Orange County residents trickled into the region’s 1,109 polling places today, largely unmotivated by local races, according to random Patch exit interviews.
Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley said he expects a 12 percent turnout of registered voters based on the morning’s participation rates. Many told Patch they voted out of a sense of civic duty rather than strong feelings about particular candidates. Prop. 29, the tobacco tax initiative, proved to be the largest draw among voters who spoke with Patch.
By early afternoon, about 300 voter complaints were logged with the county office, a relatively low number for an election of this size, said Kelley. The most common complaints involved campaign signs posted too close to the polls and nonpartisan voters frustrated that they couldn’t be permitted to vote in the Republican Presidential Primary. At one polling location, there was an argument between campaign rivals, and at a Fullerton site, authorities had to deal with a fight between two homeless men, Kelley said.
“This is all very normal,” he added. “Things are going very well so far today.”
Stan Smith, a registered Independent from Fountain Valley, headed to the polls despite his lack of enthusiasm for the candidates.
"My motivation is that I always vote, because I think if you don't vote, you can't criticize. So I can criticize,” Smith said. “...I'm not thrilled with any politician. There's so much graft, and when I think of all the money raised for the parties and all that, I think it's so wrong. We should do away with all of it. That would change a lot. But I don't know if it will ever change because there are too many young people who don't vote because they think it doesn't make a difference."
The griping rights that voting buys also motivated Glaya Douglas of San Juan Capistrano.
“You can’t complain if you haven’t voted,” she said.
Traffic at the polling place at the in San Juan Capistrano was slow Tuesday.
“I vote every election, whether it’s a small or a big one,” said San Juan resident Gloria Patterson. “It’s my civic duty.”
Phil Collins—yes, that’s his name, and he was voting on his birthday—said Prop. 29 got him to the polls.
“I was interested in the tobacco tax initiative. I want to see that passed,” the San Juan Capistrano resident said.
The proposition, which would add an additional $1 tax per pack of cigarettes to fund research into tobacco-related diseases, such as cancer, also drew longtime Lake Forest resident George Buaka to the polls. Buaka said that the introduction of Prop. 29 inspired him to go to on Thursday and cast his vote.
"My sister is a cancer survivor," he said.
Perhaps the additional expenditure will stop people from picking up the habit and bring down healthcare costs, he added. Also, "it is my duty to vote," Buaka said.
Lake Forest native Conrad Lakomy, 20, showed up at the polling room at to vote against Prop. 29.
"My dad wanted me to," he said.
People shouldn't be taxed for smoking, even if it is bad for their health, he said.
Bob Brouhle, of Fountain Valley, voted for Prop. 29 because he wants to see more money invested in cancer research.
“It's killing too many of our citizens," he said.
Aliso Viejo resident Andrew Dorman said he is more focused on voting than on any particular issue.
"I make it a point to vote in every election," said Dorman. "If you don't vote and are not participating in decisions, then you can't really have an opinion. It is not difficult. Just takes a couple minutes from your day. I don't know, maybe if they create more of an incentive, like a day off from work or a credit on your taxes."
Nancy Smith, of Fountain Valley, sees voting as a privilege.
“I always vote,” she said. “How many other countries can you live in where you can vote and not have to worry about it? But I hate all the money that's being spent. We've gotten more recorded calls this year than ever before."
Lake Forest mother Amy Reed, 32, said she voted at "just to get out of the house."
But she also said she grew up watching her parents vote, and has been a regular voter all her life.
"It's our civic duty," she said.” I feel like it's important to cast your vote."
At Arroyo Vista School in Rancho Santa Margarita, the polling site averaged about 11 voters per hour. One of those was Klaus Bauer, who moved to Rancho Santa Margarita from New Jersey about six months ago and said he was unfamiliar with the candidates.
"I'd rather not vote than vote for someone I don't know," Bauer said. "Voting is a privilege and a duty."
He said he was particularly interested in the measures, but he declined to state his position.
"They're tickling my fancy and I certainly have an opinion."
Jack Clement, a former high school principal and history and civics teacher, was also a new voter, having moved to RSM from north county about 18 months ago.
Clement said he "wanted to make sure everything was up to snuff" with his voter registration. Although he has used the absentee ballot before, he said, "there is something satisfying about the whole routine instead of mailing it in."
Anthony Bogle, principal at Crown Valley Elementary School in Laguna Niguel, said he is disappointed by voter apathy.
"I voted early this morning and the polls were pretty empty, but I did my civic duty and voted," he said. "I wish more people would get out and vote today. A lot of Californians complain about the way things are, but don't do anything about it. They need to get out and vote today if they want to make a difference."
In Newport Beach, Bobby Solano, 19, voted for the very first time since turning 18.
"I feel like my one vote doesn't make that big of a difference, but I have been looking forward to it so that's why I am here. [It’s] mostly for the experience," he said.
One of the most closely watched races in Orange County is the 74th Assembly District, where redistricting has pitted incumbent Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) against Newport Beach Councilwoman Leslie Daigle.
Resident Nicole Worchester voted at a residential polling place on Harbor Island Drive and cast her ballot for Daigle for the 74th Assembly District seat.
"Well I think she's done a good job in Newport Beach and I like the way she represents herself at the council meetings. I think her experience here could lead to effective decisions in Sacramento. They can use the help."