Wednesday, 17 April 2024

Tuesday election brings out enthusiastic voters

Voters at the grange in Finley cast their ballots Tuesday morning. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



LAKE COUNTY – From one end of Lake County to another, Tuesday's presidential election proved an energizing exercise in democracy, as citizens voted for presidential, congressional, state and local elections.

The election brought out enthusiasm in young and old voters alike, who made their way to polls in steady numbers throughout the day.

Sen. Barack Obama, elected the nation's 44th president, won handily in Lake County, with 11,986 votes, or 58.3 percent of the vote, compared to his rival, Sen. John McCain, who received 8,034 votes, or 39.1 percent.

Other presidential candidates on the ballot were Ralph Nader, 224 votes (1.1 percent); Bob Barr, 118 votes (0.6 percent); Cynthia McKinney, 112 votes (0.5 percent); and Alan Keyes, 88 (0.4 percent).

Lake County Registrar of Voters Diane Fridley had told Lake County News she expected a high turnout, which is common for presidential elections.

During the last month, Lake County's registered voter rolls swelled to 75 percent, with the county's vote-by-mail – or absentee numbers – growing to 51 percent, as Lake County News has reported.

The ballot count for Tuesday – which was posted by Fridley's office at 12:08 a.m. Wednesday – showed a turnout of 59.5 percent overall, with 10,991 precinct ballots cast and 9,920 absentees.

That percentage is about 10 percent below the 2000 presidential election turnout, and about 16 percent below turnout for 2004, according to numbers supplied by Fridley's office.

The more compelling story to be found on Tuesday was that of the people coming to the polls and the people volunteering to ensure the election ran smoothly.

Lake County News visited 12 polling places – representing 29 precincts – around the county on Tuesday as residents were taking part in the historic election.

From Nice to Clearlake Oaks, from Clearlake to Lakeport to Middletown, the story was much the same – turnout was big.

Precinct staffers also reported that voters were, in many cases, waiting for the polls to open at 7 a.m., with steady voter turnout over the ensuring hours.

“It's been a very interesting day,” said DeAnn Fawcett, a volunteer poll worker at the Lutheran Church Parish Hall on Country Club Drive in Lucerne. She estimated voter turnout in the Lucerne precincts to be up by 75 percent over the previous presidential election.

At the grange hall in Finley, election inspector Joan Luke said voters were coming through the doors steadily all day, with an expectation that voting would busier toward day's end.

At the Nice Community Baptist Church, Steve Merchen and fellow election volunteers also noted high turnout.

They, like others witnessing the election, told poignant stories of people who took part in the voting.

Nicole Ventura, one of the volunteers at Nice's polling place, said an elderly man came to vote with his daughter earlier in the day. The man hadn't voted in years but made a point of going to the polls to cast his vote on Tuesday.

Another man, said Ventura, announced to poll workers that he hadn't voted since Richard Nixon ran for president.

At the Orchard Shores Clubhouse in Clearlake Oaks, a steady stream of voters continued visiting the polls into the evening.

“It's been very busy all day long,” said election volunteer Pat Brotherton.

She said she witnessed a “real change of attitude of voters this time,” with more voters showing optimism and an upbeat attitude.

Her fellow volunteer Gwen Bushell agreed. “The interest has been sky high compared to what it has been.”

They also said they saw families coming in to vote together.

In Lower Lake, Gary Pickrell, an election inspector at the Lower Lake United Methodist Church hall, noted more turnout than the June primary.

“We've been busy from the start,” he said.

Voting in Middletown and Hidden Valley was also reported to be brisk by election volunteers, who said the day was going smoothly.

Poll worker Teri Fox at the Middletown Lions Club said in the few years she had been working as a volunteer this was the largest turnout they had.

At the Hidden Valley lake Firehouse, poll workers estimated they were seeing an average of 34 voters an hour.

With the optimism there also came concerns about the election's outcome.

Hidden Valley Lake resident Elizabeth Leathers said she hoped her vote wasn't in vain, adding, “I hope that the Bush administration has nothing to do with the outcome.”

Election volunteer Suzy Reicks, working at Clearlake City Hall, said the spirit of the day was very positive, with voters waiting patiently during the busier periods of the day, such as after school got out mid-afternoon.

She said there were many first-time voters – both young and old – making their way to the ballot box, and many parents also brought their children along.

One little girl who accompanied her mother to the polls shortly before 8 p.m. was allowed to drop her mom's ballot into the box, and afterward got an “I voted” sticker to wear home.

Many young first-time voters also wanted to drop their own ballots in the box, said Reicks.

Voting machines: Different communities, different receptions

While registered absentee voters outnumber voters who are registered to cast their ballots at precincts, Tuesday's turnout showed more votes cast at polling places.

Each polling place has one InterCivic eSlate electronic voting machine, overseen by a trained technician. The machines saw different levels of use around the county.

Lucerne election volunteer Jack DeVine said there had been definite interest in the polling places voting machine, which was used mostly by younger voters.

The machine in Nice was widely used, with more than 40 people casting their vote electronically as of 5:30 p.m., according to Merchen. In the June primary, about 30 people had used the machine in Nice.

However, many people stayed with their paper ballots. In Nice, when offered a paper ballot or the voting machine, one woman replied, “Paper, definitely.” A man said, “I don't do electronics.”

The machines had less use in Clearlake, Clearlake Oaks and Lower Lake, poll workers reported.

Anthony Lewis, who oversaw the machine at Clearlake City Hall's polling place, said the machine worked fine, with the only glitch being when it briefly ran out of paper. He said he's used it himself and it's a reliable voting option.

Lake County News correspondents Harold LaBonte and Aimee Gonsalves contributed to this report.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



Poll workers oversee voting operations at Del Lago in Lakeport. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




The first box of ballots arrives at the Lake County Registrar of Voters Office from a Lakeport precinct on Tuesday night. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




Ballot counting at the Registrar of Voters Office in Lakeport went on well into the night. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




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