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Voter Turnout: Donald and Hillary, you’re not quite John and Barack

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Despite the two most odious major party candidates for President in our nation’s 240-year history, and despite a California ballot longer than should be allowed by law, if not by common sense, my current turnout prediction for 2016’s presidential election isn’t as dire as you might expect.

Barack Obama’s 2008 wave generated a voter turnout of 83.5 percent countywide, according to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters (1,242,907 of 1,488,157 registered voters). 77.0 percent managed to get to the polls for the less thrilling race between the now-incumbent President Obama and Mitt Romney (1,203,265 of 1,563,093 registered voters).

My prediction as of November 2, 2016 is for voter turnout to reach about 80 percent for San Diego County. This puts the turnout ahead of Obama vs. Romney in 2012 but behind Obama vs. McCain in 2008. In the City of San Diego where there is a City Attorney’s race to be decided, as well as a tax increase to fund a downtown football stadium, turnout should come in at about 75 percent. This is a fine turnout by historical standards, even though this year’s presidential race is far from fine.

A San Diegan preparing to fill out her ballot.

A San Diegan preparing to fill out her ballot.

The length of the ballot in San Diego County will discourage some voters from making it all the way through to the second page. There promises to be more undervoting – where voters don’t check all the boxes on the ballot — in this election.  Some will be intimidated to the point of not casting a ballot at all. But the solid turnout means voters are gamely taking on the YUUUGE 2016 ballot, as well as the stench of the presidential campaigns. The vast majority of San Diego’s registered voters will hold their nose and do their civic duty.

Strong warnings about the length of the ballot and a smart effort by the San Diego County Registrar of Voters office should push the mail-in ballot percentage to an all-time high in the county. I am predicting 60 percent will vote by mail in San Diego County, an all-time high for a Presidential election. In 2012, it was 56.1 percent.

It helps a little that we’ll be deciding significant measures at the state and local level, including attention-getting Propositions 57 (prison sentences) and 64 (legalizing recreational marijuana use), as well as Measures A (the SANDAG transportation tax), B (the Lilac Hills development question) and C (the San Diego Chargers stadium hotel room tax). But it’s the top of the ticket that drives the most interest and all indications are that’s generating enough interest to make this a high turnout election.

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