Silicon Valley voter turnout in primary election inches up
The March 5 primary election drew about a 37% voter turnout in Santa Clara County, with several races coming down to the wire for the top two spots in the November runoff. File photo.

Santa Clara County is almost done counting primary election ballots, with advocates hoping a neck-and-neck congressional race and historic county contest will get voters to the polls in November.

Voter turnout as of Wednesday sits at 37.38% according to the county’s Registrar of Voters, with 382,958 ballots counted out of just more than 1 million registered voters. About 675 votes still have to be counted, largely because they were challenged due to voter signatures. The registrar will finalize results by April 4.

Elections officials said they expected 35% to 45% voter turnout.

East San Jose — which elected officials said was hampered due to a lack of voting locations — experienced lower voter turnout between roughly 10% and 30%, based on the registrar’s precinct maps. Community advocates hope voters will be drawn to the polls with contentious and historic races setting up for November.

Michael Borja, spokesperson for the registrar, said he hopes residents realize every vote counts, especially with races as close as Congressional District 16. Assemblymember Evan Low and District 5 Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian have been trading places for the No. 2 spot since the polls closed on March 5, making it apparent that a recount is looming.

“Something like that just showing up is a prime example of why it’s so important to vote,” Borja told San José Spotlight.

Despite low turnout in some parts of the city, Buu Thai, the inaugural president of the recently chartered Vietnamese American Democratic Club of Silicon Valley, said the historic race for the District 2 seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, with two Vietnamese American women running, drew voters from the community.

No matter who wins the District 2 race in November, either Madison Nguyen or Betty Duong, one will be the first Vietnamese American county supervisor. San Jose police sergeant Tam Truong also made the runoff for San Jose City Council District 8, adding another Vietnamese candidate to the November contests.

Thai said she’s interested to see how non-Vietnamese candidates connect with the community, especially in Congressional District 16. She said the club plans to ramp up efforts to boost turnout in November, including hosting candidate forums.

“I get emotional thinking about it because, for the first time in history, I’m seeing a top-notch leader that looks like me, will represent me. And I think that the community feels that way too,” Thai told San José Spotlight. “That’s somebody who can speak the language, somebody that looks like them.”

Advocates such as Victor Duarte Vasquez, co-executive director of East San Jose neighborhood group SOMOS Mayfair, are trying to increase turnout in East San Jose neighborhoods. The Latino community has historically experienced low participation, with only 27% of the Latino community casting a ballot in the 2022 primaries — the lowest percentage compared to other demographics in the county. Data for this year’s primary is not available yet.

Getting residents engaged is not just an issue of representation — Duarte Vasquez said politicians from all backgrounds need to understand the issues in the Latino community. He said a vital part of increasing community participation is connecting with young voters, which SOMOS Mayfair emphasizes.

“There might be some disillusionment, but we can actually connect how voting is one of the strategies into making larger social change and being involved,” he told San José Spotlight.

Contact Annalise Freimarck at [email protected] or follow @annalise_ellen on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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