As November’s election results become clear, so does a new California conundrum: Voters may like the top-two primary — which doesn’t guarantee any political party a spot on the fall ballot — but a lot of them skipped last month’s contests in which the only choices were candidates with the same party affiliation. It was not a lack of enthusiasm for the election. The percentage of registered voters who turned out was the highest for a regular gubernatorial election since 1982. Final results, expected later this week, will show about 12.7 million ballots cast statewide. But some races were left blank, in what elections officials call an “under-vote.” The reasons vary — some voters get confused or forget, and others simply don’t like either of the two contenders.
A review of results from all 20 statewide races — eight constitutional offices including governor, the U.S. Senate and 11 ballot propositions — found three races were passed over by millions of voters. In each, both hopefuls were Democrats and the under-vote was substantial.
California’s new Legislature will look a lot like the old one — and that’s just what voters ordered »
Most glaring is a comparison between the total number of votes in the races for governor and lieutenant governor. Only 2% of California ballots didn’t have a selection in the governor’s race won by Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, while 18% — nine times as many — skipped voting for or against Lt. Gov.-elect Eleni Kounalakis. In all, more than 2 million voters declined to pick the person who replaces the governor in the event of death, resignation or when he travels outside California.
Sure, the job doesn’t have much political sizzle. But in 2010 and 2014, 95% of all ballots had a selection for lieutenant governor. Even in this year’s June primary to winnow the field there were votes on almost 92% of ballots. Simply put, a sizable number of California voters were less enthusiastic by the fall.