About 8.9 million people, above 49 percent of California’s registered voters, are estimated to have turned out for the state’s presidential primary election this week, according to early projections by state officials.
The figures are considered preliminary because 2.4 million ballots out of the 8.6 million still must be certified, said California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. At a postelection forum on Thursday in Sacramento, Padilla said the final turnout number won’t be known for several days.
The 49 percent turnout is higher than California’s 31.1 percent turnout in the primary 2012, when President Barack Obama was running uncontested for the Democratic nomination and California Republicans chose Mitt Romney.
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But it is lower than the historic 57.7 percent turnout in 2008, when California Democrats chose Hillary Clinton over Obama and Republicans picked John McCain. The 2008 Democratic primary in California was on February 5 of that year, or Super Tuesday. This year, it was at the tail end of the primary calendar.
The respected Field Poll, before Tuesday’s election, had forecast turnout this year of 8 million, or 44.7 percent of the state’s 17.9 million registered voters.
The higher-than-expected numbers mean “you got more of the people that don’t typically vote,” said Mindy Romero, director of the California Civic Engagement Project at UC Davis.
Although detailed data is not yet available, Romero said she expected the greater numbers were due to more young people turning out.
Donald Trump secured the Republican nomination a month before California’s primary. Also, on Monday, before the Tuesday vote, Clinton reached the number of delegates needed to become the presumptive Democratic nominee, according to a count by The Associated Press.
Padilla said the impact on turnout of the AP report was hard to quantify.
“It’s so hard to measure, it’s all anecdotal,” Padilla said. “It did, it didn’t; it motivated some people to turn out with extra vigor, versus it discouraged somebody else.”
Romero and Paul Mitchell of Political Data Inc. said they believed the report likely did not have a major effect on turnout because a majority of California votes had been mailed in before the news.
The Field Poll had forecast that as many as 5 million voters would cast mail-in ballots, which had to be mailed by the June 7 primary. California law allows vote-by-mail ballots postmarked by election day and received at clerks’ offices within three days.
“We don’t know how many ballots were postmarked on or before election day that are in the process of arriving, still in the window to be processed and counted and added to the tally,” Padilla said.
Clinton had nearly 2.1 million California votes to nearly 1.6 million for Bernie Sanders Friday evening. In the Republican primary, Trump edged toward 1.3 million votes, or 75 percent.