Low turnout forecast in California primary Tuesday – but you should still vote!

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A voting sign outside a polling location. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

A voting sign outside a polling location. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — With no divisive ballot initiatives or high-profile races on the ballot Tuesday, California’s top-two primary election was expected to be a sleepy affair that draws little interest from voters.

While two Republicans are vying for the chance to challenge Gov. Jerry Brown in November, the primary also includes a number of hard-fought congressional and state legislative races in which candidates hope to unseat incumbents in the fall. All statewide offices are up for grabs, including intra-party fights in the secretary of state and superintendent of public instruction races.

Voter turnout has been trending downward in California primaries over the last 20 years. With 21 percent of voters now unaffiliated with any political party, turnout Tuesday is expected to be very low — perhaps matching the record-low of 28.2 percent in 2008, when California split its statewide primary and presidential election contests, said Paul Mitchell, vice president of Political Data Inc., a consulting firm that tracks voter data.

Many ballots will be cast by mail at the last minute or dropped off at polling places on Election Day, meaning the outcome in several races could remain up in the air well past election night.

Two Republicans have been locked in a close contest to face the Democratic governor. A conservative state lawmaker, Tim Donnelly, faces Neel Kashkari, a socially moderate investment banker making his first run for public office.

Though Tuesday’s ballot has no hot-button initiatives to lure voters, there are some fiercely contested seats for Congress, the state Legislature and statewide offices.

Some are expensive fights in which two members of the same party could advance to November, such as the nonpartisan superintendent of public instruction contest, which has drawn $4.2 million in outside spending in a proxy fight between California’s teachers unions and their opponents. Incumbent Tom Torlakson faces a fellow Democrat, Marshall Tuck, a former charter school executive.

In the race to become California’s next elections chief, University of Southern California lecturer Dan Schnur, an independent, faces Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla, Democrat Derek Cressman and Republican Pete Peterson.

In the controller’s race, former Assembly Speaker John Perez is competing for the top two spots with fellow Democrat and Board of Equalization member Betty Yee and Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearingen, a Republican.

A few seats also are in play in the Legislature, including competitive Democratic contests for Senate and Assembly in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Southern California.

In far Northern California, voters will determine whether two counties will join a movement to secede from California, while voters in a third county, Siskiyou, will decide whether to pursue changing the county’s name to “Republic of Jefferson.”

Voters will decide just two statewide propositions, both placed on the ballot by lawmakers. One will require local governments to comply with the state’s public records law and pay for doing so, while the other is a $600 million bond for veterans housing.

 

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