A record-breaking number of voters cast ballots in the recent midterm election- in both Santa Cruz County, across the state, and nationwide. With 76.3 percent of registered voters in Santa Cruz County casting a ballot, compared to only 51.9 percent in the 2014 midterm election, last month’s voter turn-out was the highest for a midterm election in Santa Cruz County history, breaking the old record of 70.8 percent voter participation rate in 1982.
The Santa Cruz County Election Department also recorded the highest number of registered voters ever at 159,475. More than half of Santa Cruz voters voted by mail, setting another record in the County’s Election Department.
Statewide, the voter participation rate was 64.5 percent, the highest in a midterm election since 1982, when 69.8 percent of voters turned out for a fiercely contested midterm election for governor. This is the first time California voters replaced one Democratic governor with another since the 1880’s. Nationwide, voter turnout was comparable to presidential election years and was the highest in 50 years for a midterm election, with Democrats outvoting Republicans by more than 4 million votes, according to the Washington Post.
In California, seven congressional seats long held by Republicans were flipped to Democrats- two in the Central Valley, four seats in OrangeCounty, and one in Los AngelesCounty. Republicans now hold only seven of California’s 53 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The close races and slowness of certifying the vote count in several Central Valley congressional races led to a dust-up between out-going House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. Ryan said he thought it was “bizarre” the certified vote count gave wins to Democrats up to week after Election Day in close races for long-held Republican seats.
“We had a lot of wins that night, and three weeks later we lost basically every contested California race…it just defies logic to me,” Ryan said at a Washington Post event on Nov. 29, as reported by the San Jose Mercury News.
“It is bizarre that Paul Ryan cannot grasp basic voting rights protections,” countered Padilla. “It shouldn’t ‘defy logic’ that elections officials are meticulous in counting every eligible ballot. California works to ensure every ballot is counted properly and every ballot is accounted for. In the most populous state in the nation-and the state with the largest number of registered voters-this takes time,” Padilla said in a statement.
Although there was a clitch in the DMV computer transfer of voter registration records to the Secretary of State’s office in a pilot program of “motor voter” registration in five counties, Padilla reported in a statement, “Turnout was the highest for any midterm General Election since 1982. New laws to expand access to the ballot box including California Motor Voter, the Voter’s Choice Act and conditional voter registration have proven successful. We look forward to continuing this growth into the March 3, 2020 California Presidential Primary Election which is just 14 months away.”