Hundreds of thousands of Santa Clara County voters turned out to vote during Super Tuesday this year, deciding the fate for dozens of local offices and measures, and narrowing down the race for the Democratic presidential nominee.
While the early numbers are estimates, Eric Kurhi, a spokesperson for the county’s Registrar of Voters, said voter participation and registration has steadily increased over the past few years, in part because of automatic voter registration through the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
“Since 2016, we’ve had automatic registration through the DMV so a lot of people are getting registered in that manner than before,” Kurhi said. “Prior to that a lot of people who were registering were actively seeking it.”
Santa Clara County officials are still sorting through the ballots from Tuesday’s election, but early estimates show that of the county’s 951,000 registered voters, an estimated 50 percent of them voted — meeting county officials’ predictions, which ranged from 45 percent to 55 percent.
“If our numbers hold, we’re looking at 50 percent, but we expected it to be between 45 and 55 percent,” Kurhi added. “For a presidential primary, it’s considerably higher than it was in 2012.”
County statistics show total turnout for the 2012 presidential primary election was 38.8 percent.
So far, an estimated 260,000 ballots have been counted, while 216,500 still need to be counted, totaling about 476,500 ballots received. The higher turnout can be attributed to some major changes implemented this year by the county elections office.
Tuesday was the first time Santa Clara County mailed every registered voter a ballot and opened more than one hundred vote centers across the county — allowing voters to cast a ballot anywhere in the county instead of assigned polling places — some as early as 10 days before the election.
Sacramento lawmakers also approved same-day voter registration, allowing voters to change parties, register or re-register to vote on Election Day at any vote center. It was also the first year Californians voted in an earlier primary election, held in March instead of June.
“A lot of people turned out to vote,” he said about this Tuesday’s election. “If we look at the number of people who voted, in terms of how many ballots were cast, it was higher.”
Still, compared to the 2016 primary election, this year’s voting participation was lower, though the number of ballots cast compared to the amount of registered voters was higher. In 2016, total voter turnout was 54.7 percent out of 788,000 registered voters.
But Kurhi said voter participation is usually higher in years where there is no incumbent president, such as 2016, as it’s more exciting for voters across both party lines.
One of the reasons why voters are participating in higher numbers could be because of vote-by-mail ballots. Increasingly, more voters are opting to drop off or mail a ballot, rather than show up to vote in person.
“We’re looking at more people voting by mail than in the past,” Kuhri said.
In 2018, for example, nearly 80 percent of voters across the county cast their ballots by mail. Similarly, Kurhi said, only about 10 to 15 percent of voters cast their ballots in person this year.
The county expects to release a detailed report with finalized Election Day turnout results within the next 30 days.