Early returns suggest that participation of Butte County voters in the primary election Tuesday (June 7) was paltry, and potentially historically low. A midnight update on the Butte County Clerk-Recorder’s website, about four hours after polls closed, showed only 16,389 ballots tallied out of 123,469 registered voters—a turnout rate of about 13 percent.
Election workers were still counting ballots Wednesday, however, and those figures will likely rise significantly. The clerk-recorder’s office expects to have an update by 5 p.m.
Anecdotally, the vote center at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds saw a trickle of voters in the days leading up to Tuesday’s primary, and traffic picked up only modestly on Election Day.
Participation is usually low during primary elections without a presidential race, but the meager early voter turnout in recent days led to speculation that the state could break its record for lowest voter turnout: 25 percent in 2014. On Wednesday at noon, only about 19 percent of registered California voters had returned ballots, according to a ballot tracker by Political Data Intelligence, though the tally was incomplete.
Unofficial results on the clerk-recorder’s website showed Butte County Supervisor Debra Lucero leading her challenger, Chico police officer Peter Durfee, 51.7 percent to 43.1 percent, in the new-look District 2, which was redrawn from a compact, urban district in central Chico to a largely suburban and agricultural district. Lucero maintained a lead of a few hundred votes.
In District 3, Lucero’s fellow Supervisor Tami Ritter was easily fending off challenger Mary Murphy-Waldorf, 72.4 percent to 27.5 percent. Lucero and Ritter winning reelection would preserve the current composition of the board of supervisors — a 3-2 conservative majority — for at least another two years.
Alyssa Douglas was leading in the Butte County Assessor’s race with 61 percent of the vote. Her opponents, Randall Stone (former Chico mayor) and Michael Howard, were drawing 20.6 percent and 18.3 percent, respectively.
The Butte County voters who did show up were supporting Democratic candidates up and down the ballot in statewide races, including for Gov. Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Rob Bonta and U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, each of whom will advance to the general election in November.
In the race for District 1 U.S. Representative, locals were mostly favoring Max Steiner, the Democratic challenger to five-term Republican Doug LaMalfa, 50 percent to 41 percent, though LaMalfa held an 18-point lead districtwide.
County voters were split between Republican incumbent James Gallagher (50.3 percent) and Democratic challenger David Leon Zink (49.7 percent) in Assembly District 3, but districtwide, Gallagher’s edge was nearly 25 points.
In more obvious news, Keaton Denlay, the chosen successor to longtime Butte County Clerk-Recorder Candace Grubbs, cruised to an unopposed victory on Tuesday—as did Auditor-Controller Graciela Cano Gutierrez, District Attorney Mike Ramsey, Sheriff-Coroner Kory Honea, Superintendent of Schools Mary Sakuma and Treasurer-Tax Collector Troy Kidd.