Dan Walters

Observations on California and its politics
By Dan Walters
10/20/2014 12:00 AM

More than 24 million of California’s 38 million residents are legally eligible to vote this year – that is, they are 18 years or older and U.S. citizens.

Only about three-quarters of the eligible – 18 million or so – actually will be registered to vote, and it would be very surprising if 9 million will have cast ballots by the time voting closes on Nov. 4. In fact, it easily could be under 8 million.

Or to put it another way, California, which set a record for low participation in June’s primary election, will likely set another low mark for a general election in November.

California’s voter turnout has been eroding for decades, but a unique set of factors this year will likely push it down even lower than usual.

Voter turnout for nonpresidential elections is always lower than it is during the quadrennial exercise of choosing a president.

Six years ago, as Barack Obama was being elected, 13.7 million Californians, nearly 80 percent of registered voters, cast ballots. Two years ago, as he was being re-elected, turnout topped 72 percent.

Were this an ordinary off-year election, we might expect turnout to drop to under 60 percent of registered voters, such as the 58.59 percent recorded four years ago, when Jerry Brown was being elected governor.

But 2010 was a much different election from 2014, when Brown is seeking a historic fourth term as governor. In 2010, he and rival Meg Whitman were spending tens of millions of dollars on their contest, but this year he’s spending very little of his sizable campaign treasury, while Republican Neel Kashkari has almost nothing to spend.

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