Elections chief predicts highest turnout in 30 years

San Mateo County's chief elections officer is predicting the highest voter turnout in 30 years for the presidential primary on Tuesday, Feb. 5.

"I believe California's overall turnout will reach 66 percent and San Mateo County's may reach as high as 71 percent," said Warren Slocum, the county's chief elections officer.

Voter turnout has not exceeded 60 percent since 1980, he said.

Among factors expected to drive the high turnout, according to Mr. Slocum: voters can elect the first female or first African American president, and California and the other 21 states voting on Super Tuesday can decide the candidates of the Democratic and Republican parties.

"In the past few decades, the results of the California presidential primaries have not made a difference in the outcome of any presidential nomination process," he said. "This year they will.

"In fact, California may be the deciding factor, or at least seriously contribute to the selection of the major party presidential nominees."

Another factor driving the high turnout, he says, is the "semi-open" primary that allows voters who decline to state a party affiliation to vote in either the Democratic or American Independent party primaries. More than 20 percent of the voters in the county are registered as "decline to state."

"Given the historically high concentration of Democratic voters in the Bay Area, a semi-open primary and the high number of (decline-to-state) voters, I expect turnout to be greater this election year than any held in the past 30 years."


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