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Turlock, county records big turnout for election

POSTED December 4, 2012 10:18 p.m.

The ballots have been counted, the results certified, and it’s official.

The Nov. 6 Presidential Election saw one of the biggest turnouts in the history of Stanislaus County.

Stanislaus County voter turnout reached 67.39 percent for the Nov. 6 election. That’s just below the 2004 Presidential Election’s turnout – 67.72 percent – and the record 71 percent turnout for the 2008 Presidential Election. This year’s turnout surpassed that in 2000 and 1996, when about 64 percent of registered voters cast ballots.

Turlock had the third-highest voter turnout in the county, with 70.04 percent of registered voters taking part in the election. Hughson, at 72.18 percent, and Oakdale, at 73.74 percent, were the only cities to surpass that mark.

Ceres had the lowest turnout, with just 60.22 percent of registered voters casting ballots.

Perhaps more remarkable than the turnout, however, was the marked shift in voter behavior away from visiting polling places as in yesteryear.

“They are voting in ways they haven’t voted in the past, and that is increasing the workload after the election,” said County Clerk Recorder Lee Lundrigan.

More than 117,000 ballots were received by mail this year – an all-time high for the county. The shift to mail voting sees county officials count ballots for more than a month, from when ballots are mailed out 29 days prior to Election Day up until 8 p.m. that evening.

Only 49,833 Stanislaus County voters cast their ballots at the polls on Election Day.

The Nov. 6 election also marked an all-time high for provisional ballots, with 11,000 cast. Four years ago, just 700 provisional ballots were cast.

“It’s not just our county alone, this is happening on a wider basis across California,” Lundrigan said.

The surge in provisional ballots is attributed, in part, to the economy, Lundrigan said.

Many people moved in the past four years but never re-registered. Those voters didn’t receive their vote by mail ballots, and instead went to the polls on Election Day and cast provisional ballots.

The county must review each provisional ballot carefully, ensuring the voter has not already voted, is registered to vote, and has properly filled out the required paperwork.

About 1,900 provisional ballots were ultimately not counted, as the individual was either not registered to vote, filled out the document incorrectly, or had a signature which did not match those on file.

The voting process could change even more in the years to come.

This year marked the first for online voter registration. That process raised some issues of its own, as some individuals who registered online were surprised to receive a form in the mail requiring an updated signature to verify against voter rolls.

Making matters even more complicated, voters will be able to register even on Election Day in the next cycle of elections. That shift has already been approved, but awaits development of a statewide voter registration system, ensuring voters do not register in multiple counties on Election Day.

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