Elections officials in Ventura County are down to just a relative handful of votes -- about 1,000 provisional ballots whose validity will be determined within a couple days -- before closing the books on the June 5 election.
The tally shows that two predictions about the Part II primary (presidential primary in February, another for all the other partisan offices in June) proved to be true:
1) Turnout was abysmal, although not quite as bad as many had forecast. Thirty percent of registered voters cast ballots, although their participation rates varied wildly by party affiliation or lack thereof. Thirty-five percent of Republicans voted, 31 percent of Democrats, 25 percent of Libertarians and 19 percent of Greens. Most notable in their absence were unaffiliated voters, those who decline to state a party preference. Of 73,656 voters in that category, slightly less than 10 percent actually voted.
In one respect, that makes sense: Since they don't profess an interest in a party, why should they participate in selecting the parties' nominees? You pick your candidates, these non-voters seem to be saying, and we'll sort them out in the fall. On the other hand, both major parties allowed decline-to-state voters to request a partisan ballot and participate in the nominating process. One would think that more of them would show an interest in helping to pick the candidates.
2) Nearly 60 percent of all those who voted did so by mail. It shows again that the more convenient that government makes the process, the more likely people are to participate.
Finally, there were some interesting numbers to contemplate in the build-up to this fall's huge Senate race in the 19th District, pitting Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson against Republican Tony Strickland.
The total numbers were just about exactly what anyone should have expected. Strickland got 52 percent of all the votes cast districtwide. Given that Republicans have a 2 percentage-point advantage in voter registration and that a higher proportion of GOP voters typically turn out in primaries, a 4 percent margin sounds just about right. No anomalies in that margin to suggest that voters of either party are at this point unhappy with their nominee.
A quick look inside the numbers shows the obvious challenge for both candidates: Strickland won the heaviliy GOP Ventura County portion of the district by 10,000 votes. Jackson won the Democratic-leaning Santa Barbara County portion of the district by 7,000 votes. But -- and here's something to keep in mind come November -- the district also includes a small slice of Los Angeles County -- a Republican stronghold in Santa Clarita in which Strickland got twice as many votes as Jackson. That L.A. County sliver could be decisive in the fall.
Each candidate is going to have to work hardest in the other's territory. And the general election will be decided by two factors: which candidate most of those decline-to-state voters who stayed home for the primary decide to support in November, and which party does the best job of jumping up its voter participation rates in the general election.