Of the more than 800,000 Alameda County citizens registered to vote, only about 28 percent of residents voted in this year’s midterm elections — not including mail-in ballots — a turnout markedly lower than the 2012 presidential election and the 2010 election.
Though midterm elections traditionally yield lower turnouts compared to presidential elections, Tuesday’s turnout was startlingly low. A field poll released election day had forecast record lows for voter turnout.
Jack Citrin, the director of the campus Institute of Governmental Studies, said the low turnout was not altogether too surprising especially considering that it was a midterm election. He said that there was a lack of “hot button” initiatives in California this election and that the gubernatorial race between Gov. Jerry Brown and Republican challenger Neel Kashkari was not close.
“There’s a saying that politics is a sideshow in the circus of life,” Citrin said. “For most people, politics may take second to fourth place in their life.”
In Berkeley, voter turnout in districts densely populated with student-aged residents was also low. In District 7, which spans much of the Southside area, the registrar reported about 760 votes in the race between incumbent Kriss Worthington and challenger Sean Barry for City Council, not including mail-in ballots.
But in the 2010 City Council race — the last time Worthington’s seat was up for grabs — 4,177 votes were recorded. Pursuant to the city charter, approximately 14,000 residents live in each district, although not all residents are registered to vote in the county.
Laura Stoker, a campus associate political science professor, said that on such a local level, a number of factors could have led to the low turnout, such as a lack of voter mobilization by the candidates or rapid demographic turnover.
Sarah Funes, a UC Berkeley junior transfer who is the campus Vote Everywhere Ambassador, said students may not have been registered to vote in Berkeley or planned ahead to make time to vote to clear other commitments.
“It just seems like people in Berkeley are really overwhelmed with their amount of schoolwork,” Funes said. “It’s just really bad this time to have elections because everyone has midterms.”