Voter turnout could reach 45 percent in Sacramento County

An infographic released by Sacramento County advertises the county's new vote-by-mail system.

In addition to the almost 125,000 ballots cast in the spring primaries, Sacramento County still has about 226,120 to count, according to officials.

This would put the county’s voter turnout at around 45 percent in its first iteration of vote-by-mail system–a great deal higher than June 2014’s 29-percent turnout.

“For a first-time rollout, I think it was an overwhelming success,” said Sacramento County Interim Registrar of Voters Alice Jarboe.

Fewer than 20,000 county residents chose to vote in person on voting machines this election. Most of them–some 18,000 people–did so on the final day of the election.

Everyone else? They used the vote-by-mail and drop box system set in place for the county over the 28-day election period.

“We’ve truly reached mail ballot in Sacramento,” Jarboe said.

Sacramento was one of five counties this election acting as test locations in California for the new vote-by-mail system. The other four were Napa, Nevada, Madera and San Mateo counties. Others will be able to join in 2020.

Vote-by-mail’s success didn’t arrive without some hiccups.

Volunteers at voting and drop centers did not expect the massive influx of paper ballots on Tuesday. Just after vote centers opened that morning, the county elections office was receiving calls for more of the large, pink boxes used to store and transport hand-delivered paper ballots.

And election night proved massively confusing for journalists and politicos accustomed to seeing enough votes on the evening of election day to call most races one way or another.

A screen shot from the Sacramento County website shows some precincts showing no numbers in the county sheriff’s race.

After the evening’s early release of some 99,000 votes in the county, political spectators saw just two updates in voting numbers by 2:30 a.m., at a change of just 15,000 votes.

Some saw the now-defunct “Precincts Reported” tab at “100%” on the county voting page and believed the numbers to be final, even though that would have meant a voter turnout of just 17 percent in an election format designed to increase participation.

How long before the final tally? It could be a few days.

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, the county had not updated vote numbers since 2:30 a.m. Also on Wednesday, some 9,000 mail-in ballots stamped before election day reached the county’s elections offices.

For races like the Sacramento County Sheriff’s election, in which incumbent Scott Jones is holding onto a 53 percent lead over his challengers, the new 226,000 votes may very well force him under 50 percent and into a November runoff with either Donna Cox or Milo Fitch.


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Dave Kempa
Editor at VOICES: River City
Dave Kempa is the founder and editor of VOICES: River City.