By Jim Sanders
Published: Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010 – 12:00 am | Page 1A

Millions of Californians will vote today on issues ranging from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s successor to state legalization of marijuana – and for the first time in state history, more mail ballots than precinct votes are expected to be cast.

Months of political arm-twisting, shouting, robocalls and attack ads finally will end with a turnout projected at 9.5 million people, or 55 percent of registered voters, according to a Field Poll released today.

Tiffany Graves, a 25-year-old Sacramentan, will be one of those voting.

“I can’t really complain about anything that happens if I don’t go out and vote,” Graves said. “I want my voice heard.”

But Patrick Blandford, 53, also of Sacramento, said he is not registered to vote, adding, “I’ll be glad when the damn thing is over.”

Voters will choose between Democratic Attorney General Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman, former eBay chief executive officer, to succeed the termed-out Schwarzenegger.

They also will decide whether to replace Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer with Republican Carly Fiorina, and will determine the fate of nine measures ranging from pot legalization to imposition of an $18 annual vehicle fee to aid state parks.

In a last-ditch push for votes Monday, candidates and their supporters conducted frenetic rallies, phone drives, door-knocking campaigns and other get-out-the-vote efforts statewide.

Fifty-five percent of votes cast in the election are expected to be mail-in ballots, the Field Poll found. Known by many Californians as absentee ballots, they can be delivered by the Postal Service or brought by voters to polling places.

Mark DiCamillo, Field Poll director, said that months of bickering campaigns coupled with a statewide recession have taken their toll on voters.

“Voters really aren’t overwhelmed by or infatuated with either of the (gubernatorial) candidates, and the tenor of the governor’s race really has an impact on the election itself,” DiCamillo said.

Twelve of California’s past 13 gubernatorial elections have had voter turnouts higher than the 55 percent projected today. The lone exception was in 2002, when incumbent Gov. Gray Davis beat Republican Bill Simon in a race that attracted only 50.6 percent of registered voters.

Within the Sacramento area, Placer County is projecting voter turnout today of about 74 percent; El Dorado County, 70 percent; Sacramento County, 60 percent; and Yolo County, between 45 percent and 50 percent.

Though counties are braced for a flood of mail-in ballots today, officials said they do not anticipate delays in completing their vote count, a process expected to range from five days to about two weeks.

Statewide, Republicans are expected to turn out at a far higher percentage than Democrats – 68 percent to 55 percent, DiCamillo said. Thirty-eight percent of independent and minor-party voters are expected to cast ballots.

“This is a particularly good time to be running as a Republican, just because of the turnout,” DiCamillo said.

Preferences of Californians casting mail-in ballots are not expected to be substantially different from those of precinct voters, he said.

One possible exception is the marijuana initiative, Proposition 19, because voters 50 or older are expected to cast a larger percentage of mail-in ballots, 65 percent, than of precinct ballots, 58 percent, DiCamillo said.

Cathy Chong, a 30-year-old auditor interviewed Monday in Sacramento near Broadway and Stockton Boulevard, said she probably would not vote.

“I haven’t seen anything telling me when and where to vote … probably because I changed my address,” Chong said.

April Boone, a 41-year-old state employee, said she is fed up with campaign mudslinging and plans to sit out today’s voting.

“I basically don’t think my vote would count,” Boone said.

Others were adamant about participating.

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