New Voter Turnout Effort Mostly Falls Flat

Five California counties tried their hands at a new elections process last month in the hopes of increasing voter turnout. With one exception, new data from the June 5 election shows the effort didn't make much of a difference

County News covered the new voting experiment in April. As we noted, the counties of Madera, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento, and San Mateo replaced neighborhood polling places with one-stop-shop voting supercenters. The counties automatically mailed ballots to every registered voter as well -- all part of a 2016 law known as the California Voter’s Choice Act.

Three of the counties saw a 10 to 12 percent increase in turnout over 2014, which was about the same as the increase in turnout statewide. In Madera County, the increase in turnout (8 percent) was actually below the statewide average. Only San Mateo appeared to benefit from the experiment, with a voter participation increase of 17 percent.

According to CalMatters, San Mateo tested out part of its new model early on, sending ballots to every registered voter as far back as 2015. The decision to familiarize voters with the new system ahead of time may have been critical. In other counties where there was no such preparation, voters reported being confused by some aspects of the process.

Madera officials declined to comment on the underwhelming numbers there, but County Registrar Rebecca Martinez said many voters admitted they didn’t read the materials they were given.


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