OC expecting record turnout in primary election

In the June 5, 2018 election, Orange County saw a record number of ballots returned for a midterm primary.
In the June 5, 2018 election, Orange County saw a record number of ballots returned for a midterm primary.
Jill Replogle/KPCC

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Primary elections, especially when there aren't presidential candidates on the ballot, tend to attract only the most dedicated voters.

But this year, Orange County officials are predicting stronger-than-expected turnout: an increase of around 54 percent compared to the 2014 midterm primary election and the highest in any midterm primary since 2002. 

“That’s huge,” said Orange County Registrar Neal Kelley. 

He said the high-profile races on the ballot likely drew out voters. Several hotly contested congressional races could help decide whether Democrats or Republicans control the U.S. House next year. 

“There was energy on both sides and so that drove turnout,” Kelley said.

Kelley estimated turnout at 37 percent to 38 percent of registered voters. San Diego County Registrar Michael Vu gave a similar turnout estimate. 

Los Angeles County Registrar Dean Logan told the Board of Supervisors Wednesday that he estimated turnout there will be 23 percent plus.

County Year Turnout (as % of registered voters)
Orange 2018 37-38%*
Orange 2014 24.1
Orange 2010 30.1
Orange 2006 27.6
Orange 2002 41.4
Orange 1998 42.1
Orange 1994 33.6
Orange 1990 39.9

*Estimated by Registrar Neal Kelley as of June 7, 2018. 

Source: OC Registrar of Voters. 

But all estimates are preliminary; officials will continue to accept ballots sent by mail through Friday. 

Given that Republicans dominate voter registration rolls in Orange County, Democratic activists worked overtime to ensure a spot in the November general election for their candidates in four GOP congressional districts straddling Orange County.

These include the 39th, currently represented by Ed Royce; the 45th, represented by Mimi Walters; the 48th, represented by Dana Rohrabacher; and the 49th, represented by Darrell Issa. 

In all four districts, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton got more votes in 2016 than then-candidate Donald Trump, fueling the Democrats’ interest in trying to “flip” the Orange County districts. 

Early returns from Tuesday’s primary suggest that Democratic candidates will run against Republicans in all four races. 

Democratic activist Bethany Webb said she’s recently put in up to 100 hours a week on behalf of candidates, especially in Rohrabacher's district. 

“I am 100 percent motivated by putting a check on the inhabitant of the White House,” she said. 

Final election results aren’t expected for several more weeks.