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Surprise, Surprise! 2024 CA Primary Turnout Wasn't a Record Low
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By CalMatters
Published 1 month ago on
March 11, 2024

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7.3 million ballots cast, a turnout of about 33%.

Turnout won’t be a record low but is dismal for a presidential primary.

Newsom appoints a new leader for the state’s political watchdog agency.


The latest official tally from the Secretary of State’s office shows that 4.8 million ballots have been counted from California’s primary, with 2.5 million still to go.

Lynn La

CalMatters

Based on the late Friday numbers, the total of nearly 7.3 million votes means a turnout of about 33%, well below the norm for presidential primaries, but not the record low that some analysts projected based on early numbers.

The turnout for the June 2014 primary was 25.17%.

It also means that it’s going to be a while before some results are finalized, likely amplifying complaints that it takes too long to count votes in California. While voting by mail has been happening for a month, as long as ballots were postmarked by last Tuesday and they arrive at elections offices by this Tuesday, they will be counted.

As expected, the votes being counted after primary day are trending more Democratic and younger.

While media organizations have called the U.S. Senate and other races, and candidates have declared victory or conceded in others, many other closer contests and the only statewide ballot measure, Proposition 1, still hang in the balance. The Secretary of State has until April 12 to certify the results.

At the same time, the state has been trying to increase voter registration: The rate among all eligible voters is now at 83%, up from 68% in 2008. However, those new voters are less likely to regularly cast ballots, which leads to a lower percentage turnout.

A new Public Policy Institute of California brief points out that automatic registration through the Department of Motor Vehicles has increased the registration rate by four percentage points since 2018.

But while the changes were designed to make the electorate more representative of California’s diversity, there have been only small increases for historically underrepresented groups, the report says.

And new registrants tend to be less familiar with elections and are less likely to vote. In 2020, the turnout gap between them and voters overall was similar to the gap between voters older than 65 and those younger than 25, who are also less likely to vote.

  • The report: “New registrants… have less experience with the political system and need more engagement to become regular voters.”

Lorena Gonzalez, leader of the California Labor Federation, agreed, posting on social media today that “the much bigger problem is how to get marginalized communities to turn in their ballot. That’s where we should focus our efforts & money.”

State Political Watchdog Has a New Leader

The state’s campaign finance watchdog has a new leader. Late Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he has appointed Adam Silver as chairperson of the Fair Political Practices Commission.

Silver, a Democrat and chief counsel for the Assembly Legislative Ethics Committee since 2018 and the commission counsel from 2017 to 2018, replaces Richard Miadich, chairperson since 2019. Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas called Silver  “a true ambassador for compliance.”

The position does not require Senate confirmation and pays $241,728 a year.

Silver replaces Richard C. Miadich, who was appointed in 2019.

Sign up for CalMatters newsletters at this link.

About the Author

Lynn La is the WhatMatters newsletter writer. Before joining CalMatters, she developed thought leadership at an ed-tech company and was a senior editor at CNET. She also covered public health at The Sacramento Bee as a Kaiser media fellow and was an intern reporter at Capitol Weekly. She’s a graduate of UC Davis and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

About CalMatters

CalMatters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom committed to explaining California policy and politics.

 

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