California Primary Results Are Final; Near-Record Low Voter Turnout

Sixty-five percent of voters submitted their ballots by mail for the June 5 Primary, a new state record. Photo: Steve Rhodes/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Election results for the June 5 Primary are now official, with a near-record low voter turnout, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced Friday.

Only 31.1% of California voters cast a ballot. That's 5.3 million people, which amounts to little more than half the population of Los Angeles County.

Incidentally, Los Angeles gets to wear the crown of shame for lowest turnout rate of any county (a mere 21.8%), followed closely by two other Southern California counties -- San Bernardino (23.7%) and Orange (26.5%).

The record for lowest voter turnout in a statewide election was set in June 2008, when only 28.2% voted, according to Bowen. That might seem surprising given the overwhelming popularity of then-candidate Barack Obama, but California held two elections that year. The June primary was for statewide offices only, while the presidential primary and the bulk of the ballot measures appeared on a separate ballot months earlier.

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In fact, the turnout in February 2008 was 57.7 percent, the highest it had been for a primary election in decades, which could help to explain why fewer people decided to turn out in the summer. All of which would make the turnout this year seem the more distressing for anyone concerned about democratic participation rates in this country.

The turnout rate wasn't the only superlative to come out of this election, though. Secretary Bowen reported that nearly two-thirds of the ballots came through the mail, a new state record.

"Given the ease and convenience that voting by mail offers, it's not surprising to see more and more people choose to cast their ballots from home," Bowen said in a statement.

Despite the fanfare and finality, the fate of one ballot measure is still up in the air. In an unusual move, a single voter in the Bay Area asked for a recount in Los Angeles County on Prop 29, the barely defeated cigarette tax measure that would add an extra dollar to the cost of every pack. As Charles Feldman of CBS reported today, the Secretary of State will honor his request.

For the results of every other contest, check out our Elections 2012 page. You can also get more detailed voter statistics at the Secretary of State's website.

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