With less than a week to go, voter turnout is low for California primary

Josh Haskell Image
Thursday, February 29, 2024
Turnout lower than average for California primary
With presidential primaries that aren't competitive, experts are predicting low turnout for Tuesday's election in California.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Less than a week until the final day of voting in the California primary and so far, turnout statewide and in Los Angeles County is trending downward.

L.A. County has 5.6 million registered voters and only 343,817 ballots have been returned, with total turnout at 6%.

The state has more than 22 million registered voters and only 2 million vote-by-mail ballots have been returned - that's 9%.

"We would have thought by now we would be well over that 10% mark," said Paul Mitchell with Political Data Incorporated. "Presidential primaries generally are at around 50% turnout. They get really high turnout when primaries are really competitive for Republican and Democratic presidential primaries, but this cycle there really isn't a lot of enthusiasm for those races. Coming into California, there's not a lot of voters waking up saying this is the most important election of my lifetime and so they're just not returning their ballots quickly and likely going to be pretty low turnout."

President Biden is an incumbent without a competitive challenger. Former President Donald Trump won the first four contests for Republicans and is well on his way to securing the nomination.

Mitchell says local races matter, but don't fuel turnout the way national races do.

Nathan Hochman, a candidate for Los Angeles County district attorney, is concerned about the low expected turnout. He says that while incumbent DA George Gascón has a low approval rating, he could be helped by the large field of candidates and low turnout.

"Obviously I'm concerned any time not enough people are voting," Hochman said. "I want everbody who can vote, to vote. There is no more important election for your safety in Los Angeles County than the DA's election."

Mitchell says turnout in the primary can impact the November general election as well.

"When we see turnout that drops, it has a material effect on our choices going into November," Mitchell said. "There are a lot of people who care passionately about politics and care deeply about the policies of the state that won't vote in this election because they think, oh I will vote in November because that's when my vote is really needed. But they might find that the race is essentially decided by the time it gets to November and one great example of this is the U.S. Senate race."