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SLO County residents share their thoughts on today's primary, while turnout remains low

The polling place at the SLO County Government Center
Gabriela Fernandez
The polling place at the SLO County Government Center

Cal Poly professor weighs in on low turnout

Today is Election Day, and residents have been voting in-person and turning in mail-in ballots all day. But even between today’s voting and the mailed ballots that have been coming in since May, turnout is still low in San Luis Obispo County and the rest of the state — and this election could see historically low turnout.

That’s according to Michael Latner, a professor of political science at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and a Senior fellow at the Center for Science and Democracy. His research includes voting, redistricting and political representation.

“There are a number of systemic factors that always make this sort of election a low-turnout election," Latner said, "Number one, it's a primary and primaries typically have 30, sometimes 40 percent less turnout then we see in general elections."

"And then on top of that, this is a primary in a midterm year. So there's no presidential primary happening, and it's largely the contests at the top of tickets that really drives political participation. And so, you know, we're in June in a primary season, and there aren't any big National or Statewide contests. That all plays a role in depressing turnout," Latner said.

Latner noted there are other reasons for low turnout, too. Recent redistricting can make voters unsure or confused about their new districts and representatives, he said, and the power imbalance between political parties in California also is a big factor.

The Atascadero Lake Pavilion is one of North County's polling places.
Benjamin Purper
The Atascadero Lake Pavilion is one of North County's polling places.

“So, the governor's race and senators’ races and things like that aren't generating the kind of competition that would increase turnout, in part because we now have a really dominant Democratic Party and the Republican Party frankly has just failed to be competitive at a statewide level for some time now. And that all plays a role in contributing to what is looking like a very low turnout election," Latner said.

SLO County Clerk-Recorder Elaino Cano told KCBX in an email that the county’s turnout seems especially low at this point. Cano said that as of noon Monday, the office had received approximately 16,000 ballots in one week and reached about 43,000 ballots in total returned around noon that day.

Polls close at 8p.m. tonight, and information on polling places and drop-off boxes is at the county clerk-recorder’s website. KCBX will update local results on air and on the web.

SLO County residents share their thoughts on today's election

Polls close at 8p.m. tonight, but people have been turning in ballots and voting in person all day.

KCBX talked to people in Downtown San Luis Obispo today about their thoughts on this year’s primary. One was small business owner Adrian Spears, who said he didn’t vote in this election because he feels “all politicians are crooks” who don’t keep campaign promises.

“Ever since I was a kid, I noticed they make all these promises, ‘I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna do that, I'm gonna do this.’ They get in office and they don't do not even probably one percent of it," Spears said.

A study conductedby Canadian researchers in 2009 found that the average amount of campaign promises that politicians keep is about 67 percent, though that in the late 20th century and limited to North America and Europe. More recent analyses have found similar outcomes, claiming politicians do keep or at least make “good faith” efforts towards keeping their campaign promises.

Ashley Anthony lives in SLO County’s District 4, and was walking around downtown Tuesday afternoon. She brought up a desire for more public safety in the area, saying she doesn’t feel that’s been properly addressed by elected officials.

“There have been a couple times where I felt extremely unsafe and have been accosted," Anthony said.

SLO County's June 7, 2022 primary election ballot materials.
Benjamin Purper
SLO County's June 7, 2022 primary election ballot materials.

Caleb Anthony, Ashley’s husband, echoed that sentiment.

“[It’s] pretty scary. You got my wife and a little girl there walking around and you know, there's times you have to call the police because you're fearing for your safety, and no one seems to have any opinions on how we might be able to curtail this," he said.

Courtney Haile voted in the Board of Supervisors District 3 race. She told KCBX she wants to see more of a cultural change in her community, as well as a focus on other quality-of-life and environmental issues.

“I'd always like to see more funding for cultural events, especially for Black and other people of color. So that's my main self-interest. Affordable housing of course, [and] sustainability," Haile said.

All California active registered voters should have received a vote-by-mail ballot for the primary. In order for a ballot to be counted it must be postmarked before or on Election Day and be received in the Clerk-Recorder’s office no later than 7 days after Election Day. It can also be dropped off by the voter to any official ballot drop box by 8 p.m. tonight. More information on SLO County voting as well as election result updates are available on the county clerk-recorder's website.

Gabriela Fernandez came to KCBX in May of 2022 as a general assignment reporter, and became news director in December of 2023. She graduated from Sacramento State with a BA in Political Science. During her senior year, she interned at CapRadio in their podcast department, and later worked for them as an associate producer on the TahoeLand podcast. When she's not writing or editing news stories, she loves to travel, play tennis and take her 140-lbs dog, Atlas, on long walks by the coast.
Benjamin Purper was News Director of KCBX from May of 2021 to September of 2023. He came from California’s Inland Empire, where he spent three years as a reporter and Morning Edition host at KVCR in San Bernardino. Dozens of his stories have aired on KQED’s California Report, and his work has broadcast on NPR's news magazines, as well. In addition to radio, Ben has worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer.
Rachel Showalter first joined KCBX as an intern from Cal Poly in 2017. During her time in college, she anchored and reported for Mustang News at Cal Poly's radio station, KCPR. After graduating, she took her first job as a Producer at KSBY-TV. She returned to the KCBX team in October 2020, reporting daily for KCBX News until she moved to the Pacific Northwest in July of 2022. Rachel spends her off-days climbing rocks, cooking artichokes and fighting crosswords with friends.
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