James, a Pasadena Human Services and Recreation Supervisor at the Jackie Robinson Community Center, 1020 N. Fair Oaks Ave.

The County ran an early-voting site at the Jackie Robinson Community Center.

Last weekend, “We had a packed house on both days. The lines extended well down the street,” he said.

Political consultant Bill Hacket has been working with the California Democratic Party’s Protect the Vote Program for more than 15 years.

While it was too early to declare record-setting midterm turnout, “I will tell you generally, including Pasadena yesterday, that there were long lines,” he said. “It appears that in some areas, there might even be record numbers. I know that folks waited as long as two or three hours in line [Sunday].”

Absentee ballot returns appeared strong as well, Hacket said.

“Now, there’s some question there as to whether we’re exceeding levels of, let’s say, another off year like 2014,” he said. “Some of the numbers that I looked at suggests that it’s pretty good.”

Both the sales tax ballot measure and the combination of the local election with the state and federal one will likely boost Pasadena’s turnout, Hacket said.

But not everyone completes the entire ballot. And Pasadena’s Measure I and Measure J, which would raise the city’s sales tax by three-quarters of a cent per dollar and advise the city to allocate a third of that income to local schools, appear at the very bottom.

“There certainly will be a larger number of voters who will get ballots with Pasadena municipal and PUSD elections on those ballots with the consolidation of our local elections with the statewide elections,” Alvarez said. “ How many of those voters will actually take the time and effort to mark their ballots in future Pasadena municipal and PUSD elections isn’t clear at this point, and we’ll have to wait to get data to determine the changes in participation in these municipal and school district elections.”

Tornek, who has been a staunch advocate of Measures I and J, said the position of the local measures on the ballot could pose a problem.

“What I’ve been emphasizing in my campaigning is to urge people to get all the way to the bottom of the ballot on measures I and J and not get bogged down,” he said.

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