At about 75 percent, Alameda County’s voter turnout for the 2016 elections was approximately 17 percent higher than the current national average and the county’s highest voter turnout since President Barack Obama’s 2008 election.
About 670,000 people out of more than 888,000 registered voters in Alameda County cast a ballot to weigh in on this year’s elections. There were twice as many mail-in voters as voters who came out to the polls on Election Day — approximately 445,000 compared to about 225,000, respectively.
“I think the reason (more people are using mail-in ballots) is that people are seeing the convenience to be able to get the ballot at home and choose where voting fits in their busy schedule,” said Tim Dupuis, the Alameda County Registrar of Voters. “I think it helps in the turnout as well because we’re giving people options in an early vote period. (They choose) when, where and how they want to vote.”
In 2008, the voter turnout was about 78 percent. The number of registered voters has only increased by about 85,000 since 2008.
“Our voter registration is at an all-time high,” Dupuis said. “In the Bay Area now, Alameda County has the highest number of registered voters, and I think … our demographics have grown, and we’ve seen more voters coming of age to vote.”
Berkeley’s Mayor-elect Jesse Arreguin said President-elect Donald Trump’s controversial statements were one part of motivating people to cast a ballot. Other popular ballot measures and propositions, such as the plastic bag ban and the death penalty, also helped encourage people to vote, according to Arreguin.
Dupuis said that this year, Alameda County placed voting drop-off boxes at city halls across the county to see how well they would be received. Berkeley’s Old City Hall’s drop-off box was the most used box on Election Day, requiring the Alameda County Registrar of Voters staff to pick up ballots at the box once an hour, Dupuis added.
“I think this election was very historic because not only were we voting on the next U.S. president, but we were also voting on a new U.S. senator,” said André Luu, ASUC external affairs vice president and facilitator of the ASUC Vote Coalition. “There were (also) many propositions that directly affected students.”
Luu said he believes the ASUC Vote Coalition creates a culture of civic engagement at UC Berkeley, hosting various events such as Votechella and the Berkeley mayoral forum, canvassing door-to-door in residence halls, tabling with voting guides and launching a social media campaign.
All of these efforts, according to Luu, helped contribute to its reported registration of more than 7,700 students and getting students out to vote by Election Day.