There was a significant decrease in voter turnout in San Luis Obispo County during the March 3 Primary Election.
The turnout for the March 3 election is currently at 41 percent. The vote-count is not yet final, however in the 2016 Primary Election voter turnout was 61 percent in the county, according to San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong.
“When we do the math from the ballots we are expecting, there seems as though there will be fewer ballots than there was four years ago. I won’t know for sure until I’m there,” Gong said.
Gong said this may be due to voters holding onto their ballots and voting later into the election cycle as of recent years.
“There has been a paradigm shift in the way voters are voting. Many more voters are using vote-by-mail now, and they’re voting later in the election cycle. Ten years ago, we might’ve received quite a few ballots in the mail for us to process within the past few weeks, but that isn’t the case anymore” Gong said.
Gong said voters may have held onto their ballots particularly long this year because of the number of Democratic candidates running for president. He said that voters like to reserve their ballots and vote later in case candidates drop out of the race.
He also said he believes that many voters were waiting for the results of the presidential contest in South Carolina on Feb. 29 before they turned in their ballots.
“The vote-by-mail ballot turn in rate is not what we would typically experience, so I think that that voters were holding on to their ballots longer than usual because they want to make a better decision on which Democratic presidential candidate to vote for,” Gong said.
Business administration junior Rachel Lee said she did not want to send in her ballot too early for this reason.
“I feel like the presidential race has been different this year because of the number of candidates and the range between all of their policies. So many candidates had already dropped out until now, so I wanted to hold off on mailing my ballot until I knew where things stood closer to Super Tuesday,” Lee said.
Environmental management and protection junior Heather Roberts had a similar problem.
“Voting with so many candidates was hard because there were a couple different ones who had policies I liked related to different issues. Weighing those important issues against one another to choose who to pick made it a difficult choice,” Roberts said.
Gong saids that although there will definitely be an increase once the rest of the ballots are processed, he is still not sure the numbers will stack up to previous years.
Construction management senior Avery Spector said she thinks part of the lower voter turnout for San Luis Obispo County this year might also have to do with the policies of the candidates.
“From a student standpoint, the local politics this year don’t affect Cal Poly students as much as they have in years past,” Spector said. There are no candidates that have strong stances on things about cost of living near campus or noise ordinances, things that students have a big interest in, I think this disconnect might be a reason for the lower voter turnout.”
Gong said he should have a better estimate of the total voters, broken down by district by Thursday night. He will be posting it on the county website.