June 5, 2012 - Low turnout for election, despite redrawn lines
Paper: Sun, The (San Bernardino, CA)
Title: Low turnout for election, despite redrawn lines
Date: June 5, 2012
Author: Melissa Pinion-Whitt, Staff Writer
Low voter turnout, late openings of polling centers, a power outage and even a gentle reminder to one county candidate's campaign not to serve doughnuts to polling place workers marked San Bernardino County's primary on Tuesday.
It was the first statewide primary on the top-two voting system, where candidates for county, state and congressional offices competed in newly redrawn local, legislative and national districts throughout San Bernardino County and California.
Thousands of workers from polling places to the Registrar of Voters in San Bernardino began the day early for Election Day, though voting officials all along anticipated a low turnout.
Early in the day, San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters Michael Scarpello refrained from estimating the turnout for Tuesday's election, but said the volume of mail-in ballots is similar to the June 2008 election, which had a 21 percent turnout.
"We think the mail ballot returns have been really light," said Michael Scarpello, San Bernardino County's Registrar of Voters. "We think there's most likely going to be light turnout at the polling places today," Scarpello said.
Official tallies of that turnout won't be out until Wednesday, Scarpello said.
But low turnout didn't stop some voters from trickling into the Rialto Avenue office this morning.
Ayanna Wells, 31, of San Bernardino, stopped by the Registrar to drop off her ballot and planned to head to Grace Chapel Church afterward to work at a polling place.
"I never want to miss any of my elections," she said.
Vince Lopez, a Grand Terrace resident, said Proposition 29 motivated him to vote. Lopez, a former smoker, says he doesn't agree with the measure to tax tobacco for cancer research.
"I think it's wrong because it just doesn't end. It keeps getting higher and higher," he said.
'Democracy is the only big deal'
The morning wasn't without its glitches, though.
Just ask Kevin Caldwell.
On his way to work in Riverside, he'd planned to vote in San Bernardino.
When he went to one polling place at Arden Hills Seventh-day Adventist Church, where polling officials said he could either fill out a provisional ballot or re-direct to his official polling place, Faith Temple Church, on East Date Street.
Rushing to get his voting done before work, he found poll workers outside of Faith Temple, waiting to get in.
And this was long after the polls were supposed to have officially opened, he said.
Bottom line: he had to get to work, so he couldn't vote, and hadn't by late morning.
"I think that's a bunch of crap," he said. "It was my simple right to go and vote ... and I wasn't able to vote this morning."
Poll workers at Faith Temple said they got to the church before 6 a.m., but couldn't set up until 8:30 a.m. because the church forgot to open up for them.
A custodian for the church happened to drive by and saw the workers standing in the parking lot.
"God is good and sent us a custodian," said Arnetta Carpenter, an associate minister at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church.
By about noon, about 30 people had voted at the Faith Temple Church in San Bernardino.
In Cedarpines Park, near Crestline, voters wanting to cast their ballots at the Cedarpines Park Community Center (in County Service Area 18) found a center that hadn't been opened by 9:15 a.m., because the polling supervisor hadn't showed up, officials said.
Field representative Thomas Castellanos, said he was told a person was en route with the ballots and should be there within an hour.
"Apparently, the precinct polling supervisor is late getting the ballots here, but we'll open as soon as the ballots are here," Castellanos said.
Until then, voters were turned away and Cedarpines Park resident Suzanne Reading was one of those intending to vote.
"I went by the polls at 9:30 and the ballots had just arrived. The field worker asked me to wait just a few minutes. As I had another appointment, I could not wait," Reading said. "When I called, the people on the phone didn't really think it was a big deal. Democracy is the only big deal."
Scarpello said in such as large election -- and after recent consolidation of polling places in the county -- it's not a surprise to have some situations like Caldwell's.
"Issues pop up," he said. "We know that."
Early on, he didn't know the particulars of what Caldwell encountered, but said in similar situations, "My sense is, the supervisor didn't show up on time... the poll workers showed up on time. They called us. We said get to work," Scarpello said.
At around 11:30 a.m., the lights went out at Our Lady of The Assumption on West 48th Street in San Bernardino, prompting some voters to cast their ballots in the dark - for about 15 minutes.
Volunteers contacted San Bernardino County Supervisor Neil Derry's office Tuesday morning, saying that poll watchers for Derry opponent James Ramos had delivered doughnuts at polling places in Grand Terrace and Highland.
Poll watchers are appointed to keep track of whether supporters of a particular candidate have cast a ballot at their polling place.
"If you're a poll worker you're not allowed to accept any gratuity or gifts," Derry said.
But officials from Ramos' campaign poked holes in the sentiment that the doughnuts were a ploy to influence poll workers.
"Some of our poll watchers may have taken doughnuts to our polls, but they're not from the campaign," said Betsy Starbuck, Ramos' campaign manager.
None of the poll watchers wore anything identifying themselves as Ramos supporters, she said.
As soon as the Registrar of Voters office called her, Starbuck told poll watchers to stop distributing doughnuts.
"We called the Ramos campaign and said, 'You really shouldn't do that,' Scarpello said, adding that pollworkers were again cautioned not to accept gifts from candidates.
Starbuck said she wasn't surprised that a complaint was made.
"No, not really. Pretty much anything happens on Election Day," she said.
Questions or issues regarding polling places may be addressed by calling the Registrar of Voters, 800-881-VOTE or 909-387-8300. The Registrar is at 777 E. Rialto Ave., San Bernardino.
Staff Writers Michel Nolan and Ryan Carter contributed to this story.
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Caption: Photo: San Bernardino residents vote in the Primary Elections at Our Lady of Hop Church in San Bernardino on Tuesday, June 5, 2012. (Rachel Luna / Staff Photographer) Photo: San Bernardino residents vote in the Primary Election at Our Lady of Hope Church in San Bernardino on Tuesday, June 5, 2012. (Rachel Luna / Staff Photographer) Photo: San Bernardino residents vote in the Primary Election at Our Lady of Hope Church in San Bernardino on Tuesday, June 5, 2012. (Rachel Luna / Staff Photographer)
Record Number: 20786359
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