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Election day: Southern California voters trickle in to polls

June 5, 2012 |  1:45 pm

Tuesday voting

The issues and candidates might not be captivating to voters, but a few are carving out time to hit the polls Tuesday anyway, because, well, they always do it.

In Tuesday’s election, voters are can pick from a list of Republican candidates in a primary that has been all but decided. There’s also a proposition on a smoking tax and a senatorial race, but this year’s primary lacks the buzz of the last presidential primary in 2008, officials say. 

Los Angeles voters came out in droves four years ago when both parties had hotly contested primaries. In 2008, 16.28% of registered voters in Los Angeles County had cast a ballot as of 11 a.m., according to Monica Flores, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder.

This year, she said, 7.58% of voters came out, which Flores called “about average” for a presidential primary. Only 6.25% of voters had visited polls by the same hour in 2010 for the gubernatorial primary.

“We expect an afternoon flow after about 3 p.m. or 4 p.m,”  Flores added.

In Orange County, the numbers were even more abysmal. Neal Kelley with the Orange County registrar of voters said the county was “just shy” of 2% voter turnout as of 11 a.m.

“It’s not a high number, but it’s only about a point and a half below 2010" at that hour, Kelley said. “It depends on what’s on the ballot. Primaries have always been lower than a general election.”

Two years ago, Orange County saw only 11% of its voters cast a ballot, Kelley said.    

Both counties reported no problems by poll officials with nonpartisan voters illegally casting ballots in the Republican presidential primary, though Kelley said that when one party does not participate in a primary election, "that always causes some confusion.”  

The relative lull at the polls made Katrina Eagilen shake her head in dismay. Eagilen, a dentist who was in charge of a precinct at the base of Mt. Washington on Tuesday morning, said that by 10 a.m., only 50 people had come in.

“I’m a little bit disappointed,” she said, gesturing at the empty voting booths and the quiet room. “Something so important, we should have the place crowded.”

Vicky Lavery, 50, a resident of Hancock Park, voted Tuesday but offered an explanation for why turnout was so low.

"It's always disappointing that California is so late in the primaries," she said. "It feels like the race has been played out. The results are known before it even gets out to our state.... It's sad that the smaller states decide the big issues."

Others who did vote said they did so not because of any pressing issues on the ballot, but because they believe in the act of voting.

“I’m a voter. I don’t just talk about voting, I take care of it,” said Jenaba Kamara, 27, who works as an organizer for SEIU Local 721. “The more you vote, the better you get at it.”

Or as Philip Rebentisch, 49, a paralegal from Redondo Beach, put it, he cast his ballot simply “because I vote every time there is an election.”


Follow California primary results with The Times

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Photo: Congressional candidate Howard Berman and his wife, Janis, cast their vote at a polling station at Shaarey Zedek Congregation in Valley Village. Berman is in a race against Rep. Brad Sherman. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times.