SAN DIEGO (CNS) - An election season that brought allegations of sexual harassment, campaign office vandalism and a torrent of political TV ads came to an end Tuesday with less than half of San Diegans casting ballots.
County Registrar of Voters Michael Vu said he expects the final turnout will be around 43-46 percent, about eight points lower than his late-Monday projection. He told City News Service the final turnout number will be determined when the election results are certified in a few weeks.
A low turnout for the general election was no surprise.
On Monday, Vince Vasquez of the National University System Institute for Policy Research projected turnout would be more like 34-38 percent -- the lowest figure in more than 30 years for an election with a governor's race at the top of the ballot.
New voters -- either young or from formerly marginalized ethnic groups -- aren't used to voting frequently, Vasquez said. He also said the rise of voters declining to state a party preference means there is less motivation to cast a ballot. That makes the problems systemic and could take into the next decade to solve, he said.
Most, but not all, of the political vitriol emanated from a fight for a congressional seat that represents part of central and northern San Diego County.
Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, was in an uphill battle to keep his seat, which he narrowly won in 2012 in a district that had been targeted by Democrats for about a decade.
Recent polling had him in a virtual dead heat with Republican challenger Carl DeMaio. Also, more GOP voters sent back their absentee ballots than Democrats, according to observers who tracked the returns.
A former campaign aide alleged over the weekend that DeMaio engaged in sexual misconduct. DeMaio blamed the Peters campaign for orchestrating a "character assassination attempt," something the congressman denied.
Prosecutors declined to file criminal sexual harassment charges against DeMaio involving previous, and similar, claims by another former campaign staffer due to insufficient evidence. No charges were issued in the office break-in case, which took place at DeMaio's campaign headquarters earlier this year.
Also on the ballot this year were statewide offices such as governor, attorney general and state superintendent of public instruction. San Diegan Ron Nehring, a former state Republican Party chairman, was on the ballot for lieutenant governor against incumbent Gavin Newsom.
San Diego County Taxpayers Association Vice President Chris Cate and education consultant Carol Kim sought an open seat on the San Diego City Council.
Several mayoral races were also being decided Tuesday.
Vu said around 330,000 mail ballots had been returned, with more than 1,000 of those turned in to the Registrar of Voters Office in Kearny Mesa by late Tuesday morning.
San Diego's traditional "Election Central" opened at Golden Hall, 202 C St. this evening, while the major political parties were holding events at nearby hotels -- the Democrats at the Westin next to Horton Plaza and the GOP at the US Grant.
The first count, covering absentee ballots received up to that point, were to be released shortly after 8 p.m., according to Vu.