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Low turnout expected in L.A. County as voters trickle into polling places

June 8, 2010 | 11:23 am

Low voter turnout is expected in Los Angeles County on Tuesday as voters weigh in on an array of state and local elective offices and measures.

By 9 a.m., 3% of registered voters had shown up at polling places to cast ballots in the primary election, according to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder's office.

In the gymnasium of Barrington Recreation Center in Brentwood, election staffers outnumbered voters by more than 2 to 1. The excitement of the morning was a volleyball that came bouncing through the door as if shot out of a cannon.

"Holy Jesus!" said election inspector Jayson Stonne as he followed the ball across the floor and out another door. Whoever launched the ball had vanished. "Maybe they're mad the gym is closed," Stonne quipped.

Because almost half the voters in his tiny precinct -- one of four served by this polling place -- vote via absentee ballots, a huge turnout was not expected.

Officials with the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder/county clerk expect turnout rates to slowly creep upward throughout the day, but do not expect anywhere near the more than 80% of registered voters who cast ballots in the 2008 presidential election.

"I was here when Obama was running and there was a line down the street," voter Laura Marcus said wistfully after casting her Democratic ballot in Brentwood with her 6-month-old daughter, Cassidy, in a stroller.

If history is any indication, turnout will probably be in line with past gubernatorial primaries. In June 2006, about 27% of registered voters showed up in Los Angeles County.

Seemingly at the top of voters' minds are some of the higher-profile contests, including the highly publicized battle between Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman to secure the Republican nomination for governor.

Shohreh Nikravesh, a construction company project engineer, was voting Republican but said she could have done without the negative tone of the campaign.

"There's too much negative ads," she said. "I'd rather see the candidates talking about themselves than the other guy."

For governor, she said, "I voted for Meg. She's a pretty strong woman."

For U.S. Senate, she opted for Carly Fiorina over Tom Campbell. "I like Carly. I like her accomplishments, I like her as a woman," she said. "I can have some trust in her."

State ballot measures also got voters up and out to the polls.

Green Party member Owen Smigelski cast his vote against Proposition 14, the primary election measure, saying it would undermine third-party candidates.

"If Proposition 14 passes, only the two top vote-getters in the primary will get on the ballot," he said. "So it's pretty guaranteed that no third-party candidate will get on the general ballot -- a Green Party candidate, a Libertarian, any type of third-party candidate."

-- Carla Hall and Tony Barboza

Full Election Day Coverage

VOTER GUIDE: Breakdowns of the candidates, polling information, resources, links and biographies

ENDORSEMENTS: From The Times' editorial page.

BREAKING POLITICAL NEWS: From PolitiCal, The Times' state politics blog.

Steve Lopez talks about the race coming to an end.