Voters in San Luis Obispo County showed their independent streak in the November election, with both Republicans and Democrats scoring victories, and the electorate taking nuanced stands on such issues as modifying the Three Strikes Law and repealing the death penalty.
A month after the Nov. 6 balloting, County Clerk-Recorder Julie Rodewald has finalized her office’s work on the election results, and will ask the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to certify the numbers.
In her report, Rodewald said the turnout was 79.96 percent, down from 83 percent in the 2008 presidential election, but still well above the statewide turnout of 69 percent. There are 158,603 registered voters in the county, of whom 126,818 cast ballots.
Absentee ballots continued to make inroads, creeping toward two-thirds of voters. “A record number (96,000) of vote-by-mail ballots were issued” Rodewald wrote, and 80,240 were returned.
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That latter number “represents 63 percent of those who voted in this election – the highest percentage for any regularly scheduled election,” Rodewald said.
Results in particular races show an electorate that cannot be stereotyped as either conservative or liberal.
For example, the county went for President Barack Obama over his Republican opponent Mitt Romney, but narrowly – 1,291 votes out of 125,996 votes cast. Candidates from four other parties – Libertarian, Green, Peace and Freedom, and American Independent -- also received hundreds of votes each, and 1,000 residents cast write-in ballots; of those 600 went to Ron Paul.
Similarly, incumbent Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California political icon for decades, outpolled her Republican challenger, the little-known Elizabeth Emken. But Feinstein won by only 1,954 votes in this county.
Republican Larry Beaman, a school board trustee from Santa Cruz County who sought to replace outgoing state Sen. Sam Blakeslee, outpolled his Democrat rival Bill Monning by in the county. But Monning prevailed in the district’s three other counties – Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Monterey -- and will be sworn in.
On state ballot propositions, the county’s voters backed Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax increase, Proposition 30, by 54 to 46 percent. But they voted against Proposition 34, which would have repealed the death penalty, by a margin of 57 to 43 percent.
With Proposition 36, county voters chose, 68 percent to 32 percent, to revise the Three Strikes Law, but they opposed Proposition 37, which called for marketers to label genetically altered foods, by 53 percent to 47 percent.
In more local results, several races proved that a single vote can count.
In perhaps the closest race, a move to make Grover Beach a charter city fell short by four votes – 2,241 to 2,237 – out of 4,478 cast. In Paso Robles, Fred Strong defeated Jim Reed in a contest for a City Council seat by 66 votes out of 12,170 votes cast.